NEWTOWN SQUARE >> In the boisterous milieu of instructions and admonitions emanating from the sidelines of a lacrosse field, Radnor may have hit on one of the best.
“Coach says, ‘No mustard,’ which is his big thing,” Radnor’s Westy McLaughlin was saying Tuesday. “It’s not to make the fancy play but make the smart play, and hopefully it’ll result in a goal.”
Radnor’s passel of attackers — and McLaughlin in particular — have taken to heart coach John Begier’s message. Even without one primary scorer Tuesday and another man-marked out of possession, the Raiders summoned enough firepower to coast by Marple Newtown, 11-6, in a Central League outing.
McLaughlin’s journey is instructive. As a sophomore, the transfer from Avon Old Farms in Connecticut became a vital cog for the state championship side, the diminutive playmaker scoring 11 goals.
Injuries blighted his junior year, limiting him to seven goals (five in one game), and the senior Dartmouth commit has battled a nagging hamstring issue this year while struggling to break in the rotation.
Tuesday, with fab freshman Jackson Birtwistle on the sidelines and the Marple defense denying Drew Brown the ball, McLaughlin needed to assume a larger role. He replied with two goals and an assist, fleshing out the quantity of weapons in the box.
“We’re definitely understanding the roles better,” McLaughlin said. “Everyone on the field is capable of beating their guy and trying to create the open play. When that happens, we can bury shots.”
That’s a hat trick for Kyler Albany. Phil Regan the feed. 7-3 Radnor. pic.twitter.com/uCOK7I2ERF
— Matthew De George (@sportsdoctormd) May 3, 2017
McLaughlin’s goals take him to nine on the season, but more important is what he’s not doing. Begier repeatedly throws around the word “dynamic” in describing the shifty, speedy McLaughlin, who’s low-to-the-ground enough to get under many checks. McLaughlin’s transition ability — as he showed in setting up Brown’s second goal of the contest with a minute to play — offers flexibility in attack/midfield matchups. And minimizing mistakes and the youthful impulse to do too much within such a balanced system is the biggest difference from McLaughlin.
“Definitely I have more confidence this year, that’s for sure, and that’s been a big game-changer,” he said.
Radnor (9-6, 6-3 league) presents a diabolical pick your poison in allocating short-stick defensive midfielders. Even sans third-leading scorer Birtwistle and with one shortie locking Brown, who gets the second? Surely not Clayton Proctor, who bulled his way to two goals and a helper. The passing danger presented by Phil Regan (two assists) and Connor Pierce (goal, two assists) make them players whose hands you want a defenders’ stick in at all times.
Liam Ferry stops Pierce point blank. Nice save. pic.twitter.com/HEWxxiSsfd
— Matthew De George (@sportsdoctormd) May 3, 2017
That leaves McLaughlin or Kyler Albany, and both provided potent evidence Tuesday. Albany and his rocket of a shot found space on his preferred side time and again, rifling home four goals.
“It’s been a long process,” Albany said of the attacking chemistry. “It’s taken a while to figure things out. But we’re starting to get there, starting to connect, starting to play well. … We have amazing feeders all around the ball, and we have to keep moving off-ball, which is something we struggled with but we’re getting better with.”
Radnor’s tally could’ve been larger if not for 13 saves form Liam Ferry, who stood tall in net for Marple (12-4, 4-5) despite the crowding effect of keying on Brown.
“That was pretty hard because he’s playing on crease, and we’re locking him out so we’re not going from the crease,” Ferry said. “We’re going from the sides. And when you get caught up with him in the middle, that opens up a nice shooting lane for the shooting.”
The Tigers offense couldn’t quite get in gear. Radnor took control with Proctor’s tally on a Pierce skip pass 54 seconds in the second quarter. Aside from a Jake Long goal midway through the period, the Raiders’ won that frame to take a 5-2 halftime lead.
Proctor’s unassisted tally in the third capped a three-minute barrage of shots. James Kelly ended a 13-minute drought to get Marple within 6-3, but they yo-yoed there until Alex Viola’s second of the game at 3:26 of the fourth cut the spread to 9-6.
Given the teams’ history (they’ve met each of the last three years in the playoffs, Marple ending Radnor’s 2016 season for its first win in the series) and proximity in the first batch of Class 2A power rankings released Monday (Radnor is sixth, Marple seventh for the 12-team field), tensions ran high.
That left one bench extremely pleased and the other running postgame sprints.
“We should’ve come out harder, the game should’ve been a lot closer,” Ferry said. “Some of those goals that went in, I should’ve had. We’re not happy with that.”
“They beat us on our home field last year in playoffs, and we’ve been waiting for this day to play Marple,” McLaughlin said. “We just came hungry and it resulted in a win.”
It’s not the only wait paying off for McLaughlin and company. Hold the mustard.
Also in the Central League:
Haverford 8, Springfield 6 >> Luke McCallion went 13-for-19 at the X and added two goals as the Fords (10-5, 6-3) dropped the Cougars from the ranks of one-loss Central squads.
Jack Daly added two goals and an assist, and Danny Tierney turned aside 14 shots.
Mike Tulskie led Springfield (12-3, 7-2) with two goals, while Kyle Long dished four assists as the Cougars’ 12-game winning streak ended.
Ridley 11, Lower Merion 4 >> Cade Stratton scored twice, and Zane Johnston added a pair of goals as the Green Raiders (9-6, 4-5) led 10-1 after three quarters.
Garnet Valley 19, Upper Darby 2 >> Denny Nealon paired a goal with three assists to reach 200 career points, and Matt Moore scored twice and dished three assists. Danny Laird scored four goals, and Danny Bradley and Jon Ricci notched hat tricks for the Jags (11-3, 8-1).
Conestoga 14, Penncrest 3 >> TJ Sims paired a goal with an assist and Cody Hershock made 12 saves, but Tommy Sopko’s hat trick led the Pioneers.
In the Inter-Ac League:
Haverford School 12, Episcopal Academy 10 >> Johnny Nostrant scored twice in a six-goal fourth quarter, including the game-winner with 47 seconds left, to help the Fords come from behind.
Peter Garno added four goals, and TJ Malone notched a hat trick to complement his helper for Haverford (10-5, 5-2), which remains tied with Malvern Prep for the Inter-Ac lead.
EA (7-4, 4-3) padded its lead with a long-pole hat trick (Conner Delaney) and a goalie goal (Jake Floyd-Jones, who made 16 saves).