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All-Delco Boys Soccer: Manion excels as next in line of EA goalkeeping stars

Episcopal Academy goalkeeper Trevor Manion followed in the footsteps of EA great/Union Homegrown Matt Freese as a leader for the Churchmen in goal. He's the 2019 Daily Times Boys Soccer Player of the Year. (Pete Bannan/MediaNews Group)

NEWTOWN SQUARE — He was just a sophomore, but Trevor Manion heard the whispers and knew the expectations.

In the fall of 2017, Manion was the heir apparent in goal for Episcopal Academy’s boys soccer team. He would take over the first-choice keeper’s gloves, which the year before had been shared by Matt Freese and A.J. Marcucci.

In three years since leaving EA, Freese starred at Harvard, earned a trial with Manchester United and a Homegrown contract with the Philadelphia Union, making his MLS debut last spring. Marcucci has a goals-against average of less than 0.50 in three seasons at Connecticut College, earning a slew of national and conference honors and leading the Camels to the Division III Elite Eight this fall, the furthest the program has ever advanced.

Episcopal Academy goalkeeper Trevor Manion, here celebrating a stop in last year’s game against Haverford School, led the Churchmen to two 1-0 wins over the Fords in 2019. (Pete Bannan/MediaNews Group)

Those particulars were yet to unfurl themselves, but Manion understood the backdrop: He was taking on the mantel left by two big-time goalies.

“Coming up as a freshman, they were looked up to, mainly Matt, as soccer legends,” Manion said. “I got called up to practice with them a couple of times, and training with them was just a completely different atmosphere, seeing the professionalism and how they go about just a regular training session, it was night and day from what I was used to. …

“I felt like the coaches that I played against who were talking about, ‘oh is he the next Matt Freese?,’ I didn’t try to look at myself like that. I was just trying to be the best player that I could be and help out my team and try to win a league title. I tried to be the best player that I could be and be the first Trevor Manion.”

It’s a rare instance in which the sequel lives up to the expectations of the original. But the Clemson-bound Manion has done plenty to earn his place in the pantheon of EA goalkeeping greats, following in Freese’s footsteps as a Daily Times Boys Soccer Player of the Year.

Joining Manion on the All-Delco first team are EA teammate Brendan DePillis; the Haverford School trio of Mitchell Hark, Luke Macaione and Asher Laackman; Strath Haven’s midfield duo of Emmet Young and Andrew Lowman; Haverford High’s Duncan Riegler and Aidan Tripler; Radnor’s Jake Lee and Bobby Hydrisko; and Garnet Valley midfielder Ethan Hensinger.

Manion is the only repeat from last year’s team, on which he had been the lone underclassmen. Tripler and Hark were second-teamers last season. This year’s squad has more balance in classes, with Lowman and Riegler representing the juniors and Laackman just a sophomore.

The All-Delco team is selected in consultation with area coaches.

• • •

The echoes in certain parts of Manion’s journey to his two forerunners are eerie. Manion, who lives in the Spring-Ford school district, followed the same club path as Marcucci and Freese, rising from FC Europa to Penn Fusion, from middle school and high school at Episcopal Academy.

But one wrinkle in the trajectory indicates that it wasn’t preordained. Though Manion played soccer in neighborhood rec leagues from the age of four, he had always been a forward. It wasn’t until sixth grade, when he quit football, that he gave goalkeeping a shot, for EA’s middle school B team.

All-Delco Boys Soccer: Haverford School trio led Fords to PAISAA final

Manion is an EA lifer, at the school since kindergarten. It’s a testament to a goalkeeping lineage that isn’t recruited or bought, but rather cultivated and nurtured.

“It’s day-in and day-out goalie training, but it’s also I think something special about this place,” said Manion, citing the work the coaching staff at EA has done with him. “And it doesn’t stop with me.”

Freese was a three-time All-Delco in high school. Yet his “backup” Marcucci was so talented that coach David Knox felt he would’ve done both individuals and his team a disservice by not giving both a shot to play. It came to the point in Freese’s senior year that, while he recovered from an injury, he played as a forward with Marcucci in goal.

Manion is in a situation not too dissimilar. His “backup” this year is Alex Geczy, a player who Knox and Manion know would start for many programs, hence a time-sharing arrangement.

“It’s hard because I feel strongly that if either of us were at a different school, especially at the Inter-Ac, we would start and not have to split time,” said Manion. “… But it’s always going to be a competition wherever you are with another goalie, and I feel like we went about it really good, and the competition really drove us harder and harder every practice to make each other better.”

Manion will continue his career in the hotbed of the ACC with Clemson. He had verbally committed to Lafayette last year, a week before an identification camp he had agreed to attend at Clemson. The coaching staff offered him on the spot, and after an arduous month of deliberation, he switched cats, from Leopards to Tigers, in part attracted by Clemson’s five-year program in primary education.

“It’s surreal to think about if I hadn’t switched from football to soccer, I wouldn’t have started playing goalie and I wouldn’t be going to the school that I am next year,” Manion said. “It’s crazy to think about, but I’m grateful for every moment of it.”

Boys Soccer: The full list of All-Delco honorees

His senior season at EA was similarly unorthodox. The Churchmen, with just five seniors on the roster, struggled out of the gates, piling up early-season draws. A deep and wacky Inter-Ac round-robin didn’t help, with EA finishing fourth in the league with a 6-9-4 overall record.

But Manion, voted the first team All-Inter-Ac keeper, was a reliable part of the journey, keeping four clean sheets. Regardless of what the other numbers say, there’s one sacrosanct statistic at Episcopal: Results against Haverford School. And thanks to Manion and goals each time by Jackson Tuma, the Churchmen registered a pair of 1-0 wins over the Fords, capped by playing spoiler on the schools’ rivalry day. Sweeping the season series is something the soccer team hasn’t enjoyed in more than a decade.

For a team with so many young contributors, it was a fitting conclusion to one era and the handoff to a brighter one.

“It was the perfect way to go out, a perfect last day of the season,” Manion said. “To beat our rivals is always good, but particularly with this group of guys in this situation, it was really something special.”

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