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Philly lacrosse is (almost) so back!

It won’t be long before one of the country’s premier hotbeds is back in action. The NLF’s high school rankings will be back soon, and the odds are good that – as usual – they’ll be littered with Philly-area programs. Inter-Ac regular-season champion Haverford School and the league’s playoff champion, Malvern Prep, will both likely be prominently featured in the top 10. Five-star prospects like Ben McCarthy and Gavin Cooper highlight the Fords’ stacked rosters. The Friars counter with five-stars of their own in the form of Lucca DiBartolomeo and Michael Ortlieb, among others.

Philly’s talent goes beyond the Fords and Friars, though. Springside Chestnut Hill has eyes on breaking up the two-team party at the top of the league. The Blue Devils will lean on goalie Hayes Schreiner and faceoff middie Ross PrinceAcademy of New Church has a small but mighty roster, led by arguably the top player in the state in Hunter Aquino and a dynamic LSM in Aharon Bloshuk.


Who’ll Rule the PIAA?

Three-time defending state champion Radnor is gunning to become the first team to make it four straight PIAA titles. It helps for new head coach Mike Friel to have All-American defender Michael Savadove and midfielder Nate Lucchesi.

Springfield would love to avenge last year’s state title-loss to the Raptors. Ty Gougler, who missed the state tournament after getting hurt in the district final, and superb sophomore Brad Barber, coming off of a knee injury that sapped him of his freshman campaign, make up the best lefty tandem in the area.

Is this the year La Salle makes it back to the top? The Explorers have a loaded senior class, including a dominant force at the faceoff stripe in Stevie Davis and a stingy defense spearheaded by Matt Wills.

We’ll have plenty of coverage of the Philadelphia area this spring. Let’s lead it off with a look at the best returning players with the first NLF Preseason All-Philly team. One caveat: this team is based off of returning production. There are always players who have yet to break out and many will, but this is a nod to those who have already produced at a high level.

Photo courtesy of Matt Chandik


Tyler Gougler ’24, Springfield (Pa.) – Drexel

Gougler was one of the most electric offensive players in Philly as a junior. He bagged 70 goals, the final one a beauty of a take to the rack for the game-winning goal in the District One final against Radnor. He tore his ACL on the play, wiping him out of the state tournament. The Drexel signee is back, though, and he’s the best lefty in the area. While he’s not very big, he makes up for it with his shiftiness and toughness. Gougler excels at making plays on the wing and he’s a tough cover for any defenseman.

Rowyn Nurry ’24, Salesianum (Del.) – Cornell

The senior will PG as a ’25 before heading to join Connor Buczek‘s program in Ithaca. He’s got his sights set on bringing home a third straight state title for the Sals. Nurry is a 6-1, 185-pound high-IQ X attackman who makes those around him better. He compiled a 49-33-82 junior year, including a six-goal game against Long Island powerhouse Chaminade, and he could flirt with 50 assists and 100 points as Salesianum brings back a ton of horsepower. Nurry has very good body control around the cage as a scorer and also does a superb job of keeping his head up to get the ball to his teammates.

Michael Ortlieb ’25, Malvern Prep (Pa.) / Big 4 HHH – Duke

The top-ranked X attackman in the junior class, the future Blue Devil was a force last spring. He tallied up 74 points, including 49 goals, and went off for four goals and an assist in the Inter-Ac playoff championship win over rival Haverford. Blessed with an off-the-charts IQ, pristine passing ability and a knack for finishing around the cage, Ortlieb is unflappable and knows when to play fast, when to settle things down and how to strain defenses. Fresh off of a huge summer for Big 4 HHH and a commitment to John Danowski‘s perennial blue blood, Ortlieb is primed for a monster junior campaign.

Second team: Brian Box ’25, Marple Newtown (Pa.) – Cornell. Aydan DiRocco, Haverford School (Pa.) – Navy. Pat Flaherty ’25, Springfield (Pa.) – Maryland. Ennis Udo, Malvern Prep (Pa.) – Brown.

Photo courtesy of FieldVisionMedia.


Hunter Aquino ’24, Academy of the New Church (Pa.) / Team 91 Long Island – Penn State 

Aquino’s in the conversation for the best player in the state, and he’s certainly its top offensive player. If he continues his current trajectory with a strong senior year, there’s little doubt that he’ll end up as a five-star in the final ’24 rankings. Simply put, Aquino’s different than everyone else. He can light it up at both attack and midfield, and 6-5 guys aren’t supposed to run the way he does. Aquino picked up All-America honors as a junior with 70 goals and 54 assists. He’s a two-handed scoring threat and is a mismatch for just about any defense. Good luck slowing him down.

Nate Lucchesi ’24, Radnor (Pa.) – Penn

The four-star future Quaker, part of a stout in-state ’24 class for Penn, looks the part of a big-time midfielder. The 6-foot, 200-pounder, also a standout soccer player, isn’t the flashiest player but was a vital part in helping the Raptors to their third straight state title a season ago. Lucchesi scored 26 times and added 11 assists last year despite routinely drawing opponents’ best defenders and quick double teams. If Radnor’s going to make it a perfect 4-for-4 in his time, Lucchesi will be a big reason why.

Paul Van Bastelaar ’24, La Salle (Pa.) / Big 4 HHH – Penn 

One of the top two-way middies in the ’24 class, Van Bastelaar’s upward ascent continued a season ago. He’s primed for a monster year for the preseason PIAA favorites. He was instrumental in La Salle’s win in the state quarterfinals last year, burying a hat trick and doling out an assist. Van Bastelaar, who scored 35 times and added 24 assists as a junior, excels between the lines and is so smooth that he makes it all look easy.

Second team: Jake Bickel ’25, Malvern Prep (Pa.) – Georgetown. Matt Jacobsen ’24, Central Bucks West (Pa.) – Richmond. Owen Mears ’25, Malvern Prep (Pa.) / Big 4 HHH – Duke.

Photo courtesy of Matt Chandik


Ben McCarthy ’24, Haverford School (Pa.) – Duke 

McCarthy is the headliner of a loaded ’24 faceoff group in Philly and arguably the biggest gamechanger of any player in the state. When he’s dialed in, he does things that nobody else can. With the Fords down 4-1 against rival Malvern Prep in the teams’ second meeting last year, the All-American racked up a goal and two assists in 19 seconds of game time to tie the game and swing all the momentum back to Haverford. Against St. Anthony’s (N.Y.), he dominated the faceoff stripe, but it was his play after the win that had the Friars’ defense searching for answers, despite the fact that he didn’t score. An excellent athlete who could also see some time at short-stick defensive midfielder this year, the 6-foot, 185-pounder is as good as it gets with the ball in his stick for the position.

Second team: Stevie Davis ’24, La Salle (Pa.) – Penn. Ross Prince ’24, Springside Chestnut Hill (Pa.) – Georgetown.


Connor Nolen ’24, Haverford School (Pa.) – Duke 

There have been two players tabbed as junior captains in Haverford’s storied history: former Virginia standout Dox Aitken and Nolen. That’s incredibly good company for the future Blue Devil. Nolen doesn’t have great size, but he has everything else that you want in an SSDM. Tough as nails, his compete level is off the charts, and McCarthy has called him the best wing man he’s ever played with. That’s lofty but well-deserved praise. If the Fords need a ground ball, Nolen’s the guy upon whom they’ll rely.

Peri DiBartolomeo ’24, Malvern Prep (Pa.) – Penn State 

Part of Malvern’s DiBartolomeo Bash Brothers unit, the lefty operates at SSDM in tandem with his twin, Roman. An All-Inter-Ac pick a year ago, DiBartolomeo relishes contact and looks for a fight on every possession. He’s offended when teams think it’s a good idea to dodge him and has his older brother Lucca’s aggressiveness and physicality. DiBartolomeo caused 21 turnovers last year and headlines Philly’s deepest group of SSDMs.

Second team: Jack Koch ’24, La Salle (Pa.) – Villanova 

Photo courtesy of Matt Chandik


Lucca DiBartolomeo ’24, Malvern Prep (Pa.) – Penn State 

The scariest dude in town.

Your author has made his views on DiBartolomeo pretty clear on this site. The Penn State signee is a stone-cold assassin who disrupts offenses and seeks to inflict pain on every check. It’s not enough to try to get the ball. Every check is an opportunity to send a message. Nobody goes harder at all times. The All-American oozes toughness and grit, but he also finds a way to make plays in the middle of the field in ways others can’t.

Second team: Aharon Bloshuk ’25, Academy of the New Church (Pa.) – Penn State.


Chase Cellucci ’24, Salesianum (Del.) – North Carolina

One of the top defenders in the country, the four-star Tar Heel verbal picked up All-America honors a season ago in helping the Sals to their second straight state title. The 6-1, 195-pounder is a four-year starter and led the team in takeaways. He’s good enough to erase anyone’s top attackman, which opens things up for the rest of the defense.

Michael Savadove ’24, Radnor (Pa.) – Harvard 

An athletic specimen, Savadove’s been at the heart of a Radnor defense that just doesn’t give you anything. The 6-1, 180-pounder triples as an excellent soccer and basketball player for the Raiders, and that athleticism shines through. You can put him anywhere and he’ll wipe out the opponents’ top scorer, but he’s also not shy about getting involved offensively. The All-American will look to go out with a fourth straight state title.

Matt Wills ’24, La Salle (Pa.) / Big 4 HHH – Penn 

A mainstay on the Explorers’ defense since his freshman season, the lefty future Quaker picked up All-America honors last year and All-Philadelphia Catholic League honors for the third straight year. A physical on-ball presence who throws good checks, Wills is one of the headliners of La Salle’s senior class that has many prognosticating will lead the Explorers to their first state title since 2019.

Second team: Gavin Cooper ’25, Haverford School (Pa.) / Big 4 HHH – Duke. Billy Henderson ’25, Springfield (Pa.) – Penn State. Evan MacFarland ’25, Episcopal Academy (Pa.) – Georgetown. 


Hayes Schreiner ’24, Springside Chestnut Hill (Pa.) / Big 4 HHH – Penn State

Springside Chestnut Hill has the best faceoff-goalie combination in the Inter-Ac, which bodes well for what should be the Blue Devils’ best team in years. Heading into his third year as the starter, Schreiner stopped 61.3 percent of shots sent his way at a 16 saves per game clip. He was ludicrous in the Inter-Ac playoff semifinals, stopping 22 shots against Haverford School. He also had 20 saves in a win over Penn Charter and 19 in a win against Germantown Academy. Schreiner is a savvy goalie with a penchant for highlight-reel saves. The future Nittany Lion also excels in the clearing game. This is SCH’s best chance at upsetting the Inter-Ac’s two-team hierarchy, and the reigning All-State pick is a huge reason why.

Second team: Cam Taylor ’25, Salesianum (Del.) – Duke.