A little belated, but here are some thoughts from Saturday’s action. Box scores here.
– Garnet Valley’s offense is so much fun to watch when the Jaguars are clicking. They share the ball well and they don’t need to focus on one scorer because they have so many weapons. Six players had at least one goal with Robert Raucci being the high man with two goals. Losing midfielder Vail Urso to a torn ACL was a blow because so much of the offense runs through him, but the likes of Kyle Roberts, Brandon Dowd, Jonathan Vandenberg and a host of others have helped alleviate that loss. Oh, and the fact that Brock D’Annunzio is stinging corners like crazy doesn’t hurt, either.
– I’ve covered maybe one or two games this year where the winning team lost the faceoff battle, which means that if I keep covering the Jaguars, they’ll probably win the state title. Zach Penfil and Mike Lanham were 13-for-18 at the X for GV because, well, that’s just what they do. Lanham had a particularly impressive win where he had to dive to snare a loose ball behind his man. He got it and Roberts scored on the ensuing possession. Must be a sheer coincidence, though.
– I’ve said this before, but why not again? He only had to make four saves in the win, but Mitch Rose‘s confidence level from where it was a year ago is astounding. He looks the part of a very good starting goalie and he looks so much more assertive.
Radnor battles back
– The Red Raiders are more built like a team to play with the lead. They’ve got a strong faceoff game, a great goalie and a patient offense. So it was really impressive to watch them battle back from down 4-1 to beat Great Valley 10-8. Peter Donato exploded for five of his seven points in the fourth quarter. That much, you’ve come to expect from the Colgate-bound midfielder. But how about Alex Manderack? Press-wise, he usually takes a backseat to brother Brendan, the fantastic Radnor goalie. On this day, though, Alex fired home five goals to provide a big boost to the offense.
“I’m a senior, last go-round,” Manderack said. “I hate Great Valley, to be honest. They play us like it’s their Super Bowl every game, so it’s pretty intense, especially being down 4-1. You just don’t want to lose and every single time I feel like I’m on this field, I always lose, so I just wanted to change it.”
Manderack agreed that it was a big step for the Red Raiders to have to come from behind to win.
“I think it’s very big,” Manderack said. “It proves that we have a bunch of attackmen that can ball. We can draw slides and play. It also shows that we’re interchangeable. I played a little middie (Saturday), put Jack Wilson at attack and just interchange.”
Donato admitted that moving to Wilson to attack opens up the offense. The freshman adds some speed to the offense, which in turn helps Donato and others move around a bit more freely.
“We kept on swapping (Manderack and Wilson) a little bit,” Donato said. “Sometimes, it takes the pressure off me (and) gives me more room to dodge.”
Some things change, some things stay the same
…as Springfield found out. All of those personnel losses for Conestoga and the Pioneers just keep finding a way to win. Getting down 6-2 at the half didn’t help the Cougars’ chances, either. Jake Scott killed Springfield inside, but an even bigger aspect was the Pioneers’ defense locking their sights in on Lucas Spence. Not hard to see why, because Spence has been a revelation at the X all year, but it’s something that Springfield needs to fix in today’s playback game at Downingtown East.
“They were well-coached (Saturday) and they were attacking (Spence),” Springfield coach Tom Lemieux said. “He didn’t have his best day, but he’ll respond. He’s a tough kid. He’ll be out there working as hard as anybody that I’ve ever met.”
I didn’t get a chance to write previews for this round – I would have, but we had a ton of other stuff to cram into the paper – so here are some picks for tonight’s games. As you can see here, I’m 23-1 in my pre-tournament picks (very much the blind squirrel theory), which means that I’m way overdue for some losses. Away we go.
No. 10 Avon Grove vs. No. 3 Conestoga at Radnor, 5
No Delco teams, but it’s still kind of a big deal. There’s no hotter team than the Red Devils and particularly attackman Tanner Peck. The Penn State verbal has 11 goals and five assists (!!!) in three tournament games. He killed Ridley with a four-goal, one-assist effort and torched Downingtown East with five and one.
I would expect freshman sensation Jack Reilly to get that assignment. Reilly has already verbally committed to Virginia and it’s not hard to see why Dom Starsia likes him so much. Physically, he looks like a senior and he plays like one, too. Aside from that, the Pioneers are still pretty darn good.
“They never make mistakes,” Lemieux said. “They don’t have the Brad Lord-type anymore, but it doesn’t matter because they don’t beat themselves.”
Well-put. Take the Pioneers, close.
The pick: Conestoga 9, Avon Grove 8.
No. 5 Garnet Valley at No. 1 Radnor, 7:30 p.m.
– Pretty sweet deal for the Red Raiders as they get a home game out of a pre-set location. The Jaguars won the teams’ regular-season meeting, 4-3, and these two teams are plenty familiar with each other. Donato, though, had the game-winning goal in a 5-4 overtime win in last year’s first round of the PIAA tournament. It’s going to be a one-goal game.
The battle at the faceoff X is particularly fascinating. Penfil and Lanham take on Jake Shapiro. Possessions will be at a premium, so if either team can get significantly past the right side of 50 percent, that’s monumental.
Expect another classic. I’m not changing my pre-tournament pick.
The pick: Radnor 6, Garnet Valley 5.
No. 6 Springfield at No. 2 Downingtown East, 7
I like Dan Smyth‘s chances of doing well against whomever he gets up matched with in either Brandyn O’Connell or Kyle Lauletta. (Probably O’Connell). The star D-East attackman will probably get his share of points, but Smyth can limit the damage. What Springfield needs, though, is a hot start. Spence will have something to prove after a tough game against Conestoga and Mark Gurenlian will have his hands full at the X. Something tells me, though, that Lemieux’s group finds a way.
The pick: Springfield 8, Downingtown East 7.
No. 8 Great Valley at No. 4 Upper Dublin, 4
Two very balanced teams with enough firepower to make this a shootout. Ultimately, though, the young Cardinals break through to play Springfield.
The pick: Upper Dublin 10, Great Valley 9.