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 8/26/19, Re-Posted 12/27/19
Jack Forster had to improvise early in the 2019 season at Academy of the New Church when his already small roster shrunk to 15 players due to injuries.
“It was crazy; we couldn’t really practice full field,” he said. “We had to watch a lot of film and all learn together. We were playing three games a week and it was pretty unbelievable how much they bought in and learned from games, film and field sessions.”
In fact, Academy of the New Church finished 2019 with a 20-4 record, a sixth straight Friends Schools League championship and a second straight semifinal berth in the National Prep Championships. The Lions boasted wins over Conestoga (PIAA Class AAA runner-up), Manheim Township (defending PIAA champ), Hempfield (Lancaster-Lebanon champ) and New Jersey prep powers Hun School and Lawrenceville School.
Most of the year, Forster relied heavily on as many as four freshmen and had fewer than 15 players dressed for games; and in ANC’s last game, a 9-8 win over Lawrenceville, he had no more than 12 players.
All this and Forster was a rookie head coach, after spending five years as the top assistant under his brother, Rob. For his accomplishments, Forster has been named the Phillylacrosse.com Co-Coach of the Year for boys’ teams (shared with La Salle’s Bill Leahy).
The team was somewhat patchwork, Forster said, and was led by two players, senior do-everything Hunter Jaronski (Phillylacrosse.com Co-Player of the Year) who played everywhere on defense, took faceoffs and became the team’s second scoring threat (30 goals, 18 assists); and fellow US Lacrosse All-American Jeb Brenfleck (60 goals, 46 assists). The other key player was junior goalie Griff McGinley, an All-EPLCA pick who helped ANC yield 5 or fewer goals 14 times.
Several other seniors and also an eager group of underclassmen followed willingly to Forster and assistants Kevin Forster and Shane Sturgis.
“Hunter was the leader and he bought in and kind of got everyone on the same page,” said Jack Forster, who wished to credit his two assistants. “He and Jeb led the group and that set the tone for everything.
“Honestly, going into the year I thought we could be good because of the freshmen we had. They were smart players and I thought they’d be able to handle themselves. They bought in and came up and made some key plays to help the older guys.”
There were many highlights to the season: First being a 10-0 win over Conestoga, a team that won the Central League and District 1 championships before falling by two goals to La Salle in the PIAA final. There was a triple overtime, 5-4 triumph over Manheim. Another was a tight 4-3 loss to Malvern Prep, the Inter-Ac League champion and top team in the region which also was nationally ranked.
But the end of the year wins over Hun School – the Mid-Atlantic Prep champ – and Lawrenceville, both 9-8 triumphs on late goals, typified the season best.
The victory over Hun came on an overtime goal by Brenfleck. ANC held its own against one of the top teams in the country, Culver Academy (IN), in the National Prep semis the next day and came out of it with 12 healthy bodies.
Then, the following week, ANC had to play at Lawrenceville on its Senior Day and somehow the Lions overcame those minuscule numbers to prevail, spoiling the last game under long-time coach Allen Fitzpatrick for Lawrenceville.
“Maybe the most amazing thing we did was beat Hun at night and then drive back home, have school the next day and get ready to play Culver, one of the best teams in the nation,” said Forster. “We drove two vans with nine passengers to the game the next day. I tried to put in a game plan, but it was pretty tough. We were only down 5-0 at the half; our defense held their own (Culver ultimately won, 11-1 and claimed the tourney crown by topping Hill Academy).
Forster said the one-goal loss to Malvern Prep helped prepare ANC for the Conestoga game and the rigors of the rest of the season. The Lions went 11-2 the rest of the way with the 10-0 shutout of Conestoga the signature victory.
“Malvern Prep was beating us 3-0 and we did come within 4-3, but that game exposed a lot of weaknesses for us,” he said. “It stayed close because of Hunter; he played ridiculous. But after that game we put in a new offense for Conestoga and honestly I thought we had a chance to win with the work we put in that week.”