Boys Lacrosse: Quick hitters from the Inter-Ac Invitational semifinal and a final prediction

Connor Keating celebrates after his goal 11 seconds into Monday's 9-8 win over Episcopal Academy in the Inter-Ac Invitational semifinal.  PHOTO COURTESY OF LISA AMENT

Connor Keating celebrates after his goal 11 seconds into Monday’s 9-8 win over Episcopal Academy in the Inter-Ac Invitational semifinal.

It always lives up to the hype.

The Haverford School and Episcopal Academy could play 1,000 times and it would probably be a classic every time like it was in the Fords’ 9-8 win over the Churchmen in Tuesday’s Inter-Ac Invitational semifinal. (Box Score here)

– The bragging rights never stop between EA and Haverford, but the Fords have had a pretty good two weeks against the Churchmen. First, they beat EA in the regular-season finale to prevent the Churchmen from splitting the Inter-Ac title. Then, Haverford ended EA’s season, which is a feeling every Ford would love to get used to. It was fitting revenge for the Churchmen knocking off Haverford in last year’s Inter-Ac Invitational final.

“It’s awesome,” junior defenseman Connor Keating said. “I have a lot of friends on the Episcopal side, so it’s always nice to get that win and be able to talk to them for the rest of the year until we play them again. It’s just an awesome feeling.”

– As, well, everyone has mentioned, the Fords are a really young team that has finally come together to play some of its best lacrosse of the year. They quickly erased a 2-1 deficit with five straight goals capped by a Peter Blynn snipe, but what was more impressive is how they never panicked when EA strung together a 4-0 stretch capped by FOGO Matt Ernst‘s first goal of the season. That’s the sign of maturity and it paid off when Gavin McBride stuck home the eventual game-winner.

“It’s tough, but we have so many young players, such key players, that it’s going to be fun,” Keating said. “I have another year (and one game) so I get to work with them and it’s going to be awesome.”

– Haverford won the faceoff battle and not so coincidentally, the game. When you think about it, Ernst hasn’t been his dominant self since Keating laid a big hit on him in the teams’ first meeting. Keating was penalized on the play for a high hit, but it also seems to have left a lasting effect on Ernst. Ernst is too talented to let that stay with him for too long, but you wonder how much of an effect that hit and the ensuing concussion had on him. On the bright side, Christian Feliziani has shown that he’s a more than capable backup as he held his own against the Fords’ Colin Bosak.

– How about that Alex DeMarco character tending the Haverford net? The freshman was thrust into the starting role in that regular-season finale against EA and played remarkably well. He didn’t come up with a ton of saves this time around (I only had him for three), but he came up with them at key moments and looked confident with the ball on his stick, too. 3-0 career record with two of those wins over EA? Safe to say John Nostrant‘s gamble to put DeMarco in over senior Jake Landman paid off.

– He’d had a couple rough games at the end of the year against Malvern Prep and Haverford, but goodness, when Curtis Zappala is on, he is terrific. He was the driving force behind the Churchmen’s offense with two goals and three assists and his fake shot-pass to Peter Gayhardt was the type of play a college sophomore makes, not a high school one. It’s not hard to see why Maryland wanted him so badly.

– It’s out there now, but it’s hard to not wonder what Ian Strain could have done without a broken left hand for the second half of the year. Strain continued to be an animal in transition and defensively. He and Tyler Chambers made up a formidable defensive midfield (they also did pretty much everything else) but even with his hand better than it was, Strain still looked tentative to shoot at times. Can’t say I blame him. EA will have its work cut out to replace the production and leadership that Strain, Chambers and Trupert Ortlieb provided.

Tonight’s prediction

Let’s let McBride describe the first two times the Friars and Fords played (13-7, 13-10 wins for Malvern Prep).

“They handled us the first time and we had a better game the second time, so it’s hard to beat a team three times in one year. We’re going to come out swinging and hope for the best. That’s all we can do.”

Well-put. I’m really tempted to go with the logic that McBride presents. He’s going to Princeton, so if I had to guess, he’s a lot smarter than I am. However, I think the Friars are really deep, well-coached and don’t really have a flaw. Goalie Matt Barrett is probably the nation’s best. Midfielder Joe Carlini is superb. Faceoff man Charles Kelly will give Bosak all he can handle and then some. If DeMarco can turn in a lights-out effort and keep the Friars in the 9-10 goal region, the Fords have a shot. However, Malvern Prep’s defense, led by Jared Horoski and Greg Pelton, is also fantastic. Feels like the Friars’ year. If I miss on this pick after missing the EA game (right score, wrong team), I probably will never pick against Haverford again.

The pick: Malvern Prep 11, The Haverford School 9.

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