By Matt Chandik of Heritage Lacrosse
For Phillylacrosse.com, Posted 7/3/19
Lukas Sinon wasn’t on the Episcopal Academy roster at the third annual Philly’s Elite Invitational when he showed up to play in the second day of the event on Thursday at Maple Zone Sports Village.
The Churchmen’s 2020 lefty midfielder had a good reason, though. He suffered a torn ACL last season, and he didn’t think he’d be cleared to play for a little while. Thursday morning, though, he went to the doctor, who gave him a clean bill of health and told him that he could suit up.
Other than a black brace on his knee, Sinon didn’t look too rusty, but he admitted that he was pressing for a goal, especially after his first shot caught iron. Later, though, he took a feed and ripped one home from the wing, highlighting an 8-2 EA win over Radnor for the Churchmen’s first PEI title.
“I just got cleared this morning,” Sinon said. “It’s amazing. It’s been a long eight or nine months and to be back out here with some of my best friends doing what I love is awesome. (The goal) felt amazing. It’s been a long time coming. I hit the post on the first shot and a couple other ones I just put wide, so putting it in the back of the net felt great.”
The Churchmen were dominant all tournament (run by Heritage Lacrosse) long, going a perfect 5-0 en route to keeping the PEI title in the Inter-Ac after Malvern Prep won the first two years. A huge part of that was the play of faceoff man John McCormick, who was absolutely unstoppable at the X all tournament long.
You could have tallied his losses on one hand, and he used exceptional hand quickness and a scrappy style to consistently win. Whether the ball was going forward, backward or sideways to his wings, McCormick was in total control, and all of those extra possessions helped wear down opponents.
The craziest part? McCormick played JV midfield last spring and didn’t face off, and the Churchmen already have a strong faceoff man slotted for the X this spring in ‘22 Andrew McMeekin. If McCormick keeps playing that way, though, he’ll be able to earn a good amount of reps to give EA a legit 1-2 punch.
“I guess I just got into a rhythm and had my team supporting me the whole time,” McCormick said. “I started facing off sophomore year because we didn’t really have anyone, and I just kept with it. I did a few camps. I kind of look around to see where everyone’s lined up to see where I’m going to put the ball.”
The Churchmen had an array of talented scorers lead the charge, and it’s that type of balance that they’ll need in order to compete for an Inter-Ac title next spring. Midfielder Jackson Tuma, an elder statesman on the group who’s started for two years already, was one of those guys. The ‘20 middie was all over the field for EA, getting his fair share of shots, playing tough on-ball defense and leading the pack. It’ll be his last run, and he wants to leave EA with an Inter-Ac title.
“We got a decent turnout of guys and we had some incoming freshmen, which was awesome,” Tuma said. “Those kids played well and played fearless. I was impressed. Playing in this means a lot for the younger guys.
“I know I played going into my sophomore year and last year, and it was big to see where I fit and see what chemistry is there and what needs work. For these freshmen to get after it is huge, so they can get a feel for the offense, defense, coaches and the guys.”
Getting a feel for winning a championship doesn’t hurt, either.
Click here for info on the Fall Philly’s Elite. The event is co-run by Tom Lemieux and Michael Friel.
Here’s a look at every team’s MVP and what they did to stand out.
Central Bucks South
Team MVP: Colin Abbonizio ‘20, attack
As a junior, Abbonizio was the second-leading scorer for C.B. South’s hockey team, a perennial powerhouse, and he brings that skillset over to the lacrosse field. Physical and fast, he brings a heavy shot to the table, but he can also break down his defender off the dodge to get to the rack. He was the Titans’ leading scorer by a healthy margin in the tournament.
Honorable mention: Matt McDonald ‘20, LSM
Team MVP: Mikey Hayden ‘21, goalie
Hayden is stuck behind Notre Dame commit Mick Lee for one more year, but if he plays like he did this week, he’ll be a more-than-OK successor to Lee’s throne for a year. Hayden communicated very well with the young defense in front of him, and he came up with a bunch of impressive 1v1 saves. He has a knack for coming up with the second save off of rebounds, and he can make solid outlet passes.
Honorable mention: Will Preston ‘22, defense and Michael Austin ‘22, midfield
Team MVP: Nick Ericson ‘20, faceoff midfield
Ericson was a beast for the Cougars, coming away with all but four or five faceoffs to consistently give a young Downingtown East team the ball. He’s not the biggest faceoff man, but he’s terrific at finding a multitude of ways to win the draw, whether it’s forward or backward to himself or capably using his wings.
Honorable mention: Dylan Kilroy ‘20, defense
Team MVP: Kevin Craig ‘20, defense
A three-year starter for the Jaguars, Craig looked every bit the part of a veteran leader on the back end. His motor is always running, and as a result, the ball tends to bounce his way a lot. He has the footwork to efficiently cover, but he is also more than capable of taking the ball away.
Honorable mention: Greg Reynolds ‘20, midfield
Team MVP: Robby McDonnell ‘20, attack/midfield
The first thing you notice about McDonnell is how hard he works all the time, and his trajectory has been constantly going up. A 23-goal scorer for the Lions this year, he has very good finishing ability around the cage, and he brings the versatility to be able to run midfield or initiate offense at attack. McDonnell also has a knack for coming away with ground balls.
Honorable mention: Jake Kearney ‘21, defense
Team MVP: Nick Lucchesi ‘22, midfield
The young midfielder left his mark for the PIAA semifinalists by seemingly never coming off the field. He’s got a tireless motor and plays good defense, and he was also making things happen in transition. If he’s not the best athlete on the Raiders’ team, he’s darn close to it, and there’s plenty to suggest that he can develop into an elite midfielder.
Honorable mention: Grant Pierce ‘21, defense
Team MVP: Austin McCullough ‘20, defense
A total leader on Ridley’s defensive unit, McCullough embodies just about everything that Ridley is. He’s very aggressive, tough as nails and seemingly never gets tired. He’s willing to do whatever it takes for the team, and you could tell that his high energy rubs off on the teammates around him.
Honorable mention: Evan Zappone ‘21, midfield
Team MVP: Jack Gormley ‘23
An incoming freshman at Salesianum, Gormley didn’t look out of place at all against older competition, thanks in large part to his lacrosse IQ and athleticism. He likes to get after attackmen and even though he’s young, he’s not afraid to mix it up and get physical. Odds are that he’ll be a multi-year starter at Salesianum with All-American potential.
Honorable mention: Mike McGarry ‘20, midfield
Team MVP: Jack Clark ‘21, attack
It’s been a breakout year of sorts for Clark, and after pocketing 75 points this spring, he may have been the most dominant player at the event. He was getting to the rack at will and even turned the corner lefty a few times, which is a new development for him. Clark is extremely comfortable behind the cage and he sees the field well, and he’s a very tough cover for any defenseman back there. Look for him to flirt with 100 points next year.
Honorable mention: Jack Gerzabek ‘21, defense
Team MVP: Ibo Pio ‘20, midfield
One of the very best, if not the best, uncommitted ‘20s in Philly, Pio looked like a man amongst boys at times during the tournament. When he’s on, covering him with a short stick is impossible and throwing a pole at him is ambitious. He had a couple of lefty goals, too, making him a matchup nightmare. He’s so quick and athletic that he can routinely get to wherever he wants and finish. It’d be a surprise to see him uncommitted for much longer.
Honorable mention: Christian Mazur ‘21, midfield
Team MVP: Troy Corson ‘21, midfield
Corson was a rare sophomore captain for Wilson, and it’s not hard to see why. He’s an exceptional leader from the midfield, particularly when the Bulldogs are on defense. He’s a tenacious on-ball defender with a penchant for knocking the ball loose, and his athleticism makes him a threat in transition. You could make a case for him being Wilson’s best on-ball defender.
Honorable mention: Mason Lenart ‘21, midfield
Other Notable Standouts
Charles Bogert ‘23, goalie, Strath Haven – The thought of starting a freshman goalie isn’t always a soothing one, but the Panthers have a good one on their hands. Bogert made some impressive saves and looked calm in the crease, and he’s got the inside track on the starting job.
Max Busenkell ‘22, midfield, Garnet Valley – Busenkell earned comparisons to Jaguars’ legend Matt Moore early last year, and though he’s not quite on that level yet – few are, Max. Don’t feel bad, – he’s still an elite-level prospect. Busenkell has an exceptional shot and a terrific handle, and he had 27 goals and 30 assists this year, very good numbers that will significantly spike this year.
Austin Conner ‘23, attack, Strath Haven – Central League defenses had a year without a Conner on the field. They better have enjoyed it, because Jeff’s younger brother is going to score in bunches. He has a heavy shot and found different ways to get open.
Jake Morin ‘20, attack, Garnet Valley – Morin suited up Wednesday before sitting out Thursday with a minor injury, but the Penn State commit didn’t need much time to show that he’ll once again be one of the best players in the area. He did a really nice job of drawing attention and setting up his teammates, and at this point, everyone should know that you can’t ever leave him open.
Cole Schwartz ‘20, LSM, Radnor – He only played Wednesday, but was he ever active on that one day. Schwartz throws good checks and is always in the mix in the middle of the field. He racked up 112 ground balls this spring, so if the ball’s on the ground, you know it’s his.
Ryder Sellers ‘22, goalie, Savannah Strong – He was a little streaky at times, but there were moments of brilliance where he came away with some incredible saves. He seemed more at ease with taking away low shots.
Aidan Shandley ‘20, midfield, Springfield-Delco – A matchup nightmare, the 6-5 Shandley is in line for an extremely productive season next year. He had a couple of impressive goals where it was clear nobody could handle his physicality.
Shane Stevens ‘20, goalie, Penncrest – You can always tell when there’s a four-year starter in goal, because they always look like they have everything under control. Stevens was always shouting out encouragement and instructions to his defense, and he had the quick feet and hands to come away with nice saves.
Tags: Episcopal Academy