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Phillylacrosse honors the 2022 Boys’ Co-Players of the Year: Bard (Lower Merion), Busenkell (Garnet Valley), Goldstein (Radnor), Michener (Penn Charter) & Nikolic (Malvern Prep)

Monday, 22nd August 2022

Categories, Boy's/Men's, High School  

By Chris Goldberg, Posted 8/22/22 congratulates Henry Bard (Lower Merion), Max Busenkell (Garnet Valley), Ryan Goldstein (Radnor), Colin Michener (Penn Charter) & AJ Nikolic (Malvern Prep) as its 2022 Boys’ Co-Players of the Year.

Honorable Mention Players of the Year: 2022 midfielder Charlie Box (Marple Newtown), 2022 goalie Joe Doherty (Malvern Prep), 2023 goalie Patrick Jameison (Conestoga) and 2022 defenseman Will Schaller (Hill School).

Below we highlight the Co-Players of the Year:

Henry Bard, Lower Merion, 2022 defenseman (playing at Duke)

Henry Bard could easily be called a throwback. In the era of specialization, few players anywhere could duplicate the all-around skills shown by Bard in 2022.

A lockdown close defender, Bard was forced to also lead an inexperienced Aces squad on attack this year. He finished with an amazing 47 goals as a “two-way longpole” who played fulltime defense, often played the wing on faceoffs when he wasn’t taking the faceoff, was the team’s No. 1 dodger and then sprinted back to play defense in an elite league.

Henry Bard

“I was running back and forth the whole game,” he said. “If we’d win the faceoff I would go on offense with my pole and then initiate the offense from the top of the key.

“Against Radnor I had (all-EPLCA defender) Will Gallagher guarding me on offense and then I had to run down and go to X to guard (All-American attackman) Ryan Goldstein.

“It was pretty wild. But it was fun. It was hard to get my hands free because I always had a pole on me or someone sliding toward me. I did a lot of dodging on the run and I had like 10 goals in transition.”

Despite Bard’s many talents and the fact he was named league MVP and a USA Lacrosse All-American, Lower Merion struggled through an 8-10 season and could not compete with many teams in the Central League. Bard said he personally felt responsible for giving his team not only a chance to win but to keep them motivated through losses.

“I remember the Garnet Valley game (a 17-3 loss), some guys were down and it would have been easy for me to shut it down and say, ‘What the heck, (forget) this,” he said. “I understood that the young guys who care about this team and were trying are looking at me for the right attitude.

“If I was throwing my stick or helmet, they would reciprocate. If I did get upset, I’d keep it within myself and still encourage teammates if I saw them throw their helmet. These guys were looking up to me – one of them was my brother – so I knew I was a role model.”

Lower Merion coach Roland D’Ortone said Bard relished the chance to play multiple roles.

“We obviously asked Henry to do more for us than any team could reasonably ask of one player, but Henry is a special talent,” he said. “Our initial thought was, if nothing else he would draw other teams better defenders and that would free up our other players.

“We thought he would serve more as a decoy on offense but would remain the heart of our defense. As the season progressed he became more and more the focal point of our offense and remained the heart of our defense. I still don’t know he managed to do both at such a high level.”

Max Busenkell, Garnet Valley, 2022 Midfielder (playing at Notre Dame)

Ask Garnet Valley coach Frank Urso about Max Busenkell and you’ll see a proud man.

“Like most outstanding players, Max made players around him better,” said Urso. “His ability to earn their respect helped impact how they played.”

Max Busenkell

In 2022, Busenkell had 83 goals and 79 assists – as a midfielder! He finished as the top point getter in the region and also helped the Jaguars reach their first PIAA title game after years of near-misses.

The Jaguars’ biggest win was a 7-6 victory over La Salle in the first round of the 3A state tourney; and the Jags reached the finals with a 20-9 blitzing of St. Joseph’s Prep. In the state final, Garnet Valley stayed even with Radnor in the first half, but fell, 12-3.

“It sucks to lose the final game, but I am really proud of us for making the finals, it’s never been done at Garnet Valley,” said Busenkell. “Just getting here with the adversity we went through is a tribute to the team.

“We weren’t at our best in the regular season, but everyone stepped up in the playoffs and to get here was fun.”

Urso said Busenkell’s diverse skills were crucial in leading the team.

“Max challenged them when they were off-ball to keep moving to get open and on-ball to have the confidence to create,” Urso said. “He knew when to push the team and when to put the team on his shoulders. He scored 162 points and I can’t remember one game when Max was being selfish, he just made things happen.

“He is the most accurate shooter I have ever coached, a part of his game he worked so hard to perfect. His selfless style, his ability to make players better, his shooting skills, and his leadership style all just made him the best and most valuable player on the field. He is not only a special lacrosse player, he is an amazing young man with a great future!”

Ryan Goldstein, Radnor, 2023 Attackman (committed to Cornell, now PG year at Salisbury School-CT)

Ryan Goldstein admits Radnor – the 2021 PIAA 3A champion – had to start over and rebuild its identity this year.

“We lost 14 seniors and we kind of struggled to find our identity early in the season,” he said. “Then we came back from a New Canaan (CT) trip and started to get rolling.

Ryan Goldstein

“We were staying level and getting better every day. Guys stepped up whether they were sophomores or juniors or senior leaders and it showed in our play.”

It sure did. Radnor started off 2-2 and then won the rest of its 22 games, capping the season with a 12-3 triumph over Garnet Valley for the school’s second straight PIAA crown and third overall. The New Canaan win came early in the streak which helped the Raptors earn the rare triple crown, claiming the Central League, District 1 and state titles.

Goldstein was the main offensive cog for Radnor as a scorer and feeder, even compared at times to such Philly legends as Jordan Wolf, Joey Sankey, Michael Sowers and Grant Ament. He finished with 49 goals and 79 assists and earned USA Lacrosse All-American.

“Ryan is as competitive a kid that I’ve ever coached,” said Radnor coach John Begier. “He is driven to be the best and wants his team to be the best. He’ll do everything possible on the field to make that happen.”

Begier said Goldstein has all the attributes of the ideal X attackman. “He’s very two-handed and extremely quick, so he’s hard to guard and he’s a dual threat. He can beat you passing and he can beat you scoring.

“He’s got a lightning quick change of direction and when you combine that with the ability to go to either hand and be equally effective scoring or passing that’s a really hard cover for a defenseman and a team defense.

“So he can create separation, draw the slide, find the open man, skip pass across to somebody else that’s open. If the defenseman is slow to slide, he’ll turn the corner and score.

“His intangibles are second to none. He has the desire to compete and be driven to work as hard as he can to be the best attackman there is. He has a never ending motor. And he has a way of willing his team to win.”

Colin Michener, Penn Charter, 2022 Attackman (playing at Villanova)

The biggest question about Colin Michener as the season neared was whether he’d even be able to play at all.

Michener suffered a plateau fracture of the tibia (left leg) late in the football season and spent the next three and a half months rehabilitating. He made it back for the lacrosse preseason in mid-February.

Colin Michener

“The whole winter he was just hoping to play,” said Quakers coach Pat McDonough, “and to come in and have the year he had – it’s that attitude and that desire that makes Colin so successful.”

In 2022, Michener broke Joey Sankey’s single-season schools records for goals (84), assists (65) and points (149) to finish as the second leading scorer in the region. He earned All-Inter-Ac and USA Lacrosse All-American honors.

At all times, Michener was guarded by the top defensemen from elite teams, but still expected to produce.

“I think I was obviously aware of the attention drawn to me, but I put more pressure on myself so I honestly looked at it as a positive,” Michener said. “Coach would say that if I draw so much attention, it would help others.

“I was able to get a bunch of assists even if I wasn’t scoring.”

“Every team knew Colin was the one they had to stop,” said McDonough. “But he still was able to get his ‘X’ amount of points every game. He made everyone around him better. He had a ton of assists because he does give up the ball – that’s what sets him apart.”

Michener admits he wishes he could have helped lead Penn Charter to more wins.

The Quakers went 13-13 in the mighty Inter-Ac League, with near-misses against Malvern Prep and Episcopal Academy, a tight loss to Haverford School and a 1-goal loss to eventual New Jersey Non-Public A champion St. Augustine Prep.

Still, the season was a success for Michener and his team in many ways.

“We don’t get all the players that some other teams get,” said Michener. “We’re doing a lot with a little.

“Coach McDonough’s motto is ‘Leave the program better than how you found it’ and that is something that has stuck with us.”

AJ Nikolic, Malvern Prep, 2023 attackman/midfielder (committed to Cornell)

AJ Nikolic was one of the few returning starters from Malvern Prep’s powerhouse Inter-Ac League champion squad of 2021. But he believed the 2022 season would bring another league title.

“I think our coaching staff develops our players so quickly and the older players mentor the younger players so well,” he said. “We can ask someone to do do this or that and hold everyone accountable.”

AJ Nikolic wins up to shoot the game-winner in the Inter-Ac League championship game

That, in a nutshell, explained Nikolic’s campaign. Since the entire Malvern attack graduated, coach John McEvoy asked his standout midfielder to play attack most of the year. Nikolic complied and became one of the top attackman (45 goals, 33 assists, USA Lacrosse All-American) in the region.

The biggest request McEvoy gave Nikolic was to take the ball in the clutch moment in the Inter-Ac League title game and that’s exactly what Nikolic did – splitting a double team to score in overtime in a thrilling 11-10 win over Haverford School. Nikolic had 4 goals in the contest, giving Malvern it’s fourth straight league crown and the No 1 spot in the final Phillylacrosse Rankings.

“I think that was probably one of the greatest days of my life,” he said. “Iwas the most fun lacrosse game I ever played in.

“I just remember having tears of joy and celebrating with all the students.”

“Coach had a need at attack and on the wings, and I was happy to do whatever coach needed from me,” Nikolic added. “I just wanted to win.”

McEvoy said Nikolic “checks every box. He has all the skills, he’s righthanded, he’s lefthanded, he can shoot with range or in tight. He has good speed and quickness and he can finish. And he may be a better feeder.”

“He is an extremely physical dodger who thrives with contact. he can create with guys all over him. That’s what he did on that game-winner; they had three guys hanging on him.”

McEvoy said Nikolic’s move to attack this year was a key to the team’s success.

“He will be a middie for the rest of his life, but we didn’t have one veteran attackman and he was able to fill that void and solidify our attack. He’s a great rider and did a lot of facilitating. He’s a great up-top midfield dodger, but he adapted and became very effective coming from behind.”

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