Seeing Connor Keating play on the lacrosse field, you get the impression that not much will separate him from his objectives.
Add to that list a torn meniscus.
It was March 21 against Gilman that the Haverford School senior defenseman and captain tore his meniscus. Instead of worry about the fate of his senior season, Keating devised a more succinct plan: Patch it up, rest it quickly, and get back out there.
Less than three weeks removed from surgery, Keating was on the field at Episcopal Academy Friday afternoon doing his usual turn of work – menacing opposing attackers, killing off man-advantages and leading his Fords to an 8-4 win.
Keating started the season on fire, scoring six goals in his first four games. But then the University of Pennsylvania signee ended up on the shelf with the knee injury, an absence made all the more poignant but the team’s loss of fellow captain Peter Blynn to a more serious knee injury in the first game of the season that ended his campaign.
After surgery and eight games out, Keating’s first game back was April 17 against Avon Grove, just for a few minutes to test the knee . Having passed that hurdle, he was ready to suit it up for a full game in the battle for the Inter-Ac lead with Malvern Prep last Tuesday, a game his Fords lost 8-7 in double-overtime.
“It takes a lot confidence rebuilding,” Keating said Friday. “It took a lot of conditioning. I’m still getting there. I’m not all the way there yet. It’s just good to be back on the green.”
Proving that he was truly back, he delivered an imposing performance against EA, helping keep the Churchmen’s offense largely at bay. The Fords killed off three of four man-power situations, Keating chipping in valiant defensive-zone efforts alongside defenders Noah Lejman and Connor Black and defensive midfielder Phil Poquie. Though EA fired 39 shots at Haverford School goaltender Alex DeMarco, Keating helped ensure that the majority of EA’s looks were lower-percentage shots from distance or tough angles.
Then there’s his play when he steps up into midfield, where he can be a heat-seeking missile. One hit he delivered on Tyler Haab resulted in the latter suffering a concussion, which kept him out of EA’s game Saturday (though he still played Friday after the hit, recording a goal and two assists).
In Saturday’s 17-11 win over Lawrenceville School, Keating showed his versatility is returning with a comprehensive performance. He scored three goals, proving that he has the fitness to spearhead transition offense and turn his defensive stinginess into offense for the Fords.
“It’s a lot tougher because I like transition a lot, and when you lose a knee, it definitely inhibits my movement a little bit,” he said. “And getting back, getting back to full speed, is my focus. … I love to play offense. That’s what I love doing. I’m always looking for the shot, looking for the chance to go to goal.”
The offense he’s produced is pretty impressive given his position and injury. He’s got nine goals in essentially seven games, an astronomical rate for a defender.
Perhaps the biggest advantage of Keating’s return is his leadership. Though Blynn is omnipresent on the sidelines, offering encouragement and instruction, the absence of he and Keating left Black as the only named captain on the field for an extended stretch.
Now that Keating is back, he’s able to assume his fair share of that burden, a role that is naturally his in the perpetual carousel of Haverford School lacrosse talent.
“As one of the main captains and one of the guys on defense, I have to be more of a vocal leader and lead more by example,” Keating said. “… I had them to look to. But now guys have to look to me. It’s a little more pressure, and it’s a role I have to fill.”