By: Marc Narducci
WEST CHESTER, PA -- The expected Inter-Ac tournament lacrosse championship rematch between Haverford School and Malvern Prep is now set, but the two semifinal favorites had different levels of anxiety in advancing to the title game.
Leading 8-5 at halftime, second seeded Malvern Prep blew open the game by scoring the first six goals of the second half in a 16-7 win over No. 3 seeded Episcopal Academy on Wednesday.
Top seeded Haverford School was trailing 6-4 midway through the third quarter before storming back for a 12-8 win over No. 4 seed Springside Chestnut Hill Academy.
The two Inter-Ac titans will meet for the tournament championship game, noon on Saturday at West Chester University’s Farrell Stadium, which was also the site of Wednesday’s semifinals games. Last year Malvern Prep beat Haverford School, 11-10 in overtime during a classic Inter-Ac tournament championship.
Here’s a look at the two semifinal games…
Junior Ennis Udo scored six goals and senior AJ Nikolic added four goals and two assists to lead the Friars. Udo, who is a Brown commit, was part of a Malvern Prep team that played a fast-paced game.
“We have been working on our transition game all week,” Udo said. “First quarter, first half, we were able to capitalize on transition opportunities, which was huge for us.”
Udo has a habit of coming up big in the biggest of events. In last year’s tournament championship game, he scored a hat trick. Now he couldn’t be more pumped up to return to the title game.
“We have one more, and our goal is always to win the last game of the years,” Udo said. “So that is what we are trying to do.”
Episcopal Academy (12-9) was competitive early. The Churchmen were tied 2-2 after the first quarter on goals by John Malone and Jake Mannion.
The second quarter was one of spurts. Malvern Prep (15-7) opened by scoring the first six goals, but Episcopal Academy closed the quarter with three consecutive goals, cutting the lead to 8-5 at halftime.
Then Malvern Prep with, with Udo scoring the first goal of the second half, scored six unanswered goals – four in the third quarter and two in the fourth, to put the game away.
On this day, it was just too much Udo.
“The good thing about Ennis is he is never going to let a bad shooting performance in a game deter him from doing things the right way at all times,” said Malvern Prep coach Matt Mackrides. “His work ethic is outstanding, and he really pushes and motivates our team.”
Episcopal Academy closed its regular season with a 12-11 loss on to Haverford School on Friday, May 12. By the beginning of the week, coach Chris Bates had been replaced.
When asked about the circumstances, EA athletic director Todd Fairlie gave a one sentence response. “We have decided to part ways,” Fairlie told Philadelphiasportsdigest.com.
Bates politely declined comment when contacted by Philadelphiasportsdigest.com.
Needless to say, it was a difficult situation. Tom Slate, the father of Episcopal Academy senior Lucas Slate, was named interim coach and guided the team in the semifinal.
When asked how difficult it was to be put in this situation, Tom Slate said he had no comment on that. He was more than willing to discuss the seniors, including his son, who are graduating.
“It’s the greatest place on the earth in my opinion, Episcopal Academy, and it will be tough to lose the seniors,” he said. “They are great young men and they are prepared for life. It is hard because we didn’t win today and you want them to experience winning at the end of the year, but I love all the seniors.”
Two of those seniors, Slate, a Richmond commit, and TJ Lamb (Cornell) each had two goals to lead the Churchmen.
Among other contributors, Eddie Jones also scored a goal. Senior Will Hohn was an impressive 20 of 25 on faceoffs, Brody Garrison had three ground balls and Jack Guido made 10 saves.
Sophomore Mike Ortlieb had two goals and four assists for Malvern Prep
Single goals were scored by junior Hagen McTear, senior William Irish, sophomore Owen Mears and junior Jack Lehman.
Even without a coaching change, it would have been a difficult task for Episcopal Academy to defeat Malvern Prep. During the regular season, EA lost both games against the Friars, 13-8 and 13-6.
When SCH senior Brendan Dundas scored twice within a six-second span to give the Blue Devils a 6-4 lead with 6:32 left in the third quarter, the crowd began smelling an upset.
SCH was getting an outstanding game by junior goalie Hayes Schreiner, who was making one spectacular save after another. Hayes, a Penn State commit, showed what a Division I goalie looks like.
“He’s great and he had a heck of a start to the game and finish and was making great saves the whole time,” Haverford School coach Brendan Dawson said of Schreiner. “He’s an impressive player, we knew it coming in and we have known it every game we have played them.”
SCH (10-9) had been pesky in two regular season losses to Haverford School, losing 8-5 and 17-10.
In the semifinal, it’s reasonable to say that the Fords could have scored upwards of 20 goals had it not been for the heroics of Schreiner, who made 16 saves.
“We came out with a lot of energy, and it was a great atmosphere to play under, the best atmosphere I have played in a while,” Schreiner said. “It’s tough how it ended, but we battled against the No. 1 team in the country.”
Schreiner could feel his teammates feeding off his big saves.
SCHA junior goalie Hayes Schreiner - PSD Photo by James Quinn
“We used it as momentum, I used it as momentum,” he said. “There was a point where I couldn’t be scored on because I was building off what I was doing.”
Haverford School has been among the top five nationally in various ratings, and after getting behind 6-4, the Fords showed why.
By the end of the third quarter, they had tied the score on goals by senior All-American Willis Burt and junior Jack Long.
Burt, a Virginia commit and Aydan DiRocco scored early in the fourth quarter to give the Fords an 8-6 lead but Steve Pileggi cut it to 8-7 with 9:17 left. That is when the Fords put things away by scoring four unanswered goals.
SCH received an outstanding game from junior Ross Prince, a Georgetown commit, who went 17 of 23 on faceoffs.
What is more impressive is that Haverford School has two highly touted faceoff men, junior Ben McCarthy, a Duke commit, and sophomore Griff Meyer.
McCarthy suffered an injury during the game and was wearing an ice pack around his thigh afterwards.
Trailing 6-4, Dawson credited Meyer for helping lead the comeback.
“Griff Meyer won a few faceoffs and we got a possession or two that we were able to get a couple of goals and turn it around,” Dawson said. “Those goals (at the end of the third quarter) gave us a little juice and loosened up the tightness that was there.”
Dundas, a Monmouth commit, led SCH with three goals. Pileggi, a St. Joseph’s commit, and Cole Carberry scored twice and the other goal was scored by junior Fairfield commit Finn Dougherty.
While Schreiner shined, so did Haverford School junior goalie Brody Murphy, who made 13 saves, many which were difficult.
Senior Ryan DiRocco led Haverford School with four goals. He also had an assist.
Junior Brady O’Kane and Burt each scored twice. Senior Colin Zeller had a goal and two assists and junior Aydan DiRocco added a goal and one assist. Long and sophomore Gavin Cooper were the other goal scorers. Meyer also contributed four ground balls.
And now it’s Haverford School-Malvern Prep part three.
Haverford School, which went 10-0 to win the Inter-Ac title, won both meetings with the Friars, 10-6 at Malvern on April 11 and 11-10 at home on April 28.
“We’re super excited to play Malvern on Saturday for the championship,” Ryan DiRocco said. “We’re just happy for a couple more days of practice and another game."
And what a game it should be.