By Chris Goldberg
Phillylacrosse.com, Posted 5/25/08
While eight teams remain in the Eastern Pennsylvania Scholastic Lacrosse Association (EPSLA) playoffs, one team that barely missed the tournament is savoring a successful 2008 campaign.
Methacton, in only its third year of varsity play, finished in a tie with Upper Dublin for the Suburban One American Conference championship.
The Warriors, under coach Sean Weston, went 12-2 in the conference and 13-4 overall.
Unfortunately, Methacton dropped a 15-6 decision to Upper Dublin in the next-to-last game of the year, denying the Warriors an outright title. Then, they lost a coin flip to the Cardinals, who received the only conference berth in the EPSLA playoffs.
Still, for Weston, a member of Penn Charter’s state championship team 25 years ago, the season was a grand success.
“We got a plan and put together a philosophy to believe in,” Weston said. “We wanted to help these guys turn into winners. The first thing was to build confidence in themselves.
“We tried to teach them to play together and use the few guys who knew how to play the game. They all listened, got in line and we came together. We had a goal this year of winning the league and going to the playoffs, and we almost got there.”
In its first two years, Methacton went a combined 11-25. This year started in disappointing fashion with a 10-9 double-overtime loss to Plymouth Whitemarsh in the league opener.
But the Warriors reeled off nine straight wins until falling to Pioneer Athletic Conference member Spring-Ford, 10-9 in overtime. Following league wins over Wissahickon and Upper Merion, Methacton lost the crucial game to Upper Dublin, but it finished with an impressive 24-4 rout of Cheltenham.
The team was led by four first-team all-conference selections, senior attacker T.J. White (50 goals, 22 assists), senior middie Bert Park (27 goals, 19 assists), senior defender Ryan Butler (82 takeaways, 61 groundballs) and senior goalie Joe Benci (61 percent save percentage, two shutouts, two games allowing just one goal).
Second-team picks included junior attacker Scott Earley (39 goals, 19 assists) and junior defender Nick Warriner (57 takeaways, 41 groundballs) and third-team selections were senior middie Kevin Vawter (18 goals, 58 groundballs) and junior middie Calvin Miller (won 67 percent of face-offs, 11 goals).
Other contributors were freshman defender Dave Evan (honorable mention pick), and two senior defenders that were strong playing the body, Tim Goff (40 groundballs, 39 hits) and Kevin Schimpf (41 hits).
“We lose 10 seniors that played,” said Weston. “We lose some strong first-team guys, but next year there is another group of 10, 11, 12 juniors that will be contributors as seniors.
“We should be strong. I was hoping we could make it this far, which was the plan. I looked at the kids and how long it would take to get to the playoffs and I thought we could make a run this year.”
Weston, who played at Division III power Denison and also was an assistant coach at Penn Charter when it won the state crown in 1989, knows what it takes to compete at the state level. In fact, he coach a state championship team in Virginia, Episcopal, before coming back to Philadelphia to become a school psychologist and coach at Methacton three years ago.
Next year Methacton moves into the Pioneer Athletic Conference where it should be an immediate contender.
“I am really excited about how far we came in such a short period of time,” Weston said. “The coaching staff has been fantastic; we have committed individuals who believe in the system. Everybody bought into the philosophy and it paid off.”
EPSLA quarterfinals are Tuesday and Wednesday
The EPSLA playoffs have reached the quarterfinal round. Two games will be played at night both on Tuesday and Wednesday at Conestoga and Central Bucks West.
On Tuesday top-seeded Malvern Prep (19-2) meets eighth-seeded Springfield-Delco (16-5) at Conestoga in the 6 p.m. opener. That game is followed by a matchup between fourth-seeded Ridley (19-2) and 12th-seeded Penn Charter (15-11).
On Wednesday second-seeded La Salle (27-2) plays seventh-seeded St. Joseph’s Prep (22-4) at CB West at 6 p.m. and third-seeded Haverford School (16-6) faces sixth-seeded Downingtown East (15-6) at 8 p.m.
Perennial power Ridley, the Central League champion, did not make it to the quarterfinals last year. But this year the Green Raiders’ defense has led it back to contention for an EPSLA title.
In Friday’s 7-2 first-round victory over league rival Penncrest, long poles Steve Gregg (the league MVP at long-stick middie), John McSorley, John Harshaw, Tim Grenier, and Pat Glenn were brilliant in front of junior goalie Scott Kellett (10 saves). Ridley has allowed more than six goals only three times all year and no one has scored 10 against the Raiders.
“Scotty Kellett saved us in in the second half,” said Ridley coach Kevin Ellers of the win over Penncrest. “Three or four times he had really nice saves. But the defense has doen the job all year; they have been consistently good.
“That’s why we are 19-2. The main thing for us is getting more offensive production. We can put the ball on net, we just have not been finishing. If we ever do that, good things will happen because the defense has played extraordinarily all year.”
Ellers said the race for the EPSLA title is keener than ever because this is the last year of the tournament. Next year the PIAA takes over jurisdiction of boys’ lacrosse in Pennsylvania and the Inter-Ac League will not be involved.
While this has caused much discussion on pros and cons, Ellers, for one, does not like it.
“The teams in the Inter-Ac are all quality programs and to beat them you have to play four quarters,” he said. “I am going to miss it next year; I wish it wasn’t going anywhere.
“I will miss it because it’s the best competition. My best memories of the games are the ones where the competition level is the highest. The kids love it.”