All-Delco: Keating’s athleticism makes Agnes Irwin go

RADNOR — There was a time about six or seven years ago when Hannah Keating was just a soccer player.

That was before lacrosse — before an Agnes Irwin program record for goals before the end of her sophomore year, before ludicrous triple-digit, single-season goal tallies, before countless clubs and travel teams that put her in a position to attend Harvard for the sport.

And yet, through all that achievement in both sports, the distinction in Keating’s mind about favorites isn’t as clear as you might think.

“I love soccer,’ Keating said. “I can’t really tell which one is my favorite sport; I love them both so much. But it’s the team and the fun and the coaches that keep me playing soccer.’

That desire informs why Keating is able to play soccer at such a high level despite it not being the full focus of her athletic attention. When the fall rolls around, it’s not a training exercise for the junior to stay in lacrosse shape. Soccer represents another chance to put her athletic abilities on display and to compete with a nucleus of players at Agnes Irwin that has the makings of a very special class of athletes.

That competitive atmosphere has driven Keating to new heights, in both of her All-Delco sports. And it’s what makes her the 2014 Daily Times Girls Soccer Player of the Year.

Joining Keating on the All-Delco team are Owls’ teammates Claire Micheletti and Kristin Burnetta, Garnet Valley’s Britney Dragoni and Jackie Sever, the Strath Haven duo of Katie Fisher and Lizzie King, the Delco Christian pair of Julia Kyne and Kailey Neef, Springfield’s Taylor Cutcliff, Haverford’s Olivia Butera and Notre Dame’s Phoebe McClernon.

Keating, Burnetta, McClernon and Kyne are on the team for the second consecutive year. The squad features an embarrassment of youth, with Cutcliff, Sever, Butera and Kyne remarkably the only seniors. The core is the talented junior class which comprises half of the team’s 12 spots, while King and Dragoni are just sophomores. The All-Delco team is selected in consultation with area coaches.


The debate in the Keating household as it pertains to the sport of choice has often been brief. With Hannah’s older brothers Dan and Mike (Duke) and Connor (a freshman at Penn) all following the lacrosse path, Hannah admits that the decision for her to pursue lacrosse at the expense of soccer was a fairly easy one. (Connor, it should be noted, also played both sports at Haverford School.)

That meant leaving the club soccer scene and adjusting to an annual acclimation period as the calendar flips from June lacrosse showcases to July soccer preseason. It’s a common problem for the Owls, with core players like Burnetta, Emily Fryer, Sarah Platt, Kate White and others also renowned as elite lacrosse players. Within a couple of weeks, Keating says, the rust is mostly banished and her touch on the soccer ball has returned.

On the basis of talent, it’s easy to see why lacrosse, a sport where she scored a ludicrous 112 goals last spring in an injury-shortened campaign, won out for. But that’s not for any lacking in the soccer department.

That was on display for an Agnes Irwin team that finished with 14 wins this fall, the runner-up in the Inter-Ac and a semifinalist in the Pennsylvania Independent Schools tournament. Those team accomplishments had a lot to do with what Keating was able to do in the middle of the pitch.

An impressive two-way midfielder, Keating was second on the team with nine goals, trailing only Burnetta (16). She led the Owls with 13 assists, but that was only a fraction of what she brought to the table. A consummate center midfielder, she provided attacking playmaking and physical tackling in almost equal measure.

In strictly numerical terms, the production is reduced from last season, when she scored 17 times (and Burnetta added 31). But that was an inevitable response to the removal of the element of surprise that the Owls benefitted from in 2013. The ability to sustain success despite a much larger target on their backs, speaks volumes to the collective progress they made.

“I think that last year, it kind of came as a surprise to us that we had so much talent and that we weren’t the little freshmen any more, that we could go out and play,’ Keating said. “But this year, I think we all realized that we could work together a lot. We connected a lot more this year.’

The connections were particularly apparent in the dynamic midfield triumvirate of Keating, Annie McConnon and Fryer. All physical yet technically-gifted players, the trio interchanged at will, each able to fulfill the role of an attack-minded second striker or a stay-at-home holding midfielder.

Their talent, plus a high level of trust and communication that fostered their collaboration, gave the Owls enough looks to keep teams constantly guessing.

That structure allowed Keating to impose her will on games, especially the rivalry tilts with Episcopal Academy. She had three assists in the Oct. 14 win, 4-3, then provided the overtime game-winner, a sublime chip from 25 yards out, that clinched a 2-1 victory on AIS-EA day in front of raucous home support.

An experience like that typifies what drives Keating to still pursue soccer. As much as the stats or the wins or the accolades, it’s about what competing on the field means to her.

“It’s funny because Emily, Sarah, basically all of the athletes here, we played together since we were in the lower school and on the Radnor rec teams and all that,’ Keating said. “Ever since we were little we knew that we were going to grow up playing sports together, and now it’s really fun because we have so much experience playing with each other still.’

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