By: Cole Nowak
Photos/Videos: Cole Nowak & Geanine Jamison
PHILADELPHIA- It was a jam-packed week for St. Joseph’s Preparatory School (SJP), as they looked to build on an already strong start to the season. They had three opponents from the top of the Philadelphia Catholic League to contend with consisting of Devon Prep (DP), Father Judge (FJ), and Lansdale Catholic (LC). Coming into last week, these teams had a combined record of 21-4, as well as all falling in the top five of the PCL standings.
“Our best aspect is having the whole team contribute,” said SJP junior standout midfielder and University of Maryland commit Mitchell Lloyd. “We don’t play as individuals; we play as a team. Our team has amazing chemistry and I absolutely love playing with all the guys on Prep. When we move the ball and play to our strengths we succeed greatly. We owe a lot to coach Keating as well. Since the beginning of the season, he has pushed us physically and prepared us for a busy schedule."
On Monday, May 3, St. Joe’s hosted Devon Prep (7-3). It was all Hawks from start to finish. Early in the first quarter, SJP was peppering Devon Prep’s goalie left and right. SJP was able to muster three goals before heading into the second quarter. SJP's offensive attack would continue to apply pressure and record multiple scoring opportunities to push the lead to 7-1 heading into the half.
The Hawks were led in the first half by senior attackers Ryan Gaffney and Manhattan College commit Scott O’Connor, who each netted two goals, while Lloyd facilitated two assists and kept a steady hold on the face-off circle.
“Mitchell Lloyd, in my opinion is the most complete midfielder in the state of Pennsylvania. He is a relentless competitor, loves to scrap for four quarters, and loves the big moment,” said St. Joe’s Prep head coach Dan Keating.
“This past summer was the big rule change for faceoffs. As soon as the rule had changed, I jumped to the field to train with the new rule. My faceoff coaches immediately prepared me with strategy and technique on the new form. In the off-season I had been working with many other faceoff guys around PA and NJ and getting myself prepared for the season. Before every faceoff, I like to put myself in a certain mindset. This mindset is the idea that 'I will win this face.' I find that if I go into a faceoff with confidence, the outcome will be great,” said Lloyd.
The Hawks did not slow down out of halftime. After the Tide kicked off the scoring in the third to make it 7-2. SJP would fire back with three unanswered goals to stop any thoughts from Devon Prep about a comeback. Both sides would tack on one goal each before the conclusion of the third to bring the score to 11-3 in favor of the hawks. The Hawks would keep their foot down and bury five more in the fourth quarter, in conjunction with shutting out Devon Prep to cap off a 16-3 win.
Devon Prep attacker Chris Walton led the way for his team by scoring two of his team’s three goals. St. Joe’s Prep spread the wealth around in the second half having multiple scorers. The highlight of the half was Llyod’s clean faceoff win, followed up by him taking it all the way down and ripping it past the goaltender in under five seconds for the Hawks 11th goal.
The Prep stayed hot heading into Wednesday’s game against Father Judge (6-4), jumping on the board with three goals in the first quarter to set the tone for the game. They did not let up from there, punching in five more in the second while holding FJ to a single goal to bring the halftime score to 8-1 in favor of the Hawks.
SJP used their athleticism to their advantage by transitioning quickly up the field before the Crusaders could set up their defensive scheme. They converted on looks to the cutter that were eventually put in the back of the net. SJP sophomore midfielder Grant Snyder led the scoring in the first half by notching two goals.
The third quarter was highlighted by the stingy defense of Father Judge. St. Joe’s Prep controlled time on attack but were only able to beat Father Judge’s defense twice throughout the quarter, bringing the score to 10-1 heading into the fourth.
“The guys had a really good, hard week of practice. We really talked about where we wanted to be and how we wanted to play. I thought they did a really good job getting their sticks on shooters and forcing their midfielders down the ally off their dodges,” said Father Judge head coach Kyle Keblish when assessing his team’s defensive play.
The fourth quarter had a steady balance between the two teams. SJP tacked on the first two goals of the quarter, followed by two goals from FJ senior midfielder Evan Lord. SJP would tally one more to win the quarter 3-2, and ultimately win the game 13-3 to keep the week’s momentum moving in a positive direction.
“Even though we lost today, I think there is an opportunity to learn from this game. There was a lot of little victories, I am very proud of our seniors. They have really seen it all, going from a one-win season to a 9-win season really pushing for playoffs,” said Keblish.
On the other hand, coach Keating wanted to hone in on playing a complete game. When asked where his team can still improve upon moving forward, he gave a quick and concise answer.
“Playing four full quarters of complete, competitive lacrosse,” said Keating.
Moving into Friday, the Hawks looked to finish the week on a high note on the road against Lansdale Catholic (8-2), and that is what they did. SJP came out on top with a 10-4 final in their favor.
“We were excited to play. Our guys have worked hard and were excited for this challenge. Our guys want to play against the best,” said LC head coach Mark Princehorn.
The Crusaders were led by Connor Mann upfront with four goals and Pat McKeever who assisted on two of the four goals. Connor Flanegan stood tall in net, racking up 19 saves.
“Our attack and goalie are our greatest strengths. We need to do a better job of getting them the ball by clearing the ball efficiently to be at our best for playoff time,” said Princehorn.
This marked a great week for SJP, as they look to be locked in moving forward into the playoffs. So far this season, they have only dropped one league game, which came on April 16th against La Salle College High School who remains undefeated in the league.
“La Salle is a very disciplined and skilled team. Since the loss, our team has quickly identified our weaknesses and took advantage of the opportunities to improve in those areas. Also, since that loss, we have learned to play as a team more efficiently. Every day we come onto the practice field prepared to get after it and get better,” said Lloyd.
As the playoffs near, SJP continues to stay dialed in on being prepared.
“Every day is about incremental growth, getting better, coming to practice prepared, being prepared to compete for the duration of practice, and emphasizing fundamental skills,” said Keating.
The PCL playoffs begin on Monday, May 17th with quarterfinals: Archbishop Wood at Lansdale Catholic; Father Judge at Devon Prep.
Semifinals will be on Wednesday, May 19th with lowest remaining seed at No.1 and highest remaining seed at No.2. The championship final will be on Friday, May 21 at host site Bonner-Prendergast at 3 p.m.