Some teams would lie and say that it’s a forgotten game buried in the past. Conestoga doesn’t bother doing that.
The Pioneers fell in the PIAA championship game in June, a double-overtime heartbreaker to first-time state champion Avon Grove. Conestoga beat the Red Devils in the District One title game, but Avon Grove learned its lesson and turned the tides on the Pioneers less than a month later.
It’s never easy to lose a state title game, let alone one in double overtime, but if there’s been a redeeming quality to it, it’s that it helped refocus Conestoga for the 2018 season.
“There was a period this summer where the state championship came up for 15 days in a row with me and my friends just talking, and every time, we just said, ‘it was one play that made a difference,’ and it really just shows how hard we have to work this year because every little detail matters at every step of the game,” said 2018 faceoff midfielder James Reilly, a Georgetown signee. “It’s definitely something that everyone keeps in the back of their mind and it’s our motivation for the whole entire season.”
If Sunday’s performance at Philly’s Elite Fall Invitational is any indicator, the Pioneers will be right back in the mix for a state title next spring. Conestoga is loaded to the gills at almost every position, with multi-year starters in Reilly, goalie Scott MacMillan and a slew of defensemen, every one of which returns from last year.
The Pioneers used that depth to wear teams down and win the tournament with a 3-2 overtime win over four-time Friends League champion Academy of the New Church in the championship game. 2018 midfielder Nick Cost, an Elizabethtown commit, did the honors in overtime, beating his man at X and sneaking in a shot. Click here to see the goal.
“I saw that everyone was cutting around up top and their defenders were moving around and not really paying attention to me,” Cost said. “When I beat the guy and went right, I saw their defense was a little high and I thought I’d be able to stick around the goal and try.”
Two of the biggest losses for Conestoga are attackmen Tommy Sopko (Bucknell) and Henry Berg (Mount St. Mary’s), but the 2018 team will score in bunches, too. It’ll just be a more diverse offense, which might not be a bad thing, particularly if it means the Pioneers can win on the second Saturday in June.
“I think about that game almost every day,” Cost added. “Everybody on the team thinks about it. We want to get back to that championship.”
at the Philly Elite Invitational
Academy of the New Church (Pa.)
John Veit ‘20, midfield
You’re going to see a lot of Veit this year. A very athletic, big and strong midfielder, he’s a good, hard dodger offensively, and he doesn’t shy away from his defensive responsibilities. He helped the Lions reach the tournament final by being a force all over the field, including the faceoff wings.
Honorable Mention: Jeb Brenfleck ‘20, attack.
Central Bucks South (Pa.)
Dante Poli ‘18, attack
He’s a natural righty, but Poli isn’t afraid to use his left hand to score goals, either. As one of his coaches said, “he’s got one speed, and that’s faster than everyone.” When he doesn’t have the ball, he’ll hustle to get it back, but he does great things with the ball in his stick. He was getting his shot almost whenever he wanted it and also dished off to teammates for open looks.
Honorable Mention: Tyler Horvath ‘20, FO/M
Will Schnorr ‘19, attack
It doesn’t take long to find Schnorr on the field. Look for the kid towering over everybody. Schnorr will likely be a big part of a rebuilt Conestoga attack group, and he’s filled out in the past year and looks more comfortable in his body. He’s a first-line player for the Pioneers’ hockey team and it shows with his handle and ability to score in tight. He’s got a bright future as a lefty finisher who will give defensemen fits, and because of his height, he can shoot over any defender.
Honorable Mention: Mick Lee ‘20, goalie
Downingtown East (Pa.)
Nico Iacovino ‘20, goalie
Iacovino started every game as a freshman last spring, and it’s not hard to see why. He’s an exceptional athlete who can scramble out of the cage with just about anyone. Iacovino is an excellent stopper who frequently makes saves that he shouldn’t, and he’s poised and makes superb passes in the clearing game. Once he becomes more vocal, he’ll blossom into the total package in goal.
Honorable Mention: Cooper DiCicco ‘19, FO/M
Garnet Valley (Pa.)
Hunter Baar ‘19, attack/midfield
The Jaguars lost a ton of offense to graduation, and because of that, much of the scoring load will fall on Baar’s shoulders. He’s got toughness for days and will battle for any ground ball, and his positional versatility is also a plus. A solid athlete, Baar is more confident in his dodging ability and is in line for a breakout season.
Honorable Mention: Sam Morin ‘21, D/LSM/FO
Manheim Township (Pa.)
George Hetrick ‘18, midfield
An exceptional athlete who’s also a great swimmer, Hetrick has always made his bones in the transition game and on the defensive end. With that in mind, he’s also improved offensively and his coaches trust him on that side of the field, too. Hetrick can run by anybody in the open field and he has the ability to separate off the dodge.
Honorable Mention: Dan Klotz ‘18, D/LSM
Marple Newtown (Pa.)
Colin Ferry ‘19, midfield
Ferry carved out a niche for himself last year, his first as a starting defensive midfielder for the Tigers, and he’s growing in that role. He’s big, tall and strong with enough athleticism to stick with almost any opposing midfielder. He can sneakily chip in on the offensive end, too, which will help him expand his role this year.
Honorable Mention: Vince Terra ‘19, midfield
North Penn (Pa.)
Ryan Schoppe ‘19, defense
Schoppe has already played a lot for the Knights, but he projects to be North Penn’s top cover guy this season. A vocal leader whose confidence is increasing incrementally, he does well in 1v1 situations and is improving in his off-ball defense.
Honorable Mention: Stephen Rinck ‘19, midfield
Dan Hart ‘19, LSM
Already a two-time all-league pick, Hart oozes athleticism and is a perfect fit for the LSM spot. He frequently knocks down passes and has a penchant for picking them off and leading the Rams’ transition game.
Honorable Mention: Nicholas Fanelli ‘19, attack
Jack Connolly ‘19, defense
Connolly broke into the Raiders’ starting lineup last year and had a baptism by fire by getting matched up against Springfield’s Kyle Long. An excellent athlete with the ability to run with anyone, Connolly is also a starting linebacker for Radnor, giving him a toughness boost that means he can go toe-to-toe with anyone.
Honorable Mention: Grant Pierce ‘21, LSM
Colin Hopkins ‘20, attack/midfield
A big lefty, Hopkins found the back of the net early and often at the PEI and never relented. He uses his body well to position himself inside and has a good handle that allows him to be a good finisher. The lefty attack spot is filled for another year, but Hopkins should be in line to compete for that role in 2019.
Honorable Mention: Jack Clark ‘21, attack
Strath Haven (Pa.)
Liam Carney ‘19, attack
Carney was burying goals left and right at the PEI, excelling in off-ball movement to get open. Also one of the best players on the Panthers’ hockey team, he has legitimate shooting range and can really let it fly, which helped him rack up 30 goals as a sophomore last year. When he’s assertive and playing with confidence, he can be awfully difficult to stop.
Honorable Mention: Hunter Clements ‘18, FO/M
West Chester Rustin (Pa.)
Nick Madonna ‘20, midfield
There isn’t a lot that Madonna can’t do, and it’s his versatility that makes him such an appealing college prospect. He’s dominant between the lines, scoops up ground balls, plays good defense and chips in offensively. Every team wants a middie just like him and he’ll mix it up physically, too. If he can fine-tune his offensive game, Madonna will be unstoppable.
Honorable Mention: Collin Hurley ‘19, LSM
Matthew Marrella ‘18, midfield
Marrella is going to be the Bulldogs’ grizzled veteran this spring. A three-year starter at attack who has been the quarterback of the offense for the two-time defending District 3 champions, he can score but also set up his teammates at will. If he has to ride, Marrella will do so with gusto, and he’s a big reason why the Bulldogs will contend for a third straight district title.
Honorable Mention: Jack Grayson ‘19, attack/midfield