MALVERN >> Haverford School’s Chris Tsetsekos knew what kind of game to expect Friday afternoon.
He knew that Malvern Prep’s star sophomore faceoff man and club teammate, Rowan Cabahug-Almonte, was out for the season with a knee injury. So the Friars were likely to throw different looks at Tsetsekos to see if any worked … or more likely, when they ceased to work, get someone fresh in there.
The sophomore Tsetsekos had in mind a macrocosm of his faceoff battles: An opening move, then an adjustment, then a counter move.
It worked, as the Conestoga transfer went 17-for-25 at the X, keying a 12-9 Inter-Ac League win for the Fords.
Tsetsekos’ work at the X and his team’s fortunes were inextricably connected. He won the game’s first four draws, pacing the Fords to a 4-2 lead after one quarter. When Malvern countered to contain Tsetsekos, primarily with freshman long-stick midfielder Cooper Frankenheimer, the Friars surged, blanking Haverford in the second quarter and knotting the game at 4 in the third.
But then Tsetsekos ripped off nine consecutive wins into the fourth; along the way, the Fords scored five goals in 6:05 of the third to build a 9-4 lead that it wouldn’t surrender.
“When they tried to adapt to us, they put a pole on me and I just adapted right back,” Tsetsekos said. “I focused on getting a good clamp against him and reacting and trying to throw different moves at him. Sometimes it was going forward, and sometimes it was going backward toward my goalie.”
“He was the player of the game for sure, and it was just awesome,” senior attackman TJ Malone said. “If he can get us the ball, we can put balls in the net. He’s definitely the player of the game.”
2 shorties defending adds up to 1 goal for Malone. He has 4 today. 6:55 left 3Q. 6-4 Fords. pic.twitter.com/EYjnRgVxYi
— Matthew De George (@sportsdoctormd) April 20, 2018
In all, Tsetsekos faced off against five Friars. Frankenheimer was the only one to sustain any success at 5-for-12. Michael Voehringer went 1-for-6, and Quinn McCahon won one of four fourth-quarter draws.
Just for good measure, Tsetsekos added his first goal of the season, sprinting to fire home the 12th goal and punctuate the win.
That kind of problem-solving appeals to Tsetsekos. With quick hands honed in hours of drills, he’s certainly skilled and won several draws as clean as could be, just a whir of maroon jetting down the field. But as a sophomore, he’s not the most physically imposing, so the drag-em-out battles on the ground aren’t yet his specialty, and locking up with another faceoff specialist often entails such scuffles.
Jack Traynor with a rocket. Quinn McCahon the assist. 4-3 HS in final minute of a slow second quarter. pic.twitter.com/ZVSK2qlNy6
— Matthew De George (@sportsdoctormd) April 20, 2018
Instead, Tsetsekos enjoys the challenge of finding new ways to win draws, brandishing his arsenal of methods against different looks that opponents try to impede him with.
“In my opinion, it’s easier to face off against a lot of different guys, LSMs or D-middies, or sometimes just scrappers as opposed to one good faceoff guy because when we face off, it’s all about adapting,” he said. “So if I win one, the other guy’s going to adapt on the next faceoff. So that’s why I like facing off against not just one guy.”
Malone was in a strong position to bestow player-of-the-game honors, since he was a viable alternative, the All-Delco scoring five goals to go with an assist. He kick-started the decisive run in the third with a pair of goals, then set up
Luke O’Grady’s capper at 2:31 with the man-advantage for a 9-4 cushion.
Malone took advantage of the Friars’ decision to pit top defender Sean Sweeney on O’Grady, trying to nullify
O’Grady’s devastating shot with a constant defensive stick in his hands. That allowed Malone time and space to exploit.
“Luke is an amazing player, and when the defense keys on him, it opens up other doors for other players,” Malone said. “That was one of those times where I was kind of more available to get open because they were keying on Luke. Some days, Luke’s open more so we get him the ball. But other days they try to key on him, so that opens up more space for us.”
O’Grady tallied two goals, as did Scott Deck. Payton Holloway and Adam Salvaggio also netted for the Fords, who got eight saves from Harrison Fellheimer.
The game could’ve been more lopsided if not for 11 stops by Malvern’s Will Pettit, who kept Malvern in striking distance with two huge saves after O’Grady made it 9-4. The final one, where he fought off a Salvaggio shot, spurred a marker with 21.4 seconds left in the period, Jack Traynor connecting with Scottie White for the last leg of the tic-tac-toe goal.
“Will was huge. He’s been big all year,” White said. “He’s a huge player on our team. He made terrific plays today. That kind of changed the energy of the game, we just kept on making turnovers and that led to them winning the game, I believe.”
White led the way with five goals and a helper, the most consistent member of a disjointed attack. He scored twice in the fourth quarter as part of a 3-0 run that threatened to make things interesting at 10-8 before O’Grady and Tsetsekos iced the win.
“I think it was us making stupid passes … and a ton of turnovers and giving the other team more opportunities,” White said. “In games like this, you can’t do that. You’ve got to value every possession, and we just did not do that today.”
McCahon added two goals and two assists, and Traynor had a goal and a helper. Much of the Fords’ muting of Malvern owed to the mountain of momentum that the Friars couldn’t turn around.
And the main culprit there was Tsetsekos.
“When Chris can get us the ball, we feel more comfortable pushing it in transition because we know that we’re going to get it back, so that was a big part of it,” Malone said. “We love to push it when we can. Today was one of the days we could push it, and it was awesome to see him do amazing.”
“It’s all about momentum,” Tsetsekos added. “If we have the ball the whole game, they can’t score. And if we keep scoring and I keep winning faceoffs, it’s impossible to lose.”
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