By Matt Chandik
Phillylacrosse.com, Posted 3/9/20
It’s never easy to replace a program legend, especially one that started for five years and emerged as the face of the team. For the first time since Penn Charter was founded – give or take a few years – Pat McDonough will have to worry about not having one of the best players in the country controlling the game for him.
Gavin Tygh was a force to be reckoned with for the Quakers, both as a dynamic faceoff man and an all-around threat as a midfielder, and he was a three-time first-team All Inter-Ac selection, including the Co-Most Important Player in 2018 and a Phillylacrosse.com Co-Player of the Year in 2019.
Replacing Tygh won’t be an easy task, but despite that, there are plenty of reasons for the Quakers to be optimistic this year. Penn Charter dropped its season opener Friday, an 8-2 decision to D.C. power St. John’s College High, but that’s an exceptional opponent that will help prepare the Quakers for the rigorous Inter-Ac slate, one that reverts back to its 10-game slate plus a playoff.
At the heart of Penn Charter’s chase for a league title is attackman-turned-midfielder Antonio DeMarco, a junior who verbally committed to ACC powerhouse North Carolina this summer. A 6-1 ambidextrous shooter who played lefty attack as a righty a season ago, DeMarco has elevated his game in the offseason, and McDonough has lofty expectations for the future Tar Heel that collected 27 goals and 15 assists a year ago.
“I think you start walking a little taller and puffing your chest out a bit more when you commit to a school like UNC, and he’s the guy that we’re going to rely on,” McDonough said. “He’s one of our hardest workers. He definitely passes the eye test. He’s fast and strong, and we’re hoping that he raises his game and that he’s the guy that players can follow.”
DeMarco’s surrounding cast took a noticeable hit when classmate Conor McKee, a Lehigh commit primed for a breakout campaign, tore his ACL, an injury that will sideline him for the season. There’s plenty of talent left in the offensive top six, including a pair of sophomores in Petey Malitas and Colin Michener, along with junior Kellen Seth at attack.
“Petey’s in his third year playing for us, so he’s got a lot of experience coming back,” McDonough said. “He’s one of our better athletes, and he’s a quick and tough attackman, so we’re looking for him to have a breakout year. Colin is a lefty that came on toward the end of last year. He’s a heady kid with good vision, and he’s a particularly good feeder. Kellen got on the field as a midfielder as a sophomore, and he’s one of our faster guys who’s shown that he can be a good shooter.”
The Inter-Ac voted to mimic college rules by adding a shot clock this year, which means that midfielders need to be able to get up and down the field in a hurry. DeMarco is the heart of that unit, but junior Liam Labarge and seniors Dean Bleiler and Lance Rainer, a Wagner commit, will see plenty of big minutes.
“Liam has played a bit in the past, but he’s going to see a large increase in minutes this year, so we’re hoping that the extra time produces more opportunities,” McDonough said. “He’s a solid midfielder with good speed and a really hard shot. Dean is a tough, athletic kid who’s another leader on the team. He provided a spark for us at times, and we’re hoping that he can do that even more this year. Lance has predominantly been a defensive midfielder, but he can shoot the ball 100 miles per hour, so we’re hoping for a little more offense this year.”
Freshman Jonathan Glomb and junior Jonathan Brady get the unenviable task of having to replace Tygh, but McDonough thinks that both will be able to scrap and help the Quakers gain some much-needed possessions.
The back end might be the best unit on the team. Penn Charter’s defense returns a pair of senior starters in defensemen Noah Evans and Kyle Jones. They’re joined by junior Ryan Yeatman and sophomore LSM Matt Callahan, and McDonough is particularly high on his two seniors.
“I think that Noah is one of the better guys in our league. He’s big and physical, and he has one of the best sticks around. We’ll leave him on offense sometimes to get some shots off. I’m as confident with him running the break as any midfielder,” McDonough said. “Kyle is a big, strong defenseman. He’s the enforcer for us, and he’s athletic enough to push it down the field. Ryan has really grown into his body, and he’s one of the top squash players in the area, which is really good for his footwork and agility. Matt is a high-IQ kid with a great poke check and a good understanding of team defense.”
If replacing Tygh’s production is the top priority, finding a way to adequately fill Carson Marano’s shoes is 1B. An all Inter-Ac goalie now plying his craft at Division III power Amherst – which reached last year’s national title game before falling to Cabrini – Marano was the backbone of the Quakers’ defense.
In steps Ben Tompkins, a junior who tossed aside 11 shots in Penn Charter’s opener, and has the ability to step right in and keep the Quakers’ defense in a good place without Marano.
“I’ve always had small goalies, so it’s different with Ben, who’s a big lefty,” McDonough said. “He fills up the cage, and he also has really quick hands and makes good outlet passes.”
You can always bet on Penn Charter to have a ridiculously-difficult schedule, and this year’s no different. There are nonleague tilts with national power Landon (MD), as well as Hun (N.J.) Radnor, Conestoga and Southern Lehigh, among others. All of that, coupled with that daunting 10-game Inter-Ac slate, means that the Quakers won’t have any time to ease into the season.
That’s just the way life is in the Inter-Ac.
Tags: Penn Charter