By Matt Chandik
Phillylacrosse.com, Posted 1/1/18
Conner Delaney was a little taken aback by Will Gibbs’ request.
Gibbs, Episcopal Academy’s savant of a defensive coordinator, approached Delaney before a preseason scrimmage against Catholic League powerhouse La Salle. Delaney was already an established member of the Churchmen’s close defense group, but Gibbs wanted to test out the multi-sport standout at longstick midfielder.
“I was a little surprised by the switch,” Delaney said. “It worked out pretty well, though, It gave us a better option. Coach Gibbs wanted me to run the wings, and it was easier to keep up there than have me run down.”
Much like many of Gibbs’ decisions, it turned out incredibly well for EA, perhaps even better than anyone would have ever expected. Under new head coach Chris Bates, a former Division I head coach, Delaney became an absolute nightmare for opposing offenses. He blanketed other teams’ top scoring threats while also providing plenty of offense of his own, rocketing home 12 goals.
In the process, he helped lead an EA resurgence of sorts. The Churchmen swept rival Malvern Prep and were in contention for the Inter-Ac League championship until the end. In his final high school game, Delaney and his teammates nearly upset national power Culver Academy (Ind.) in the Inter-Ac Invitational before bowing to the tournament champion Eagles.
For his outstanding play, Delaney earned the distinction of co-Phillylacrosse.com Player of the Year, joining Springfield-Delco goalie James Spence. It comes after a season where Delaney was named the Inter-Ac’s Most Important Player, as well as US Lacrosse All-American and Academic All-American, All-EPLCA and First Team All-Inter-Ac.
Not bad for a kid who won’t be playing college lacrosse. Delaney, an All-Inter-Ac basketball selection, originally committed to Villanova lacrosse before opting to play basketball at Division III Johns Hopkins. He toyed with the idea of also playing Division I lacrosse for the Blue Jays, but decided that he wanted to fully concentrate on basketball. (Delaney is the starting point guard on a 7-1 team.)
Bates couldn’t have asked for a better building block in his first season in Newtown Square. Delaney dominated on the wings, wiped out top scoring threats, spearheaded transition and added plenty of offense. What more could you want?
“Once the games started, he did so many different things to have an impact on the game,” Bates said. “We’ve got a pretty good, pretty experienced coaching staff, and we’d look at each other after most games and just say, ‘Wow, that was an incredible performance from Conner.’ It became pretty apparent that it’s where he was going to thrive.”
It didn’t take long for Delaney to notice that things were different under Bates. He cited a college-like focus on offseason development, and he felt like things were looking up for the Churchmen. If there was one defining moment, it was the second Malvern game, where EA erased a 6-2 deficit to stun the Friars. In other years, the Churchmen’s relative lack of depth might have cost them in a game against such a skilled opponent, but they got a final defensive stop with 15 seconds to go.
“That was really a defining win for the whole team,” Delaney said. “From the moment he stepped on campus, Coach Bates did so much to help us out. He put a lot of trust in the senior class.”
One senior, in particular, was better than everyone he went up against.