By Ben Skalina
Phillylacrosse.com, Posted 5/28/08
When Malvern Prep’s Matt Mackrides snagged a loose ball out of the air on defense and sprinted downfield with it for an eventual fastbreak goal in the first quarter of Tuesday night’s Eastern Pennsylvania Scholastic Lacrosse Association (EPSLA) quarterfinal against Springfield-Delco, it should have made it abundantly clear that the Friars were going to play a thorough, endline-to-endline game.
And for 48 minutes of downright dominant lacrosse, John McEvoy’s top-seeded Friars did just that, possessing the ball for huge chunks of time and forcing the young Cougars into turnover after turnover for a 12-0 win at Conestoga that advances them into Friday’s semifinals.
Top-seeded Malvern (20-2), ranked No. 1 by Phillylacrosse.com, will face the winner of Tuesday night’s suspended game between Ridley and Germantown Academy at Garnet Valley at 6 p.m. That contest was halted by lightning with the score tied, 3-3, late in the first half and will be completed tonight at 4:30 p.m. at Conestoga.
While most shutouts come from exceptional goalie or defensive unit play, this one was a total team effort. The Friars held Springfield (16-6) to just 11 successful clears on 24 chances with their devastating ride, the Cougars managed just four shots, and goalie Andrew O’Connell made the three saves required of him.
“We’ve done that all year, we rely on that, it’s kind of who we are,” McEvoy said of his team’s riding abilities.
After the game, McEvoy deflected talk of his team being the favorite to win the last EPSLA crown, noting that Downingtown East was seeded fourth last year.
“At this point in time there are no more favorites,” he said. “You go in and you do your thing and the tougher, more focused team wins. The guys who make the fewest mistakes will win at this point in time.”
All of the hard work up front on the ride made for a light night for close defenders Billy Connors, CJ Mooney and Chris Creighton. All that trio had to do was pick up the groundballs that came through on errant Springfield passes.
On the rare occasion the Cougars did bring the ball in on offense, the fresh Malvern longsticks would promptly take the ball away and send it back up the field to their offense.
“We were down a couple main kids, a couple starters, so the defense wanted to pick it up and start playing more intense,” said Malvern LSM Neil Willis, another key cog in the Friars’ defense.
“We work on that real hard in practice, so we just did what we practiced,” said Willis of the Malvern ride.
North carolina recruits chris Layne and Matt Conte did not play for undisclosed reasons. But attackers Colin McGeehin and Conor Steidle and midfielder Mackrides – who recently was named an Under Armour All-American – led the Malvern assault. McGeehin scored three of Malvern’s first-quarter goals and assisted on the other to JK Poirier to get the Friars started early, and finished with five goals and two assists.
Steidle contributed a balanced scoreline of two goals and two assists, while Mackrides put the game away in the second half with two goals and three assists as Malvern turned a 4-0 halftime margin into a rout.
Senior Malvern midfielder Rob Rumer also lent a hand in the victory, as he contributed 12 wins on 15 draws to enhance Malvern’s possession advantage.
For Springfield, there weren’t a whole lot of positives to be found outside sophomore goalie Austin Kaut’s 12 saves, including six in the first half to keep things respectable at intermission.
Afterward, Springfield coach Mike Friel praised the victorious Friars.
“We knew they were a great riding team, and we’re not a great clearing team, so that was like a double whammy for us,” Friel said. “We played defense the whole time.”