The change was going to be difficult, but Michael Savadove was ready.
Last year, Radnor romped to the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association Class 3A title behind a suffocating defense that allowed four goals per game. Three members of that unit graduated, which left the sophomore Savadove and a slew of talented underclassmen with spots to fill.
Saturday, they proved they deserve mention alongside last year’s defense, absolutely shutting down Garnet Valley to repeat as state champions with a 12-5 victory at West Chester East High School.
Even on a defense that plays so cohesively as to discourage singling out individuals as stars, Savadove shined. He caused six turnovers, terrorizing a Garnet Valley side that had just two goals through three quarters.
“It’s a credit to coach (John) Begier, our whole coaching staff, coach (John) Sims on defense,” Savadove said. “Every day in practice, we work hard. And senior leadership, Sammy Carter, Will Gallagher (Big 4 HHH / Notre Dame), they do a great job. It’s a great unit all around.”
A cast of thousands
Radnor’s defense has no weak link, not just from one to four but one to six. Savadove, a monster of a sophomore, is a ballhawk. Gallgher and junior Luciano Chadha anchor close defense. Pablo Strid, Thomas Barton and Sammy Carter rotate in at LSM and on man down, plus a cast of short-stick defensive middies led by Drew Warren and Cooper Mueller.
It’s a unit that is both uber-talented and yet still creates a whole that exceeds the sum of its parts.
In the state title game, the Raptors knew that they’d have to contain an explosive offense led by NLF five-star Max Busenkell (Big 4 HHH / Notre Dame). The NLF’s No. 13 senior finished his career with a ridiculous 82-goal, 80-assist stat line, but Radnor was able to slow down the GV offense en route to another state title.
“We knew coming in that he’s probably the toughest player I’ve had to guard this year, and we just trust that I’m the one that’s on him, but it’s really the whole team defense, with sliding, team defense,” Gallagher said of his future Irish teammate. “Nate Brown was awesome in net all year, and it’s really the unit rather than a one-on-one matchup.”
Gallagher might have been the shadow, but he wasn’t the only one. Radnor’s fundamentals allow them to scheme like few teams can, for instance assembling a zone where Busenkell was locked by a shorty up top but would be handed off to a pole near the crease when the ball went behind the cage.
From there, Radnor’s offense took over. The game was tied at 2 at half before Radnor scored 10 of the first 11 goals after the break to turn it in to a rout. Mason Montrella scored two of his three goals in the third, both off Ryan Goldstein feeds. Montrella bounced back from a pair of iron strikes in the first half, Radnor hitting the frame of the cage on five occasions.
Tommy DeShan shook a defender to make it 5-2 late in the third, then Goldstein went to work. He scored an unassisted tally with 7:55 left, then set up French (three goals) with 5:07 left in transition, eight seconds after Nick Lucchesi had made it 9-3. Goldstein added an underhanded scoop with four minutes left.
For a team that lost so many key pieces from last year’s championships team repeating is extra special.
“I just think not one time did our guys at practice or here think we were going to win it,” Nick Lucchesi said. “We were locked in, laser-focused, didn’t get ahead of our skis. We weren’t even thinking about it. When people were coming up to us like, ‘you’re going to win, you’re going to win,’ even when La Salle lost, we were like, we’ve got work to do. And we finished the work.”
PIAA Class 3A Championships Standouts
Michael Savadove, ’24, defense, Radnor
Let’s be clear: Any one of Radnor’s defenders could be in this space. Pablo Strid is great at picking off passes, has an active stick and excels in transition. Luciano Chadha is such a quietly sound defender that you don’t notice him until you find out his mark has done nothing all game. Thomas Barton’s savvy aggression in passing lanes makes him a great fit for an LSM in this defense. Sammy Carter is a rock on man-down. Will Gallagher, we’ll get to in a minute.
But Savadove was the most impactful player in the final, which as a sophomore surrounded by such talent is astounding. He hounds you defensively, is great on the ground and knows how to defend within a fundamental system. Also a pretty good basketball player, he has lateral quickness, good hands and athleticism.
Gallagher was the main opponent for his Big 4 HHH teammate and future Notre Dame teammate. Busenkell got so few looks and so little room to pass, though even if he did, Radnor had an edge in most of the one-on-one matchups. Most teams choose to lock off Busenkell, disrupting the defense. Radnor never resorted to that because Gallagher was so good, and it allowed the rest of the defense to flow as normal.
Cooper Mueller, ’23, midfield, Radnor
You can’t not like Mueller’s game. He is a heady middie who can dodge and score but is maybe best on the defensive end. He has a superlative feel for the game – he plays the same way in basketball as a get-on-the-floor defensive wing – and where to be in passing lanes and on ground balls. Mueller can play the wing on draws, has great size at 6-2 and is an asset on both halves of the field.
Ryan Goldstein, ’23, attack, Radnor / Cornell
Goldstein eventually imposed himself on the game. Radnor wore the Jags down with long possessions, and Goldstein drawing extra attention freed Mason Montrella for his two third-quarter goals to ultimately open the game. Much of Goldstein’s production came when the game got stretched in the fourth, but two goals and four assists in a state final – there’s no quibbling about that.
And yet, for three quarters, Sean Gallagher really got the better of Goldstein. It must be said that the Navy signee is probably an LSM at the next level but has been GV’s top close defender this season. He still manages to do a little of both – he’s the best open-field threat the team has, as his 12 goals attest – and his hounding of Goldstein and presence in passing lanes kept Garnet Valley close as long as they did. His picking of Goldstein’s pocket in the final minute of the first half, one of four caused turnovers, was emblematic of an excellent day from him.
Drew Keaveney, ‘24, goalie, Garnet Valley
The sophomore kept Radnor to five goals through three quarters. Even with things deteriorating in the fourth, Keaveney should feel good about his performance. He made nine saves, including two sets of double denials on point-blank shots in the second half. His line might have looked differently had any of Radnor’s five post strikes gone in, but Keaveney acquitted himself well in the biggest game of his high school career.
Radnor 12, Garnet Valley 5
Radnor 2 0 3 7 – 12
Garnet Valley 1 1 0 3 – 5
Mason Montrella ’23 3 goals
Colin French 3 goals
Ryan Goldstein ’23 (Cornell) 2 goals, 4 assists
Nate Lucchesi ’24 goal, assist
Will Kaplan ’22 (Trinity) goal
Tommy Deshan ’23 goal
Nick Lucchesi ’22 (Air Force) goal
Nate Brown ’22 4 saves
Giordan Ramondo ’22 5-for-8 faceoffs
Ryan Nealon ’22 (Holy Cross) 3 goals
Drew Goldt ’24 goal, assist
Luke Mingioni ’24 goal, assist
Sam DiTrolio ’22 (Cabrini) 13-for-20 faceoffs
Drew Keaveney ’24 8 saves