Phillylacrosse.com celebrates the holiday season by re-posting its All-Phillylacrosse Players and Coaches of the Year and Teams for 2019
By Chris Goldberg
Phillylacrosse.com, Posted 8/25/19, Re-Posted 12/25/19
Academy of the New Church senior Hunter Jaronski could feel the opposing teams’ overconfidence when he and his 13 or 14-member squad would enter the stadium before games in 2019.
“We’d walk onto a field and I think everbody thought they’d beat once they looked over at us in warmups,” Jaronski said. “We just took pride in that.”
Actually, not many teams did beat ANC in 2019 despite the fact the Lions couldn’t practice full field and had many freshmen playing key roles. However, one man, Jaronski, played four different positions, so somehow that small number of players was just enough for a remarkable 20-4 season.
With Jaronski playing LSM and close defense, and also taking the team’s faceoffs and emerging as a key attackman with a short stick, the term “two-way” player became redefined.
Jaronski finished the year with 176 groundballs on defense and 30 goals and 18 assists on offense, while holding his own at the faceoff X. He was chosen as a US Lacrosse All-American and led ANC to its sixth straight Friends Schools League championship and a berth in the National Prep Championship semifinals. This year, ANC had wins, among others, over PIAA Class AAA finalist Conestoga, defending state champion Manheim Township and New Jersey prep powers Lawrenceville School and Hun School. The Lions finished fourth in the final Phillylacrosse.com Rankings, covering all of Pennsylvania, Delaware and South Jersey.
For his efforts, Jaronski has been named a Phillylacrosse.com Boys’ Co-Player of the Year (with Malvern Prep’s Will Pettit and Penn Charter’s Gavin Tygh).
“It was the best season, I wouldn’t give it back for anything,” said Jaronski, who is headed to Johns Hopkins. “Early in the year, we had injuries and you had this thought, ‘Are we going to get through the year?’
“But we started winning and started believing in everything (head) coach Jack (Forster) and coaches Kevin (Forster) and Shane (Sturgis) said. Everyone bought in. It meant so much for the program to beat schools like Hun and Lawrenceville to show who we are.”
Jaronski’s defensive skills were immense; he was like a quarterback on the back end, calling signals and slides and covering the key opposing weapons. But he emerged as an offensive weapon early after an injury to John Veit and quickly became adept with the short stick.
A typical sequence would feature Jaronski using his long pole to tie up a faceoff specialist at the X, allowing ANC’s wings to either win the draw or give him enough time to get back into position on defense. Once ANC got the ball back – which happened often since junior Griff McGinley was an All-EPLCA pick – and cleared into the offensive zone, they slow up the game and have Jaronski run to the sideline to grab a short stick.
Did Jaronski get tired?
“Honestly, I just moved to the next play,” he said. “You couldn’t think too much about that. When I was on defense, I just wanted to get the ball back quickly so I could get on offense.
“We had been fighting low numbers so when John got hurt I kind of volunteered to play offense since I played it when I was younger. I asked coach, ‘Are you really going to let me pick up a short stick?’ But it’s funny how it worked.”
Jaronski had one thought when he played at the faceoff X: “The first rule was don’t let up a fast break. I tried to make it a 50-50 groundball because our wings were hungry.”
ANC first-year coach Jack Forster – who has been an assistant for five years under his older brother Rob – said Jaronski’s leadership skills were equally as valuable as his lacrosse IQ and versatility.
“Hunter bought in and was the leader and he got everyone on the same page dominant force as a leader and everyone followed him,” Forster said.
“He probably has the most stamina of any player I know. That allowed him to play offense and defense; as well as his knowledge of the game.
“He is a tough kid that doesn’t like to lose and that shows every single game. And he had to play that way since we had no cakewalks and we played three games a week. What he did every game is pretty crazy. That toughened up the rest of our team.”