By Matt Chandik
Phillylacrosse.com, Posted 4/30/17
They’ve waited in the shadows, fully understanding that the hype around this year’s Malvern Prep team revolves around a multi-pronged offense that can attack you with a bevy of weapons.
The Friars’ defense, though, tends to get overlooked at times. It’s easy to love Malvern’s explosiveness, but the back end helped keep Conestoga in single digits en route to an 11-9 win in the marquee game of the Katie Samson Foundation Lacrosse Festival Saturday at Radnor.
Don’t look now, but Malvern (12-4) has kept three straight high-caliber offenses in single digits. Goalie Andrew Clark (8 saves) was strong again and the defense of Ray Baran, Sam Charlton, Donny Gayhardt and Sam Sweeney, among others, was strong.
“This past week, we’ve kind of turned up the intensity in practice to get ready for the Haverford game,” said Richmond signee Baran, whose Friars claimed a 12-9 win over the Fords. “We’re just trying to build on that. We’re sticking to our matchups, playing hard, sliding hard and being real physical. I think we came out hard (Saturday) in the beginning.”
Billy Coyle and Quinn McCahon quickly struck for the Friars, scoring 44 seconds apart barely two minutes into the game. James Reilly won the ensuing faceoff and stung a goal and Tate Kienzle tied it up, but McCahon responded in time to give the Friars a 3-2 lead after one. Mike Fay and Coyle scored 55 seconds apart to push the lead to 5-2 before Henry Berg responded with a pair of goals, but it was obvious that the Pioneers’ offense was disjointed, based on the uncharacteristic amount of turnovers and sloppy play.
“I didn’t think they were going to turn the ball over that much, but in the second half, they turned it on to us and we got a really good look at what they really are,” Baran added.
“They were sliding to us quickly and forcing us to try to make a good feed,” said Conestoga’s Tommy Sopko, who also struggled early before finishing the day with his customary five points. “They also had really good help defense, so sometimes there was no feed there and we tried to force it and turned the ball over.”
Sopko nearly willed the Pioneers (11-3) all the way back by scoring three goals and setting up Peyton Jones for another, but it was too late. Despite that, Conestoga showed that even on a day where its offense is struggling, the Pioneers can heat up quickly.
“I just think I started dodging more as an athlete and making sure I was going fast instead of just trying to body my guy,” Sopko said. “I think I’ve learned to see that and change something when I wasn’t doing anything for the first three quarters.”
For as good as Malvern’s defense was, its offense was its normal balanced self. Scottie White led the charge with three goals and two assists, while Jack Traynor and McCahon each had two goals and two assists. Sean Christman also played a huge role in keeping the Friars ahead, as he won all 12 second-half faceoffs to finish the day 18-for-24 at the X.
In his first year as a surefire starter, White has emerged as a big-time multi-purpose weapon. He played in spurts in the past two years, but also had the chance to learn from standouts like the All-American duo of Kyle Anderson (Harvard) and Adam Goldner (Penn), as well as his brother, Zach (Fairfield). The younger White is a mismatch when he dodges from X, and he’s adept at both scoring and finding his open teammates.
“Playing two years behind those guys, there are a lot of expectations (attached) to coming in and starting, especially this year because we have high expectations as a team,” White said. “Filling this role is hard, but you just have to come out every day and work really hard in practice and come out and perform on game day.”
It looks like White has that part down.
Malvern Prep 3 3 4 1 — 11
Scottie White 3g, 2a
Jack Traynor 2g, 2a
Quinn McCahon 2g, 2a
Billy Coyle 2g, 1a
Mike Fay 2g
Sean Christman 18-for-24 faceoffs
Andrew Clark 8 saves
Conestoga 2 2 1 4 — 9
Tommy Sopko 3g, 2a
Henry Berg 2g
Hunter Gregory 1g
James Reilly 1g
Tate Kienzle 1g
Peyton Jones 1g
Scott MacMillan 11 saves