Don’t ever count out Garnet Valley.
Ever. Ever ever. Ever ever ever. I’ve done it way too many times and the Jaguars have proven me wrong way too many times.
After Radnor’s Connor Burns scored with 1:55 to go, I was thisclose to tweeting “Radnor, Sharpie”, effectively saying that GV was done. Pretty glad I didn’t, though. Brandon Dowd brought the Jaguars within one, and as you can see above, Robert Raucci’s perfect pass set up Jon Vandenberg‘s game-tying goal with seven seconds to go.
In overtime, Vandenberg turned provider to set up Matt Taulane‘s game-winner, leaving Radnor stunned on its home field.
Yet Taulane’s OT winner wouldn’t have been possible without a couple great plays and a superb call from coach Frank Urso. I expected the faceoff matchup to be close, but Zach Penfil and Mike Lanham controlled Jake Shapiro, a phenomenal faceoff man in his own right. Penfil’s seventh win of the night (in nine tries) was only made official when LSM Zach Jones sprinted over and scooped up the ground ball, allowing Urso to call timeout to set up a play.
“The ball came out and we had a couple box outs,” Jones said. “So we got the ball and our offense put in a big-time goal at the right time. They’ve been stepping up all year.”
As Urso detailed in the game story, the Jaguars worked the play to perfection and they ended up getting Taulane wide-open, giving Radnor goalie Brendan Manderack no chance. Manderack deserved a better fate for his fantastic play, but as the saying goes, “deserve’s got nothing to do with it.”
Watch the video of Vandenberg’s game-tying goal, though, and you’ll notice that Raucci dropped the ball before picking it back up. That, according to the Saint Joseph’s signee, actually helped open up the play for Vandenberg.
“We didn’t really call much different (after the first try got stopped),” Raucci said. “I had a feeling that they would be locking me off coming out of the timeout. As weird as it sounds, losing the ball pretty much freed up the play because when the ball, then two guys came out to get the ground ball and I picked it up real quick. Then I just turned around and just saw Jon wide-open. So it’s pretty much luck on that play.”
On the other side, the Red Raiders weren’t too high on themselves after blowing an opportunity to make it to the District One title game. With the way the PIAA
moronically switched up its pairings for the state tournament, the winner of today’s Radnor-Conestoga third-place game gets District 12 champion (not yet, but check back in six hours) La Salle, the consensus No. 1 PIAA team in the state. The loser gets to play the District Three champion, which, yes, is flat-out absurd.
But if you think that Radnor’s planning on tanking the game to get a better matchup, perhaps I can interest you in a Burns quote.
“It sucks losing because we were gunning for them this time (after a 4-3 regular-season loss),” Burns said. “I know we’re going to bring it (today) in practice and we’re going to get after it. It’s just crushing. Looking at that go in is just terrible. I know we’re going to bring it and we’re going to take it to Conestoga.”
To put the quote in even more context, I could practically see the steam rising out of Burns’ ears. Radnor and Conestoga both do a fantastic job of scheduling the best teams every year to make sure their teams are ready for the playoffs and if you want to win the state title, you’re going to have to beat La Salle at some point anyway. You might as well get it done early.
No. 10 Avon Grove vs. No. 5 Garnet Valley at West Chester Henderson, 6:30
What a fantastic matchup of teams that have already played this year. The Jaguars got off to a blistering start last time to beat the Red Devils, 6-2, but Avon Grove is peaking at the right time. Tanner Peck “only” had two assists last game, his lowest output of the tournament. If the tournament gave out an MVP, he’d probably be it heading into tonight. Goalie Will Schreiner was an omission from the All-EPLCA team, though if it’s only three goalies, it’s tough to argue against Manderack, Malvern Prep’s Matt Barrett and West Chester Henderson’s Chase Heisman.
However, I like Garnet Valley’s ability to focus on him and make others beat the Jaguars. Beau Kush might be that guy, but the Jaguars’ team defense led by Steve Elf and Jones is excellent. Mitch Rose has been solid in net, plus I love GV’s balanced offense. You never know who’s going to beat you.
The pick: Garnet Valley 5, Avon Grove 4.
No. 3 Conestoga vs. No. 1 Radnor at West Chester Henderson, 4:30
Last time, Shapiro absolutely annihilated the Pioneers at the faceoff X en route to a 10-3 win. I have a feeling that Conestoga coach Brian Samson will have something drawn up to counter that. I’m interested in seeing which Radnor defenseman gets the assignment of guarding Jake Scott. The Pioneers junior has been fantastic, including two behind-the-back goals in a 6-5 loss to Avon Grove.
This is a game where Radnor’s balanced offense pays big dividends. Nick Prestipino did a terrific job on Avon Grove’s Peck in the semifinals and Tim Langerhans is the best LSM in the Central League, but there are a lot of weapons to cover between Peter Donato, Jack Wilson, Mike Cherry and the red-hot Alex Manderack. Shapiro controls the X, Radnor limits Scott’s damage and gets just enough offense to move on to play La Salle.
The pick: Radnor 7, Conestoga 5
No. 8 Great Valley vs. No. 2 Downingtown East at Harriton, 4
Liked what I saw from the Patriots against Radnor and I think they avenge an early-season loss.
The pick: Great Valley 12, Downingtown East 11, OT.
No. 5 Harriton vs. No. 3 Springfield at West Chester East, 5:45
How about Harriton? Yeesh. The Rams took it to Radnor, pounding the defending district champions, 15-6. I wasn’t stunned to see Harriton win. I was, though, flabbergasted to see the Rams win by nine goals and according to many in attendance, it could have been worse. By all accounts, Caleigh Foust and Sabrina Tabasso were absolutely unstoppable.
Springfield lost a big piece of its team when Autumn Spence went down to a knee injury, but the Cougars were finally able to put away a feisty Boyertown team, 13-12. Springfield makes its first appearance in the District One title game since 2009. Two-time All-Delco Alex Poplawski has elevated her game to a whole different level and goalie Courtney O’Connell is gaining confidence. Harriton, though, is as hot as it gets.
The pick: Harriton 12, Springfield 11.
No. 7 Boyertown vs. No. 1 Radnor at West Chester East, 4
The winner of this game gets District 12 champion (not yet, but let’s be real here) Archbishop Carroll in the first round of states. That would, in turn, lead to Patriots Catholic League MVP Taryn Deck playing against her old teammates, which, no, that would not be intriguing WHATSOEVER.
Boyertown has proven to be a very spunky, resilient team. Under coach Brooke Fritz, though, the Red Raiders have only ever strung together two losing streaks. After being embarrassed by Harriton, I’d be stunned to see Radnor not put together one of its finest efforts of the year.
The pick: Radnor 10, Boyertown 8
No. 6 Conestoga at No. 4 Strath Haven, 4
It’s a rematch of last year’s state quarterfinal round and due to the PIAA’s
insistence on having District One teams beat each other up pairings, it’s not a fun result for either one as they’ll both face a District One team in the first round.
The Panthers were on the verge of getting blown out by Garnet Valley, but they stunned the two-time defending PIAA champions by coming back from a four-goal deficit to win, 7-6, on Kristen Hansen‘s overtime goal. Morgan Glassford had the assist. You wonder how motivated each team’s going to be considering that for all intents and purposes, this game doesn’t have much of a purpose.
Conestoga beat Great Valley, 9-8, to advance. I maintain that there might not be a deeper team than the Pioneers, but they seem to have a tendency to be up and down. There’s a really balanced offense led by Meghan McGillis and there’s a solid defensive team. Take Strath Haven, though.
The pick: Strath Haven 9, Conestoga 7.