By Chris Goldberg
Phillylacrosse.com, Posted 11/19/22
It’s time to start over – the past accomplishments don’t guarantee anything for the the 2023 scholastic season.
That’s the message Radnor and Marple Newtown players focused on today after competing in the inaugural NXT High School Challenge at Maple Zone Sports Village in Aston.
The event drew 20 elite high school teams from the Philly region, New Jersey, Maryland, Michigan and New Hampshire. Ontario’s Hill Academy and Everest Academy also competed.
The event attracted over 85 college coaches, anxious to see players running with their normal high school teams instead of a club program.
There were numerous league and state championship teams. Radnor has won the last two PIAA 3A championships and Marple Newtown was the PIAA 2A runner-up last year. Both squads have high expectations for 2023.
Radnor went 1-0-2 today, forging a 5-5 tie with Seton Hall Prep (N.J.), defeating Everest, 9-5, before tying Lawrenceville School (N.J.), 8-8. The Raptors graduated a strong senior class, but figure to be a top contender for Central League, District 1 and PIAA honors.
“We have to find our new identity for us an individuals and the team,” said Radnor senior midfielder Cooper Mueller, a Princeton commit and Second-Team All-Phillylacrosse pick last year. “We competed in summer tournaments, but now we’re getting closer to the season and it was good to play against a high level of competition.
“Every year is individual; we have a new team. We have to put the rings away. We can learn from the past, but we can’t get complacent. It doesn’t matter what happened in the past; it’s time to win now.”
Radnor senior attackman and Lehigh commit Colin French had two key goals in the Lawrenceville game.
“This was great for our team to build chemistry,” he said. “We have some new guys and it was great to see guys get time playing against this good competition. We graduated a very strong senior class and we have to see what the guys can do.”
French also said the Raptors can draw upon the state titles, but they understand the competition will be even more motivated to knock them off.
“We have a clean slate and we need to start over,” he said. “We have the goal of winning another state championship, but we have to put everything in the past and move forward. We just want to work hard and build a new team.”
Marple Newtown also lost a strong senior class and expects to use many underclassmen in its starting lineup. The Tigers went 1-2 today against a strong field, losing to Don Bosco Prep (N.J.), 8-5 and the Black Grizzlies (Brother Rice), 12-3. They also defeated Quaker Lacrosse (Moorestown, N.J.), 7-6.
One of those players, 2024 LSM David Bertoline, said the Tigers will depend on many young players to take leadership roles in 2023.
“We have a lot of spots to fill,” he said. “We have a lot of young guys so it was great to compete today. We lost a lot of vocal leaders and a lot of us will need to fill that void and become leaders.”
What will the team work on the most to prepare for the new season?
“Communication on defense,” Bertoline said. “On offense, we need to get the ball moving and cut down on mistakes. I do think that our success last year does give us a lot of confidence.”
Midfielder Brian Box had 70 goals and 53 assists last year as a freshman for Marple Newtown and earned Third-Team All-Phillylacrosse honors. He realizes that the senior class – which included his brother, Charlie Box, now at Cornell – is gone and that he will need to take a key leadership role even as a sophomore.
“We have a lot of young players that got experience out there today,” Box said. “Some of these guys were freshmen and others were guys that didn’t play much last year. It was good to get reps and start to figure out who can play at this high level.
“Last year did give us a lot of confidence and we learned what it takes to play at that high level. We need to look forward now. We need to stop making turnovers and push the ball while also holding onto the ball for long possessions.”