Hill School ups win streak to 5 with 18-5 win over Blair Academy

Pottstown — It had been awhile.

The veteran players of the Hill School boys lacrosse team would be the first to admit that playing with true confidence was a hard thing to do in recent times.

It was tough to do so during a transitional 2014 season — head coach Dave Mullen’s first year at the helm — that might be most notable for the Blues having to go without a recognized goalie after their starter and backup both went down injured.

“Last year we would face a good team and we would kind of go into it half-hearted like we’re going to try our best but we almost know we’re going to lose,’ senior midfielder Ben Bala said. “This year we came in and against a team like Loyola-Blakefield we were pumped the whole game, it was 4-4 at halftime and we played our hearts out believing we could win.’

The Blues didn’t take away a win (a 12-7 defeat to Loyola-Blakefield, ranked No. 3 in Maryland), but they did take away a mental boost.

The boosts have added up — the ones from improved performances, stability in Mullen’s second season as well as the addition of two quality post-graduate goalies — and gave Hill the chance to register its longest win streak since the middle of the 2012 season when it took on Blair Academy Wednesday afternoon.

Riding the wave of a four-game win streak, the Blues made it five straight with a dominant first-half performance en route to an 18-5 victory over Blair Academy at Harry Price Field.

Hill (6-4) improved to 2-0 in the Mid-Atlantic Prep League thanks to the scoring of Aidan Coll (four goals, two assists) and Jake Saenz (four goals, one assist), the faceoff domination of Will Schantz (16-for-19, three goals) and another lockdown defensive performance led by captain Conor Rayfield, Spencer Hoey and goalie Chase Midgley (seven saves), a postgrad out of Ossining, N.Y.

“Our goalie has been standing on his head a couple games,’ Rayfield said, deflecting credit for four games allowing five or fewer goals. “Our coach is really defensive-minded so all practice we get after our offense, get on their hands and it gets us ready for every game. We press out and make the passes really hard and they don’t get to the net nearly as much.’

Blair, which was led by Kevin Claflin (one goal, three assists) and Pat Morrison (two goals), didn’t get to the net and past Midgley until 1:31 left in the first half.

By that time Hill had run off 11 goals, a fastbreak goal by Coll on a quick passing move from Saenz and Rayfield, who got the ‘ hockey assist’ to the pleasure of Mullen, ranking among to best of the run.

Blair came to life in the third quarter and outscored Hill to cut the lead to 13-5 with a four-goal run, but the Blues kicked it back into gear on a man-advantage goal by Wes Shaw (three goals), assisted by Zach Keller, with 4:44 remaining and ultimately closed with five unanswered goals.

“Early in the season we had some problems with scoring and being consistent. After four or five games we did a much better job,’ Schantz said. “We’ve been making better decisions and it’s been reflected in our scores.’

A season with plenty of potential has been refreshing for the Hill’s most experienced players.

“We’re feeling very confident. I’m a senior and the last three years we’ve gotten knocked out of the Inter-Ac in the second round and last year the first round. Our ultimate goal is the quarterfinals and then we’ll go from there,’ Rayfield said. “Our last wins have given us a lot of confidence for those big games coming up.’

NOTES — Hill has three non-league games in a row before rounding out its MAPL schedule against Lawrenceville (4-5), undefeated Hun School (8-0) and Peddie (1-5). Other scorers for Hill were Jason Bram and Matt Krick.


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