What a dandy to start off the lacrosse season. I got to take in two-time defending state champion Garnet Valley take on Maryland power Good Counsel. The Jaguars coughed up a late lead, but Ashley Pyle‘s overtime winner made sure that they got the marquee nonleague 8-7 win.
With that being said, here are a few thoughts on what I saw from Garnet Valley.
Haley Warden is going to be one heck of a pain in the butt for teams to deal with. The junior James Madison commit has always been good, but it looks like she took another step forward in the process of becoming one of the county’s elite. There really isn’t much she can’t do. On her first goal, two GC defenders got in her way on a perfect double team and with one step, Warden split them both and dodged two more Falcons before burying a sizzler of a shot.
Warden got noticeably faster and stronger over the course of the offseason. There was more than one occasion where she simply refused to be knocked off the ball and she has great field vision. Warden’s ceiling is as high as she wants it to be and it would be surprising for her to not be one of the county’s best this year.
She was really good on defense last year, but I think that a move to the midfield for Julia McGrath is going to pay enormous dividends. The William & Mary commit has excellent top-end speed and she had a couple plays where she basically just sprinted past the Falcons with no one even close to her. That speed will be huge in transition for the Jaguars as they look for ways to combat some big graduations. At the midfield, she can use her speed to stretch defenses thin and open up scoring chances for others.
My goodness, Dana Davis. What an improvement. It’s not just a question of goals and assists, though she had a hat trick to boot, but Davis got much, much, much better from last year. Part of that is getting more opportunities, but it’s also a question of Davis putting in the work to get better. She gave GC problems with her ability to get open and shoot on the run.
“I’m a big advocate of working hard,” Davis said. “I think if you work at it, you can always get better no matter what. You might think that you’re as good as you’re going to get, but if you work harder, you can just keep going.”
Davis is part of a junior-heavy Jaguars class that new coach Jenny Purvis will rely heavily on, so when people wrote off the Jaguars because of graduation, those juniors knew they had to step up.
“The juniors are very talented,” Davis said. “I think a lot of people don’t know that, but we all knew that, so I knew that we had to prove ourselves. We all worked really hard.”
Kate Stroup earned All-Delco honors a year ago for her clutch saves in the Garnet Valley net, but it doesn’t look like there’s going to be much a dropoff with Paige Mitros taking over. If anything, Mitros’ potential might be even higher thanks to her athleticism and youth. The junior – hey, there that is again – came up big with 11 saves against the Falcons and there’s a feeling that she’s just warming up. She can move well laterally and sees the ball cleanly most of the time. She hasn’t proved her big-game chops yet like Stroup did, but she hasn’t had the chance yet, either.
“I was backup for the last two years and Kate is helping me now and she’s great,” Mitros said. “(I learned) that I always have to be intense and pump up the defense even when it’s getting a little scary, which happened, but we kept it together.”
If you thought playing against All-Delco defender Coley Ricci was hard last year, wait until you try your luck this time around. Purvis won’t have to worry much about players going against No. 5. The footwork is fantastic, the intellect is through the room and I sincerely doubt there’s a scrappier, more hard-nosed player out there this year than Ricci. She never stops…ever ever ever and she wants to cap her career with a third straight title.
“We’re still here,” Ricci said with a smile. “We’re still here and I definitely think that we have a lot to prove as well, but we’re doing awesome right now and that was a great team win.”
– MATT CHANDIK