Radnor – Malvern Prep used tough team defense and a red-hot second-half faceoff performance by Sean Christman to defeat Conestoga, 11-9, in a battle of nationally-ranked teams at the 17th annual Katie Samson Foundation Lacrosse Festival Saturday at Radnor High School.
Malvern head coach John McEvoy said, “Conestoga has some pretty tough dudes on offense, particularly No. 5 [senior attack Henry Berg] and No. 11 [senior attack Tommy Sopko]. I thought our defense did a pretty good job today, particularly Raymond Baran, Dalton Pascal and Tommy Maguire.”
Baran said, “We came out firing early – this [KSF Festival] is a great environment. I used to play for T/E, I’m a Conestoga kid, and I know all these [Pioneers], so winning this game really feels good.”
Christman, who won 12 of 13 faceoffs in the second half, said, “I dialed up on the whistle in the second half. In the first half, [my faceoffs] weren’t as clean, but our wings were doing a good job boxing out and getting me a ground ball. Our defense stepped up too, and [senior goalie] Andrew Clark made some great saves.”
The victory improved Malvern’s record to 12-4 – the Friars’ four losses (to EA, Haverford School, LaSalle and Delbarton) have been by a combined total of nine goals.
Malvern never trailed in Saturday’s game at Prevost Field, although Conestoga (11-3) kept battling to keep the score close. With the score tied 2-2 late in the first quarter, Malvern junior midfielder Quinn McCahon scored an unassisted goal (his second of the quarter) to give the Friars the lead for good.
Malvern senior midfielder Michael Fay scored twice in the second quarter to give the Friars a 6-2 lead, then Conestoga’s Berg came back with a couple of unassisted goals in the last four minutes of the second quarter (the second with 55 seconds left) to cut Malvern’s lead to 6-4 at the halftime break.
In the third quarter, Christman began to dominate on faceoffs, and Malvern junior attack Scott White scored a trio of goals, the last two assisted by midfielders Billy Coyle and Jack Traynor.
White, who led Malvern in ground balls Saturday (four), then turned around and assisted on a goal by Traynor with just 2.4 seconds left in the third period to give the Friars a 10-5 lead.
Christman paid tribute to Malvern’s third-quarter patience: “We had one stretch where for 2-3 minutes, we kept passing the ball, passing up good looks [at a shot] for great looks.”
Conestoga was trailing 11-5 early in the fourth quarter, but battled back once again, aided by three unassisted goals from Sopko, several Malvern turnovers and some fine stops by Pioneer junior goalie Scott MacMillan, who finished with 11 saves.
“Scott MacMillan had a good game,” said Conestoga head coach Brody Bush. “His ability to make saves and clear the ball really gets us momentum.”
Sopko’s third goal of the quarter made the score 11-9 with 2:35 left, but the Pioneers’ comeback ended there.
Baran said, “We had a small problems with turnovers in the second half, but we closed the game out with a tough mentality.”
Conestoga got one goal each from junior midfielders James Reilly and Tate Kienzle, senior midfielder Hunter Gregory and senior defender Peyton Jones. Reilly also scooped up four ground balls in the first half.
Bush said, “Malvern’s a good team, but we turned the ball over too many times on unforced turnovers – three crease calls, three times throwing the ball out of bounds, a mouth guard call.
“I always tell the guys after each game, ‘You have the next 24 hours to celebrate a win or get over a loss.’ We need to plan a better mental game, and we need some of our younger kids to play a little older.”
Malvern Prep 11, Conestoga 9
Conestoga 2 2 1 4 – 9
Malvern Prep 3 3 4 1 – 11
Conestoga goals: Reilly, Kienzle, Berg 2, Gregory, Sopko 3, Jones.
Malvern Prep goals: Coyle 2, McCahon 2, Fay 2, White 3, Traynor 2.
Goalie saves: MacMillan (CO) 11, Clark (MP) 8.