Lucas Slate had the ball in his stick, a short-stick defensive midfielder guarding him at X and a wealth of options up top.
Tristan Whitaker wasn’t the only option for Slate to find with a pass, but if the defense is going to let a senior Vermont commit and an electric shooter all alone in front, by all means, take it.
Slate did his share, shaking his matchup and drawing a slide, and Whitaker sprinted toward the cage. Slate found him with a perfect feed, one that Whitaker quickly sent into the back of the net. Despite a late push from visiting Avon Old Farms, Whitaker’s third goal of the game and second from Slate stood as the winner in a 10-9 triumph for the Churchmen.
“We put Slate down at X and he had a shortie. We’d noticed that matchup and he’s awesome at dodging from X and getting that slide,” Whitaker said. “Just had a bunch of confusion up top with a bunch of guys running around and just confuse all of their slides. It just opened up, it was perfect spacing and we got it done. I was definitely just one of the options. It’s all confusion and see who the open man is.”
Nearly Capped the Comeback
Junior Villanova commit Teddy Gabrielian finished off his hat trick off of a Tyler Marmo (Leading Edge ’22 / Holy Cross) less than three minutes later to draw the Winged Beavers to within one. Zach Hepworth, a junior Colgate commit, put the finishing touches on his dominant 13-for-20 day with another win to give Avon Old Farms a final chance. The Winged Beavers threw the ball away on their ensuing possession, cementing EA’s win.
It was a stunning reversal of fortunes for Avon Old Farms, which used three Benn Johnston (NLF No. 4 ’23 / Duke) goals and strong goaltending from transfer goalie Harry Laferriere (Leading Edge ’22 / Brown) to build a 6-1 first-half lead. It didn’t hurt that Hepworth won the game’s first seven faceoffs, either.
“They started in an open set and they were going a lot down the wings,” Laferriere said of EA’s offense. “We were forcing them down the sides and the defense were giving me easy shots to save, so I was just eating them up. We kind of got down a little bit and got comfortable with our lead, and we started forcing guys to the middle and (EA) started playing wherever they wanted to go. Our guys picked it up a little bit at the end, but we couldn’t quite get there.”
Churchmen’s Offensive Power on Display
The Churchmen’s army of offensive talent was on full display in the second half. Whitaker, Lamb and Jaszcz all finished with hat tricks, while Sam Malloy gave EA its first lead at 8-7 with a high-to-low finish off a sweep. If you let the Churchmen hang around long enough, they have enough offensive firepower to make you pay, even on an off-day from standout faceoff midfielder NLF No. 16 ’22 Andrew McMeekin (Princeton).
“It was just the energy from our sideline,” Jaszcz said. “Our defense, Zeke Kane with a big faceoff win as an LSM, just brought us the momentum. I think it was just everyone’s energy on the sideline. We settled down after halftime and figured out what was going to work. The goalie was good, he was making saves all over. We started figuring it out and hitting some corners.”
Down, But Not Out
The Winged Beavers finished their season-opening Philly trip with losses to defending Inter-Ac champion Malvern Prep and the Churchmen, but there’s plenty to like about this team. They’re a physical group with lots of talented options, and if they can learn to close games out a little better, they’ll be a problem. It also helps to have Laferriere in the cage. The future Brown goalie stopped 11 shots, and his knack for dramatic saves and high-energy play out of the cage lends itself well to Avon Old Farms’ style.
“It’s awesome. I love it here,” Laferriere said. “Over the summer, I was down at my grandparents’ house in South Carolina and Tyler Marmo, who I played Leading Edge with, called me and goes, ‘hey, do you have any interest in going to Avon?’ At that time, my other school was struggling a lot and the coach that had recruited me left, so it was an awkward spot. They’ve been awesome in bringing me in and treating me as a teammate like any other guy.”
Episcopal Academy – Avon Old Farms Standouts
.@EA1785_boyslax 5 ⭐️’24 Dylan Jaszcz brings the Churchmen to within two at 6-4 with this rip.
— NLF (@natlaxfed) March 24, 2022
Dylan Jaszcz ’24, attack, Episcopal Academy – 2024 five-star
If it isn’t abundantly clear by now, this is a very pro-Dylan Jaszcz space. The lefty can absolutely shoot the living daylight out of the ball and it doesn’t take him long to heat up. He was very quiet in the first half, then sprung to life once TJ Lamb got the comeback started. Jaszcz took a Sam Malloy feed and snapped a high-to-high bomb from up top, then later, made a defensive midfielder reach for air before ripping home another crank.
Put an SSDM on Dylan Jaszcz and your defense probably won’t survive to tell the tale. The @EA1785_boyslax 5 ⭐️ sophomore brings the Churchmen even at 7.
Sam Malloy then puts EA up by one. 8-7 after three quarters. pic.twitter.com/J9gz8MplUy
— Matt Chandik (@MChandik26) March 24, 2022
Jaszcz didn’t even need a pick here. He just puts his foot in the ground, leans to his left to avoid a slide and snaps his wrists. His best goal, though, might have been the finale when he opened the fourth quarter with a far-corner blast that should feature prominently on his highlight reel.
— NLF (@natlaxfed) March 24, 2022
Benn Johnston ’23, midfield, Avon Old Farms / Duke – NLF No. 4 ’23
Physically, Johnston wouldn’t look out of place if he had to suit up for the Blue Devils tomorrow. It looks like the AOF weight room is his dorm room with his built, college-ready body and the speed and athleticism to go with it. Johnston ran through a check and weaved his way through traffic before snapping one home to open the scoring. After that, he caused a turnover in 1v1 defense, got the ground ball, ran it down the field and hit Tyler Marmo, who dumped it off to Teddy Gabrielian for a goal.
The Duke commit wasn’t done yet. He cranked home a lefty bomb to push the lead to 3-0, then later added two more tallies, the final one on a high-to-high crank. Our in-depth analysis suggests that he’s, well, pretty damn legit.
True Do-It-All Midfielder
One of the most interesting parts about Johnston’s game, though, is that he’s not just a really talented offensive midfielder. He seems to relish the opportunity to play defense, and he had a couple of strips in 1v1 defense. Side note: if you’re playing against the Winged Beavers and you think THAT’S the defensive midfielder to go against, kindly reconsider.
“I love playing defense,” Johnston said. “I used to play D-pole when I was younger, so I had a little bit of that in me. Just think it’s fun to get down there and push transition. I love stripping the ball and using my speed to get it downfield and get away. I think it’s pretty cool to D a guy up and break them on then other side of the field.”
“Coach (Eric) Fekete has been talking a lot about just being able to play that two-way middie role, and a lot of schools are looking for that nowadays,” Johnston continued. “I was talking to (Duke) Coach (John) Danowski and he was, like, ‘we really need to push from defense to offense, specifically on the wings.’ I’m willing to do whatever helps the team, especially with the shot clock, which will push the game a little quicker. I’m willing to adapt and play against that.”
Zach Hepworth ’23, faceoff midfield, Avon Old Farms / Colgate
It’s not a coincidence that the Winged Beavers sprinted out to a 6-1 lead when Hepworth won the game’s first seven faceoffs and eight of the nine in the first half. The Colgate commit was dialed in from the start, timing the whistle well but also showing a bevy of moves and counters. A fiery faceoff man who definitely fed off of each win, Hepworth worked well with his faceoff unit, routinely putting the ball in a good spot for his SSDM or LSM. He won forward and backward, as well as by using hand speed or scrapping on the ground against the bigger Andrew McMeekin. After Brendan Powers (Delaware) brought Avon Old Farms to within one, Hepworth won the ensuing faceoff to give the Winged Beavers a chance to tie it up, only to see Avon Old Farms throw the ball away out of a timeout.
TJ Lamb ’23, midfield, Episcopal Academy / Cornell – NLF No. 67 ’23
An extremely versatile piece of the Churchmen’s offense who’s also more than capable of playing attack, Lamb was excellent for EA and was instrumental in its comeback. He absolutely eviscerated an SSDM from up top and sent a high-to-high scorcher to the back of the net to trim AOF’s lead to 6-2 right before the half. That goal sparked a five-goal EA run, one that he continued in the first minute of the second half when he worked the two-man game perfectly with McMeekin and sent a righty high-to-high screamer home.
After Dylan Jasczcz scored to make it 6-5, it was Lamb who tied it up with a transition rip. The Churchmen looked dead in the water before Lamb put them on his shoulders, a huge sign of progress for the junior.
“We just wanted to start taking advantage of the matchups,” Lamb said. “We were wide open a bunch of times early on and we just got stuffed by their goalie (Leading Edge ’22 and Brown commit Harry Laferriere). Just had to figure out how to shoot on him. He’s a great goalie and we were getting stopped low, so we started shooting high a little more. Once that caught on, we just kept riding the momentum.”
The goals were great, but Lamb’s commitment to riding and making plays in the middle of the field also stood out. He had a couple of occasions where he forcefully sent the clearing midfielder out of bounds by moving his feet and not relenting. Those plays were just as impressive as his shooting stroke.
Tyler Marmo ’22, attack, Avon Old Farms / Leading Edge / Holy Cross
Marmo’s at his best as a facilitator who’ll test the middle of the defense with some pinpoint feeds that keep defenders off-balance. He had a gorgeous slip to Gabrielian in front, with the Villanova commit burying his third of the game to bring the Winged Beavers to within two. The future Crusaders also set up his teammate earlier in the game on a Johnston fast break for a dunk on the crease, to go along with two more helpers throughout the day. Marmo thrived in making decisions in small areas and he’s good at hunting out the 2v1 in tight spaces.
Nash Womack ’22, goalie, Episcopal Academy / York
The lefty didn’t have much of a chance on some of AOF’s early goals, but he came through with some big-time saves to give the Churchmen the opportunity to come back. Womack made a handful of impressive low saves as part of a 10-stop day, including a gem of a kick save on a sweep and later, an excellent drop on an eight-yard rip. He did a solid job in the clearing game, too.
Episcopal Academy 10, Avon Old Farms 9
Avon Old Farms 1 5 1 2 — 9
Episcopal Academy 0 2 6 2 — 10
Avon Old Farms (0-2)
Benn Johnston ’23 (NLF No. 4 ’23 / Duke) 4 goals
Teddy Gabrielian ’23 (Villanova) 3 goals
Brendan Powers ’22 (Delaware) 1 goal, 1 assist
Brian Mullen ’23 (NLF No. 64 ’23 / Lehigh) 1 goal
Tyler Marmo ’22 (Leading Edge / Holy Cross) 4 assists
Zach Hepworth ’23 (Colgate) 13-for-20 faceoffs
Blake Eklund ’22 (Kenyon) 0-for-1 faceoffs
Harry Laferriere ’22 (Leading Edge / Brown) 11 saves
Episcopal Academy (2-2)
Tristan Whitaker ’22 (Vermont) 3 goals
TJ Lamb ’23 (NLF No. 67 ’23 / Cornell) 3 goals
Dylan Jaszcz (’24 five-star) 3 goals
Sam Malloy ’22 1 goal, 1 assist
Lucas Slate ’23 2 assists
Andrew McMeekin ’22 (NLF No. 16 ’22 / Princeton) 1 assist, 5-for-17 faceoffs
Will Hohn ’23 (Monmouth) 1-for-2 faceoffs
Zeke Kane ’24 1-for-2 faceoffs
Nash Womack ’22 (York) 10 saves