I would greatly appreciate it. I’d be lying if I said I’m shocked at the fact that everyone at the top is even – I even wrote about it here and here in the outlook – but this is surprising even by those measures.
There seems to be a growing misconception that I don’t like Garnet Valley, which couldn’t be further from the truth. I like the Jaguars as much as I like every other team. They happen to be more talented than a lot of teams, at least if college commitments are to be believed, but no team plays the role of Jekyll and Hyde as well as the Jaguars do.
How else do you explain GV beating Radnor (which beat Episcopal Academy) and Penncrest (on the road), but losing to Haverford by three goals? The Fords have talent, especially in the form of star midfielder Kevin Leyden, who burned the Jaguars for three goals, but they also lost to Ridley by six goals and to Lower Merion by seven. Then they go beat GV?
Multiple sources indicated that GV coach Frank Urso started his backups against Haverford. Why, I don’t know. Urso’s forgotten more about lacrosse then I’ll ever know, so far be it for me to question his tactics, but it just doesn’t make sense. The Jaguars were red-hot, so it’s a bit tricky. Urso didn’t respond to a Sunday night phone call – I probably wouldn’t answer the phone Sunday night, either – so who knows what the logic was? In any event, the loss cost GV its seat at the league’s undefeated table, leaving only Conestoga because of course the Pioneers are still undefeated in league play. It’s only been that way for three years. But the loss was so stunning because of just how well GV had been playing until then.
“Before (the Radnor) game, we were more excited than any game I’ve ever seen before,” said Jaguars FOGO Zach Penfil after the win over Penncrest and before Haverford. “…We won that game and finally started believing in ourselves. Wins are big because coach Urso stresses every single practice that for the district seedings, these wins put us over them. If we’re ahead of them in our league, …it puts us ahead of every team we beat.”
While GV didn’t start well, Penncrest couldn’t have finished any worse than it did against Springfield. The Lions led, 9-6, with less than three minutes left after holding an 8-3 edge earlier. With coach Wayne Matsinger at the helm, it seemed inevitable that Penncrest would seal it up. Matsinger’s as smart as any coach out there and he generally has the right answers when things get tough.
Fortunately for the Cougars, though, Tom Lemieux‘s not exactly a bad coach, either. He’s actually a pretty darn good one and he also has some underrated weapons that nearly helped Springfield topple Conestoga. This time, the likes of Dan Smyth, John Ferguson, Joey Hoey and Zach Methlie came up big defensively and Steve Halko knotted the game with 28 seconds to go. In overtime, Mark Gurenlian won the faceoff and Springfield called timeout. Thirty-five seconds later, the recently-returned Vince Marra went 1-on-1 and ripped a shot for the winner.
“It’s a great momentum boost,” Lemieux said. “Our kids battled. I’m proud of their effort. They never hung their heads. They kept their heads high and took it one goal at a time.”
Lost in the shuffle of Penncrest’s tough week was the standout play of junior attack Will Manganiello. Manganiello looks much more developed than a year ago. He’s still not going to dodge a bunch of defenders before shooting, but with his pinpoint shot, he doesn’t have to. Against the Jaguars, he fired a perfect shot across his body with a defender right on him into a small corner of the net for one of his four goals, showing off why he’s going to be so tough to defend all year.
“I’m just taking it from last year,” Manganiello said after the GV game. “That (season-ending 4-3) loss to Hatboro-Horsham really hurt and I didn’t play that well in that game. I feel like this year’s a new year. We can go far. I know we can.
Radnor bounced back from its hard-luck loss to Garnet Valley by beating another league contender in Ridley, 8-6. That was a lot more goals than I expected to see Brendan Manderack and Tom McDermott allow, but both teams have balanced offenses. I also admittedly expected a soccer-style 1-0 game – OK, maybe not that low – game. For the Red Raiders to go into Phil Marion Field and take that game from the Green Raiders, though, was enormous. A win over Conestoga Tuesday would have Radnor sitting pretty even with that one loss.
So heading into a big week, here’s how the Central League looks (only teams who are .500 or better are included in this look)
Conestoga 4-0 at Radnor, vs. Marple Newtown
Radnor 3-1 vs. Conestoga, at Haverford
Ridley 3-1 at Penncrest, vs. Harriton
Springfield 3-1 at Marple Newtown, at Garnet Valley
Garnet Valley 3-1 at Harriton, vs. Springfield
Penncrest 2-2 vs. Ridley, at Lower Merion
Lower Merion 2-2 vs. Strath Haven, vs. Penncrest
Haverford 2-2 vs. Upper Darby, vs. Radnor
Just judging by that schedule, there’s guaranteed to be mayhem this week. Radnor-Conestoga is the headliner, but Ridley-Penncrest will be a telling game. If anything, a potential matchup of Manganiello vs. Ridley close defenseman Nick Eufrasio is tantalizing enough. Springfield-Garnet Valley is another dandy. Heck, they’re all tremendous games. You can’t really go wrong. And Haverford taught the league that there are no nights off. On paper, the Jaguars were better than the Fords. Leyden, Gavin Vanstone (19 saves), Owen Green and Mike Muff (two goals each) proved that paper isn’t worth much.
– MATT CHANDIK