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Both teams’ schedules are so loaded that it’s hard to circle every major opponent on them, but Thursday night’s top-5 showdown between Malvern Prep (Pa.) and St. Anthony’s (N.Y.) at Rutgers had all the makings of a de facto playoff game for the title of being the No. 1 team in the country at the end of the season.

The two perennial powerhouses already had to wait an extra day after the brutal weather on the East Coast washed the game from Wednesday night. Still, the stakes were readily apparent to both sides, a measuring stick game and another line on the résumé while hunting down that No. 1 spot.

“All the guys in the locker room think we’re the best team in the country,” senior midfielder John Majka said. “We try to play with that chip on our shoulder and I think tonight, we showed how good we truly can be.”


Oh, indeed. Majka, an Army commit, scored twice, Heath Jones (Big 4 HHH / Rutgers) made 10 saves on his future college campus and the Malvern defense held St. Anthony’s to one goal in the final three quarters to finish off a 7-4 win.

Jones’ Initial Returns Look Great

Jones’ career as a starter is all of five games old, but he’s already got wins over four nationally-ranked programs in addition to the presumptive Colorado state title favorite. In those games, he and the Friars have yet to allow double-digit goals That’s, uh, really good! He bided his time and fended off some young upstarts to claim the starting job, and he sure looked the part of a top-flight high school goalie against St. Anthony’s.

While he got a ton of help from a superb defense loaded to the gills, Jones came through with some huge saves when he needed to. That included a pair of 1v1 robberies on St. Anthony’s standouts Kyle Bilello and Luke Breslin, and he was poised throughout the game. It’s clear that Jones is extremely comfortable with his title and the pressure that comes with being Malvern’s stopper, particularly with a treacherous schedule that continues with another top-5 team, Lawrenceville, on Saturday.

“I didn’t play last year, so I really wanted (the starting job) badly,” Jones said. “I was ready to work and ready to get after it. Starting the first couple of games really boosted my confidence. Just getting a lot of shots from a lot of great shooters on our team, so it’s really boosted my confidence. We have a great coaching staff and a great community and they’re really pushing me to do my best every day.”

Malvern’s Defense Shuts the Door

To have that performance at Rutgers alongside defenseman Kyle Worsnup, another Scarlet Knights commit, in front of their future coaching staff, was extra special.

“It was really special,” Jones affirmed. “Under the lights, playing where I’m going to be in the future, night game, what more could you want? It was special and I’ll remember it forever.”

The guys in front of Jones will, too. Don’t bother trying to pick out one guy on the Philly Friars’ defense that stood out. It’s an exercise in futility because they were all great. Breslin got Malvern for three goals in the first quarter, the last of which he struck on a BTB, and that was about all the Long Island Friars got. Malvern switched to a matchup zone after the second quarter and kept St. Anthony’s guessing all night.

“We make decisions based on what we see going forward,” Worsnup said. “We love our man-to-man, we love our zone. It’s an aggressive zone so it’s barely going at a zone. I just like our guys. I like our guys against anyone. We preach toughness, playing together and for the name across our chest, and we like our chances against anyone.”

It’s hard not to. Offensively, Malvern got goals from senior Ennis Udo (Brown), freshman Danny Lucovich, juniors Mike Ortlieb (Big 4 HHH / Duke) and Owen Mears (Big 4 HHH / Duke) and Logan Turley (Big 4 HHH / Harvard).

St. Anthony’s Will Be Quick to Bounce Back

Breslin led the charge for the Long Island Friars with his hat trick. Bilello had a goal and an assist, while Quinn Langton (Long Island Express / Army) chipped in two helpers. They’ll need – and will get – more secondary scoring to emerge from a talented but inexperienced at the varsity level group as they navigate another relatively short but difficult schedule.

“We came out hot but the zone at the start of the second quarter was tough,” Breslin said. “We have another game Saturday (against New Jersey titan Delbarton) so we’re not going to hang this over our head. We’ll put a couple zone plays in and I trust our coaches and our teammates. We’ll be back.”

That’s a safe bet.

Malvern Prep – St. Anthony’s Standouts

Kyle Bilello ’24, midfield, St. Anthony’s (N.Y.) / Long Island Express – Brown

Bilello’s ascent from short-stick defensive midfielder to full-time, do-it-all No. 1 midfielder for the Friars has been impressive. Malvern dominated possession early, but when St. Anthony’s got the ball, it was Bilello hoofing up the field on every one of the Friars’ first three clears. On the first one, Bilello snagged a ground ball in traffic, outraced everyone up the field and picked up a hockey assist after dishing the ball off to Quinn Langton. The Army commit fed Luke Breslin on the crease, who finished it off for the first of his three goals. Bilello also set up a Breslin BTB, then scored the Friars’ fourth goal in transition. He excels in transition and on the defensive end, and he’s a great addition for Brown.

Luke Breslin ’24, attack, St. Anthony’s (N.Y.) / Team 91 Long Island – Lehigh 

Breslin found his way into the lineup later in his junior season as an off-ball threat, capping it off with two goals and three assists in the season finale against Chaminade. This year, with Owen Duffy plying his trade in Chapel Hill, Breslin has moved back to his natural spot at X. It’s where he helped Team 91 Wolfpack to a pair of NLF National Championships, and it suits him well. On a night where the Friars struggled offensively, Breslin supplied most of the offense with a hat trick, all in the first quarter. He worked well off-ball in transition to get open, but also had a slick BTB goal off of a Kyle Bilello feed. The Friars are unusually inexperienced at the varsity level and went through some growing pains against Malvern, but with Breslin running the show, the odds are good that they’ll be just fine.

“Last year was a great experience and I learned a lot from those guys,” Breslin said. “I’m just filling my role and worked hard this offseason to take the place of the best X attackman in the country. I’ve got big shoes to fill, and we’re just going to continue to try to win games. Last year taught me a lot, being an off-ball guy with simple cuts and finishing inside with both hands. This year, it’s a lot more dodging, which is what I did on the club circuit. I’m used to it and I can do both.”

John Majka ’24, midfield, Malvern Prep (Pa.) – Army 

Physically, Majka looks like he belongs on the field with the Black Knights right now. It’s great to see him playing and having such a big role for the Friars after missing his junior campaign to an ACL tear. He got injured in November and didn’t get cleared until August, and as it does with everyone, it took him a bit to get re-acclimated to Malvern’s pace of play. It helps that he absolutely owned the weight room and is as physically-imposing as any high school midfielder. It also helps when you’re such a two-handed threat out of the midfield. The righty canned a pair of impressive lefty goals, including an early alley rip and then a game, blouses finish that sealed Malvern’s win.

“Last year, I was learning from some of the guys on our team,” Majka said. “When you’re out here, every moment isn’t given, so I just try to seize the moment because you never know when you’re not going to be on the field.

Tommy Snyder ’24, defense, St. Anthony’s (N.Y.) / Long Island Express – Virginia

Snyder is straight out of Virginia central casting for defensemen. At 6-5 and around 200 pounds, he’s got the frame that the ‘Hoos always favor, and against Malvern, he drew future ACC rival Mike Ortlieb (Big 4 HHH / Duke). Ortlieb got the win and a pair of man-up points on an assist to freshman Danny Lucovich and a goal off an Owen Mears (Big 4 HHH / Duke) pass, but Snyder was superb in coverage at 6v6. His long limbs and reach didn’t yield much room for the smaller Ortlieb to dodge, and Snyder was able to use his strength to drive Ortlieb off of spots when the future Blue Devil dodged.

“He’s obviously a great player,” Snyder said. “I circled that matchup. He’s really savvy. He gave me some fits when he got me hung up above the cage. We’re fine with that as a team, but he did that really well. He snuck off-ball. He made things difficult off-ball. On-ball, he’s very shifty and quick, so it was a fun matchup.”

The Entire Malvern Prep Defense

Oh boy, take your pick. Nobody can remember the last time St. Anthony’s was held to four goals, because it doesn’t happen. St. Anthony’s always has so much offensive talent, but against a team flush with high-end recruits, Malvern put on a show. Malvern has a ludicrous stable of short-stick defensive midfielders that includes four-star recruits like Peri and Roman DiBartolomeo (Penn State) and Will Tantillo (Big 4 HHH / Duke). There’s also a deep group of long sticks with the likes of Lucca DiBartolomeo (Penn State)Kyle Worsnup (Rutgers)Jack Lehman (Ohio State), Jack Carroll (Big 4 HHH / Cornell) and others that have a ton of experience.

Malvern’s switch to a matchup zone flummoxed St. Anthony’s, and it was why the defensive crew gave up one goal after the first quarter and one 6v6 goal all game. Everybody won their matchups, and on the rare occasions where things broke down, Heath Jones was there to shut the door. It was good a defensive performance against a high-level team that I can remember in more than a decade of covering the sport.