By James Boyle
Phillylacrosse.com, Posted 3/16/13
With a new coach, a new outlook and an All-American goalie making a swift recovery from a serious injury, there were many unknowns when Malvern Prep opened its lacrosse season vs. visiting Loyola Blakefield (MD).
If today’s 11-6 victory over the MIAA power is any indication, the Friars could again be a team capable of competing for the Inter-Ac League championship and a spot in the national rankings.
Despite icy conditions, Malvern Prep gave returning coach John McEvoy an impressive victory as Tommy O’Connor tallied three goals, Ryan Hilburn had two and senior Matt Barrett made 11 saves in goal while showing few effects of his torn ACL from the football season.
McEvoy, who “retired” from coaching three years ago, made a triumphant return for the Friars, who struggled through an 8-10 season in 2012 but return a number of Division I recruits.
“To start off a year against a good team that we lost to last year, it’s huge,” said O’Connor. “We didn’t live up to our expectations last year. So to get out and play well offensively and defensively is huge for us.”
The Friars started strong, taking a 3-1 first-period lead. They never relented despite losing the battle at the face-off X. O’Connor struck twice in the first quarter, but the goal that turned the momentum came from Malvern Prep defenseman Greg Pelton following a forced turnover in its own end.
Pelton took the ball the length of the field before unleashing on the Loyola net. The goal put the Friars up 2-1. The defenseman also intercepted a pass that led to a goal in transition before the end of the first half.
O’Connor (one assist) scored again, later in the first half, giving the Friars their fourth goal.
Barrett, who tore his ACL in October, said he was close to 100 percent in goal, although he does still wear a brace.
“It was a lot of fun,” said Barrett, a Virginia signee. “It was all the defense. They do a really good job at slowing the attack … they cover the crease really well. [Loyola] couldn’t get much going inside, which is what they were trying to do all game.”
Loyola Blakefield (1-1) had opened with a 15-5 win over Penn Charter. It was an MIAA finalist last year when it was 16-4.
The Friars’ starting defensemen – Chad Rafferty, Jared Horoski and Pelton – blanketed the dangerous Loyola Blakefield attack and recovered quickly to defend Loyola’s fast attacking style. Despite allowing early goals in the first two quarters, the defense found ways to create frequent turnovers.
Loyola dominated the face-offs, winning 16 of 21 draws behind Kevin O’Toole. But his teammates struggled to keep possession.
McEvoy, who guided his team to five Inter-Ac titles in his seven years as head coach, was happy.
“I’m excited to be back,” said McEvoy. “I missed it. It’s a great group of guys and they’re very eager. They seem to be buying into my little idiosyncrasies and things I like to do. They’re playing hard, most importantly.
“I always wanted to come back. I think the absence made me want to come back. I missed it a lot.”
Although the returning head coach did not decide to return until late in the winter, his disciplined approach is already having a positive effect on his team.
“It’s huge,” said O’Connor of McEvoy’s return. “He’s really brought a positive mentality to our team that we didn’t really have last year. We’re all coming together as one team instead of a bunch of individuals. You saw it on the field today; It really showed.”
Malvern Prep 11, Loyola Blakefield (MD) 6
Goals: O’Connor 3, Hilburn 2, Pelton, Dunn, Traynor, Glancy, Carlini, Horrocks
Assists: O’Connor, Hilburn, Dunn
Saves: Barrett 11
Goals: Lombardo 2, McNamara, Freiji, Licato, Roesner
Saves: Newton 8
Tags: Malvern Prep