Phillylacrosse.com, Posted 6/13/11
With five members of the Malvern Prep’s lacrosse team headed to service academies, first-year Coach David Metzbower did not have to search far to find the leadership he needed to guide his team.
Senior captains TJ Hanzsche (Navy), Jack Morgenthaler (Navy), and Keith Dreyer (Air Force) and junior commits Kevin Samolsky (Navy) and Russ Atkinson (Navy) all share the same vocation to serve their nation as an officer in the United States armed forces.
Malvern Prep enjoyed a strong season in 2011, finishing 14-6 overall while placing second in the powerful Inter-Ac League behind the nation’s top ranked team, Haverford School.
The Friars nearly pulled off the year’s biggest victory in the Inter-Ac Invitational finals when they fell to the Fords, 5-4, in the final seconds after leading nearly the entire game. Haverford School’s Carl Walrath tied the game with 36.9 seconds left and won it with 9.8 seconds to play in regulation, helping the Fords complete a perfect 23-0 season.
“The outcome of the championship game is still very hard to swallow, but as a senior captain, I couldn’t have asked for anything more out of my teammates,” said Hanzsche, whose team is ranked No. 3 in the state in the PA Media Rankings and No. 24 by ESPN RISE in the POWERADE Fab 50. “We gave it our all and played a great game. We might not have been the better team on paper, but we sure did play a better game, and anyone who watched can attest.
“That blue collar mentality is what Malvern athletics is all about and that is why I feel I am more than ready to become a student athlete at the Naval Academy.
“The decision to attend USNA was an easy one. Bottom line is, I want to serve our country and the Naval Academy is a great place to start. I also want to play lacrosse at a high level for a team that represents what I believe in.
“In reality, a game is just a game. I know in the near future, there will be bigger and more important things that I will have to overcome as an aspiring naval officer.”
The Friars entered the season with only one “name” player in face-off specialist Drew Kennedy and a young roster under first-year coach Metzbower. They lost three games to Haverford School, while holding the Fords to the two lowest goal totals they scored all year. Malvern also suffered 9-8 overtime losses to nationally-ranked Landon and PIAA finalist St. Joseph’s Prep.
Metzbower said the leadership of his senior captains as well as Samolsky and Atkinson played a big role in the team’s resilience and overall success.
“Malvern and the service academies push for the same excellence in their students in the classroom, on and off the field,” he said. “The teachers and coaches teach hard-work, personal responsibility and leadership that comes from aiming for a higher goal.
“These skills transpire beyond lacrosse, and flow naturally into a student’s academics and private life. Prep schools like Malvern are very successful in moving an athlete’s attitude away from failure and into the world of success. Malvern teaches no short cut to success,”
“These guys, Jack, TJ, Keith, Russ and Kevin are all blue collar guys with a great work ethic. They work hard for the team. We didn’t have any superstars.”
Dreyer said his decision to attend Air Force was about growth, leadership and challenge.
“My decision to go to the Air Force Academy stretches much deeper than lacrosse,” he said. “It’s about serving a higher purpose, getting stronger, more disciplined and learning to lead.”
Dreyer said the 2011 season was a success.
““As the captains, we decided to approach the season with discipline and teamwork,” he said. “Our priority was to play as a team and motivate the younger guys to play smart and not try to be selfish.
“In the last game of the tournament we played good team defense, we held the best team in the country to five goals and almost pulled out a major upset.”
Said Morgenthaler: “What you’ll always remember is that you left everything on the field. That is what we did. And although the record books will always say ‘The Haverford
School 5 Malvern 4’ it still feels like a win.
“Even though the outcome of HS was not a victory, we played at the highest level and were not outworked as a team. This theme and MP team’s work ethic and effort is similar to what I have experienced watching Navy lacrosse throughout the years.
“I am looking forward to continuing the MP style of lacrosse in a different uniform at the United States Naval Academy with great friends and brothers TJ, Russ and Kevin. When we play our next championship game together… hopefully the outcome will be a victory. Either way I can guarantee we will not be outworked at Navy, just like at Malvern.”
With over 30,000 applications to each service academy a year, it is rare that five from one school, let alone one lacrosse team can claim that achievement. Malvern Prep is a small all-boys’ Catholic school run by the Augustinians, the same order that runs Villanova University with a legacy of putting student athletes and leaders into Division I and III lacrosse programs.
Since 2002 Malvern has put 70 student athletes into NCAA lacrosse programs and won the highly competitive Inter-Ac Lacrosse Championship seven times and a PA State Championship in 2006. Names that come to mind are current alums and 2011 All American Matt Dolente (Johns Hopkins) and Matt Mackrides (Penn State).
But in the leadership category Malvern far exceeds the norm with Malvern alums holding captaincy roles at Penn State 2011 (Mackrides and Matt Bernier), Holy Cross 2010 (Tim Barrar), Loyola 2010 (Steve Layne), Drexel 2010 & 2009 (Matt McCormick) and Notre Dame 2010 (Mike Creighton).
“Malvern’s stats with the service academies have been outstanding,” said Rev. James R. Flynn, O.S.A, Malvern Prep Head of School. “We try to have leadership and service be part of the air our students breathe.
“Not just leadership, but ‘courageous leadership’ is part of our mission statement. We talk about it, but mostly, the students’ understanding of it comes from the great number of our faculty and of our coaches who model good strong Christian leadership day in and day out. It’s part of what makes Malvern, Malvern.”
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