By Adam C. Warner
Phillylacrosse.com, Posted 5/21/09
The Haverford School-Malvern Prep boys’ lacrosse rivalry has produced some epic battles over the years.
From the 2006 Eastern Pennsylvania Scholastic Lacrosse Association finals that witnessed the Friars upset the Fords in overtime to the ’04 regular season when Haverford took down Malvern in a three-OT thriller, whenever these two national lacrosse powers go head-to-head, anything goes as the intensity level is often cranked to the maximum.
And as expected on Wednesday night, with the chance for one of these squads to be crowned the first playoff champion of the Inter-Ac League, a new chapter was added to the storied rivalry.
Behind the inspired play of its defense and an efficient offense that found the back of the net in big spots, Haverford School defeated Malvern Prep, 9-5, in the inaugural Inter-Ac League postseason tournament championship at Cabrini College’s Dixon Field.
Junior Stephen Aitken scored a game-high three goals while senior goaltender Dan Wigrizer recorded 12 saves for the Fords (16-8 overall), who captured the season series with Malvern (11-9) by winning two out of three games after the teams tied for the official regular-season crown. Since the 2001 campaign, the overall series is tied at 10-10, which includes a pair of postseason contests.
“It’s just an incredible way to end the year,” said Wigrizer, who was named one of the Fords’ Toyota Stars of the Game along with Aitken. “The whole season has been a roller coaster ride. It was just great to go out in our senior year and beat Malvern in the championship game. There is nothing like beating an Inter-Ac team for the title.”
With a raucous, overflow crowd on hand to witness the latest classic in the series, both squads came out playing at a frenetic pace hoping to make an early statement. Malvern struck first with a pair of goals by James Connelly and Ryan Creighton before Haverford countered with its first goal by Will Horrocks with 3:02 to go in the first.
The second period proved to be a defensive showcase highlighted by acrobatic goalie saves and aggressive takeaways. Following a forced turnover late in the quarter, the Fords evened the score at 2-2 thanks to a blast by Hup Hupfeldt with 3:26 to go. Just 41 seconds later, Haverford grabbed the lead when Carl Walrath scored a man-up goal on transition on the heels of a key face-off win.
“Everyone meshed together in this game,” Wigrizer said. “We were able to shut off their top players and our defensive midfielders were able to take control. We didn’t give them good shots; we only allowed low percentage shots. It was just an incredible defensive performance for the entire game.”
After trading scores to initiate the third, the Fords made their move and embarked on a three-goal run to capture the game’s momentum. With five consecutive face-off wins and several man-up opportunities, the Fords had a plethora of offensive opportunities and made the most of them.
Aitken tallied three of his squad’s six overall second half goals, including two in the decisive third quarter to give his team a 6-3 edge heading into the final stanza.
Perhaps the turning point of the game occurred at the start of the fourth quarter with the game still very much up for grabs. On the opening face-off, Haverford’s Wills Miller quickly corralled the ball, stormed down field and spotted Aitken, who deposited his third goal of the game just 15 seconds in.
The tally gave the Fords a 7-3 advantage and signaled the beginning of the end for the Friars.
Meanwhile, with Wigrizer making tough saves down the stretch (seven total in the second half) and his teammates continuously pressuring Malvern’s defense, Haverford never looked back. After a Harte Thompson tally at 8:55 by the Friars, the Fords dialed in twice more to grab a 9-4 lead late.
“This is one of the biggest rivalries in the country – two Philly teams going at it featuring some of the best players in the nation,” Aitken said. “It was just huge to come out on top this time around and take the season series. It’s just an awesome feeling.”
Seven different players registered goals for Haverford, including Horrocks, who also dished out a pair of assists. All the while, Bill Conners was named a Toyota Star of the Game for Malvern, which entered play riding a six-game win streak. James Connelly, Conners’ teammate on the defensive end, registered a goal for the Friars while goalie Wills Curley made seven saves.
The playoff tournament was created partly because the Inter-Ac no longer can play for the state championship now that the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association has taken over sponsorship of boys’ lacrosse. But that only made this game’s meaning even greater.
“It’s a great rivalry and we have a lot of respect for Malvern,” Haverford head coach John Nostrant said. “We’re disappointed that we can’t play for something greater, but this is one of the best leagues in the country, so it’s exciting.”
Haverford School 9, Malvern Prep 5
Malvern 2 0 1 2 – 5
Haverford 1 2 3 3 – 9
Malvern goals: Harte Thompson, Ryan Creighton, Bob Hill, James Connelly, JK Poirier.
Haverford goals: Stephen Aitken 3, Will Horrocks, Brent Tomlinson, Brendan McGrath, Carl Walrath, Matt Walters, Hup Hupfeldt.
Goalie saves: Wills Curley (M) 7; Dan Wigrizer (H) 12