Tuesday is one of the better lacrosse weekdays all season. Of the Central League’s six matchups, four are excellent. There’s Penncrest-Radnor, in which the Lions can take control of the Central League title race. There’s Garnet Valley-Conestoga, jockeying to keep the pressure on Penncrest. Springfield tussles with a resurgent Lower Merion squad with a recent history of upsetting top teams, and Haverford and Strath Haven do battle in a meeting with major playoff implications. Before all that craziness threatens to upturn the league standings, it’s worth expanding on the Super 7 that appeared alongside Monday’s notebook on Kyle Long of Springfield. Stat leaders (goals, assists, points) have also been updated on the blog, and there are power rankings to consider. (Records through April 27.)
1. Haverford School (16-0) Last Week: No. 1
The question, after the Fords survived a one-goal scare from Episcopal Academy last Friday, is whether anyone will beat this team. Tests remain, including La Salle and St. Joseph’s Prep jammed into a four-game week that include a chance Friday to clinch at least a share of the Inter-Ac title, while Malvern Prep looms on senior day May 8. There’s also the Inter-Ac Challenge to navigate and the May 22 date with Culver Academy that John Nostrant has positioned as the possible capstone course for the Fords. If they complete this gauntlet without a loss, there should be no doubt as to their chops as the nation’s best team.
2. Episcopal Academy (9-5) Last Week: No. 2
I don’t think anyone should have been surprised that the Churchmen struggled mightily at the Katie Samson Lacrosse Festival against a very good Hun School squad after their emotionally-draining effort to dethrone the Fords 20 hours earlier. The Hun game ended a streak of five straight allowing eight goals or fewer, a sign that the defense has really kicked into high gear (though it’s also partially a product of a low-scoring league that has featured far too many 3-2 games from a neutral observer’s perspective.)
3. Penncrest (12-2) Last Week: No. 4
Now that Drew Hanna, Alex Bonnett and Ryan Kinnard are firing on all offensive cylinders, there’s no doubt that the Lions can win games in the teens. The fact that they can gut out a win like the 6-5 decision over West Chester Henderson Saturday on a day that they didn’t play particularly well is indicative of the style that will serve them well in the nip-and-tuck postseason (and a style that they drew upon successfully last year). The Lions needs just two more wins to ice the Central League, beating either Radnor or Conestoga and Marple Newtown next week.
4. Springfield (8-3) Last Week: No. 7
When we head to the postseason, one of the biggest predictors is current form. What happens in early May has an exponentially greater impact than what happened in late March. That’s why the Cougars make the leap here. They’ve won eight of nine, including six straight. They beat Ridley and Radnor by a combined score of 20-6, which is just ludicrous. They’ve ironed out the kinks from early in the season and have allowed just 23 goals over their six-game winning streak. A point to illustrate just how good they are defensively: Against Radnor, Springfield lost 12 of 13 draws to Tommy Meyers, yet still gave up just two goals and shut Radnor out for the last three quarters. That’s phenomenal defense, from James Spence in goal to the solidity of their defenders to the turnover-causing ability of their middies.
5. Garnet Valley (8-3) Last Week: No. 3
Garnet Valley has struggled, losing its last two and relinquishing control of the Central League. But let’s put this into perspective: All three losses are of the one-goal variety. One thing that jumps out for Garnet Valley is the lack of complementary scoring. In the last six games (a stretch encompassing all three losses), the Jaguars have had just two individuals score three of more goals in a game (Matt Moore both times). They have plenty of scorers, but none has really stepped up and had that breakout game. They’ve contributed – Tyler Moschella has eight goals in the last five, Evan Trizonis has had an assist in each of his last four – but with the quieting of Denny Nealon (two goals, one assist in the last two) coinciding with a pair of losses, there’s no doubt that Garnet valley needs someone to step up.
6. Radnor (9-5) Last Week: No. 6
Radnor has also lost two straight on the heels of a five-game winning streak; its loss Saturday at the Katie Samson Lacrosse Festival to Canadian powerhouse Hill Academy is by no means a regrettable one. Though a spot behind Garnet Valley, Radnor may actually have better long-term prospects, because of Mike Farnish in the back and the fact that Clayton Proctor’s surge gives them a bona fide third attack option to complement Jack Norton and Drew Ryan, something Garnet Valley is still in search of.
7. Ridley (8-6) Last Week: No. 5
The Green Raiders are in some trouble, having lost five of seven. The bright side is that three of those losses are by one-goal margins; the down side is that that is exactly the area in which the Green Raiders must improve. You could see it as a positive that Ridley’s eight wins have come by a stunning average of 8.4 goals, but the alarming flipside is that their narrowest margin of victory is three goals. For a program that has exited the District One Tournament in the second round each of the last three years, winning close games is the final frontier. Whether it’s an attacker emerging from the crowd of goalscorers as a leader or Dawson Faust consistently delivering in net, something has to change.
Honorable Mention: Strath Haven (7-6, The Panthers have lost four straight games, though there’s not all that much cause for worry given that they’ve come against Malvern Prep, Radnor, Penncrest and Spring-Ford. If the Panthers can get a decent matchup in districts, they could surprise teams); Haverford (7-6, last Thursday’s loss to Harriton could be devastating for playoff aspirations. They have four games left – Haven, Springfield, Ridley, Plymouth Whitemarsh – and need to win at least two to stay in the conversation).