NEWTOWN SQUARE – Among the many question marks entering 2021, Dylan Devletian saw one in the Episcopal Academy defensive unit he’s a part of.
Well, he may not have believed it. But he heard how others regarded that defensive unit as a potential soft spot on the roster.
One regular season and two wins over archrival Haverford School later, it’s hard to see what the skeptics pegged their doubt on.
The final score Friday afternoon showed a high-scoring affair, 13-10 in Episcopal Academy’s favor. But EA led 11-5 with seven minutes remaining, Haverford’s late comeback attempt proving more window-dressing than actual threat. And the reason why is that for three and a half quarters, EA’s defense had the Fords frustrated.
“We came out and we knew exactly what they were going to do,” Devletian said. “We knew they were going to work it through their middies, so we had a big focus on their middies and sliding, and we played really solid on defense the whole game.”
It’s hard to track the skepticism now as the Churchmen embark on the Inter-Ac League tournament next week. They’re the No. 2 seed, their only losses coming in the opener at Maryland power Severn and a pair of setbacks to Malvern Prep, which Haverford School bested in their last meeting. On the back end, Devletian was one of those lesser-known commodities, a senior without the benefit of a junior campaign who had to shift from long-stick midfield to close defense.
But coach Chris Bates has assembled a fearsome foursome. It’s anchored by junior Penn commit Matt McCarthy, with his 6-4 frame and condor-like wingspan. Devletian swapped positions to accommodate Hofstra signee Will Delaney at LSM. And senior Dom Piselli is the vocal leader who ties it all together.
That’s how you get a performance like Friday, where Haverford led 3-2 after one quarter, then scored twice in the next 29 minutes.
“We were doing a really good job of putting pressure on them,” Devletian said. “That’s all we had to do. We knew if we put pressure on them, they wouldn’t be able to do it. We came into this season and our defense was supposed to be our weak spot. And everybody has stepped up.”
Devletian is one of those willing to be aggressive to do it; one of his biggest moments came when he picked off a pass early in the second quarter while Haverford was up a man. The Fords would take a penalty soon after, allowing Tristan Whitaker to tie the game at 3.
The feed to Whitaker was supplied by Reilly Dugan, who sparked the EA offense. He scored twice in the first half, then completed the hat trick 81 seconds into the second to make it 7-4. All three goals came on dodges from up top by the Villanova-bound middie, the kind of shots through traffic that might not be the highest-percentage looks for players with a less accurate and forceful shot.
“For me, it’s a typical shot but not that typical,” Dugan said. “My coaches trusted in me and said they want me taking that shot, and I was confident enough shooting to put it in the back of the net. I couldn’t do it without my teammates getting me open, setting picks and getting me the ball.”
EA’s offense had a litany of options working. The physical attack duo of Whitaker (goal, assist) and Max Strid (three goals) were prolific. Dugan provided midfield pop. Then there was freshman Dylan Jaszcz, who was sensational again with five goals and an assist.
Jaszcz set up Eddie Jones’ goal with four seconds left in the first half to make it 6-4 at the break. He scored in the third quarter while diving on the crease parallel to the ground, tossed a behind-the-back one-hander home in the fourth and then got a vital transition tally (set up by Whitaker) at 3:14 of the fourth to halt a three-goal run by Haverford.
“It means the world, especially to me,” Dugan said of Jaszcz. “I love watching him play, and he’s such a great player. He’s so crafty around the crease in finding openings and shots where you’re kind of like, ‘wow how you’d take that?’ and then you see it go in the back of the net and it’s kind of breathtaking.”
Haverford’s offense took longer to get out of neutral. Wills Burt scored twice in the first quarter, then was largely muted. Avi Mehl and Geordy Holmes were mostly silent until the fourth when they scored twice each.
About the only spark was from midfielder Aidan Kopen, who tossed a new look at EA with his alley dodges onto a potent left-handed shot.
“I saw that we were kind of in a slow patch and we needed to get something going, and I tried to take that in my hands and do the right thing,” said the junior midfielder, who had two goals and an assist. “The right thing at the time was going to the net and scoring. I think that helped us bring the game back to as close as it was.”
The brothers McCarthy, Jake and Ben, neutralized EA’s Andrew McMeekin by winning 15 of 26 draws, and Chuck Cacciutti was the more active goalie with nine saves. But those advantages weren’t enough to keep the Fords from dropping a second straight game to their rivals.
“We beat them pretty well the first game, so our coaches were telling us all week that we couldn’t have that over our head,” Devletian said. “We had to make sure we came out strong.”
In nonleague action:
Ridley 8, C.B. South 5 >> Blaise Harris scored three goals as the Green Raiders rallied to outscore CB South, 7-2, over the final three quarters. Anthony Laber had two goals and an assist, and Nate Desmond and Gavin Kingsborough paired a goal with an assist each.
Marple Newtown 9, Owen J. Roberts 6 >> Damien Bosche tallied a hat trick, and Charlie Box paired two goals with two assists to lead the Tigers. CJ Lane and Cole Thomas added a goal and an helper each, and Jack Welsh made seven saves.