Boys Lacrosse: Weekly thoughts…No. 1

Haverford's Kevin Leyden, seen here as a sophomore, is the Fords' top scoring threat, but he's not alone. TIMES FILE ART

Haverford’s Kevin Leyden, seen here as a sophomore, is the Fords’ top scoring threat, but he’s not alone.
TIMES FILE ART

A day late, but oh well. I’ll try to usually have this Mondays. Here’s a Player of the Week rundown.

As you can read here, Haverford didn’t simply need star midfielder Kevin Leyden to do it all to beat Sun Valley, 12-4. It was an encouraging sign for the Fords to see Owen GreenColin Mottola and Bobby McClure, among others, step up with big games.

At the other end of the field, though, might have been the most encouraging sign for Haverford. Senior Gavin Vanstone is a rookie starter in goal after being stuck behind Chris Treat, who is shining as a freshman at Cabrini. Vanstone looked sharp against the Vanguards, stopping 12 of the 16 shots on net, and has stopped 52 percent of the shots fired his way in the early going. Not awe-inspiring numbers, but more than respectable and they give the Fords a shot to win every game. 

“(Being the starter) is pretty cool,” Vanstone said. “I followed Chris Treat last year and him being a mentor was good, but being able to step in and play against great teams like Great Valley (a 12-3 loss) is pretty cool. (Treat) taught me a lot. I think the best thing he taught me wasn’t just shots and saves and passing, I think it was just keeping your head and keeping it in the game.”

Granted, it was against a Sun Valley team missing some of its starting attackmen, but Vanstone can only stop the shots fired his way, regardless of who shoots them. He looked pretty athletic and moved well against the Vanguards. The clearing game looks to be a work in progress, but he does a good job of positioning himself. Developing consistency will come with time, but Vanstone should be a reliable option in net for the Fords.

“(The Sun Valley game) is huge,” Vanstone said, “because I’m going to come out in the next game against Ridley – and Tommy McDermott, their goalie, is very good – so it’s a big confidence booster. It’s a huge opportunity to prove myself and that’s all I’ve been looking for the past four years.

Vanstone’s counterpart for the Vanguards, Ryan France, also looked pretty good. The Fords worked their way into a ton of good chances, but France held his own. He looks like he’s moving better than a year ago and recognizes plays faster. He also got some help from D-man Nick Wendling and like Vanstone, his development will be paramount to his team’s success.

“It’s just my senior year and (I put in) a lot of hard work over the summer,” said France, who stopped 10 shots. “I’m more confident in our defense this year than I was last year. We’ve still got a lot of work to do, obviously, but I think we can (progress). This was my first year playing over the summer for Black Bear, so summer lacrosse really helped and (so did) little minicamps out here with my coaches.”

Upper Darby will get there eventually

The Royals had their troubles in stopping R.J. Zoba West Chester Rustin in a 13-8 loss to the Golden Knights, but this is definitely a team on the rise. For one, Upper Darby is competitive after going 0-18 and losing by an average of 13 goals two years ago. Warren Danenza will get this ship righted in due time and he has it going in the right direction.

I actually thought Ryan Soley was good in net, despite 13 goals against. All-Americans wouldn’t have been able to stop some of Rustin’s chances, so it’s hard to pin the blame on Soley. The defense is a work in progress, as Daneza knows, but the competitiveness and aggressiveness is apparent on the Royals’ team. Sometimes, Upper Darby went a little overboard on the aggression and paid dearly for it with penalties, but it’s better to be too aggressive than too passive. 

Offensively, movement – both on and off the ball – will need improvement. Sometimes, the Royals just look like they’re standing around with no particular interest in implementing cuts or screens. That will have to change, especially in the death march that is the Central League, but it’s also something Upper Darby has identified as an area to improve on.

“We’re still getting down with our ball movement, but it’s looking pretty good,” said Ryan Simpson, who scored twice and set up another against Rustin. “We’ve just got to recognize when to pass it and when to hold on to it. We made a couple mistakes here and there, but we all regrouped as one. It turned out really well.”

Odds and ends from around the county

I pegged Strath Haven to beat Interboro at the Rivalry Games, but not by nearly two touchdowns. Wow. The Panthers came out aggressive and never relented after they worked their way up to a 10-1 halftime lead. How about that seven-point game from Mitch Cross and a six-pointer from Will Ohley? Pretty darn impressive.

Cardinal O’Hara is 1-2, but the improvement is noticeable even in just the scores. A 6-4 loss to Springfield and an 11-7 loss to Penn Charter? That’s nothing to be embarrassed about. Tim Coyle came up with 27 (!!!!!) saves against the Quakers. What does he think this is? Hockey? T.J. Reiley has pocketed five goals and three assists in the past two games, which included a big 9-5 win over Haverford.

I’ll be taking in Episcopal Academy and La Salle today, but a quick thought on what I saw from the Churchmen’s practice Monday. All-Delco D-man Kevin Gayhardt, a senior Penn commit, is huge. His brother, attackman Peter Gayhardt, is even bigger. The catch? He’s a freshman! He’s all of 6-4 and has to weigh more than 200 pounds already, plus he looks like he’s got the frame to add more size. By the time he’s done in Newtown Square, he might be a 6-6, 230-pound attack, which would cause a mismatch or two. That’s not good for EA’s opponents because he already has six goals.

Game of the Week No. 1: Let’s go with Episcopal Academy and La Salle today at EA at 4. Should be a dandy. The older Gayhardt against La Salle two-time All-American Matt Rambo, the country’s top-rated player, should be worth it alone. The Churchmen are big on defense, thanks to Gayhardt and Dante Addona, so if anyone can slow Rambo down (easier said than done. He’s worthy of that ranking.) it will be EA.

The pick: La Salle 7, Episcopal Academy 4.

Game of the Week No. 2: Oh, fine, twist my arm. Let’s add another. How about The Haverford School at Radnor Saturday at noon? The Fords have claimed two straight (with a big date with St. Joe’s Prep today) after starting off slowly and the Red Raiders are unbeaten. Radnor was the first time to show a crack in THS’ armor last year in a 12-10 loss at a time where the Red Raiders weren’t playing all that well. This time, Radnor’s the favorite and the Fords are the underdogs. Will that hold up? Catch two of the area’s top goalies in Radnor’s Brendan Manderack and THS’ Jake Landman in action.

The pick: Radnor 8, The Haverford School 6.

– MATT CHANDIK

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