Ryan Goldstein heard it in the team talk the day before the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association Championships. Truth be told, it had been said plenty in and around the Radnor lacrosse huddle all year. But on the eve of the finale, the message from assistant coach Mark Petrone resonated more deeply than ever.
The best players, Goldstein relayed Saturday, play their best when the best is needed.
Saturday, Goldstein and Radnor were the best they’ve been all year … and consequently the best in Pennsylvania.
Goldstein tallied two goals and five assists, the Cornell commit putting on a show to lead Radnor’s offense to a 10-2 win over Kennett in the PIAA Class 3A final.
The championship is the second for Radnor, which also won in 2015. It complements a regular-season crown in the Central League in a 23-2 season.
Goldstein was at the forefront, as he has been all season. He supplied three assists in the first quarter as Radnor ran out to a 4-0 lead in eight minutes. He set up Damien Ramondo’s (High Point) second goal in the second quarter, then dipped his shoulder to snap off a high shot under the bar with 1:44 left to half to make it 7-2 Radnor at the break.
“We knew that if we played our style of lacrosse, it would be a good day for us,” Goldstein said. “And we came out with everyone ready to play, and it worked out well for us.”
Goldstein helped Radnor pile on. In a rugged third quarter, he set up the only marker, feeding Jack Murphy for a man-up, step-down rip. Goldstein then called his own number eight seconds into the fourth, again on the man-advantage, by sneaking the cage, pump-faking and flicking home a high shot.
“Ryan’s everything you could ask for in a player,” Radnor All-American defender Grant Pierce (Big 4 HHH / Fairfield) said. “He’s unselfish, he’s a great kid and he knows how to win lacrosse games and take control He knows when to pull it out and when to push it. Ryan’s an extraordinary player.”
Defense Rules The Roost
Pierce and the defense were pretty extraordinary, too. Radnor had beaten Kennett three weeks ago in the third-place game in District 1 by an 11-3 margin, yet somehow managed to be even stingier in the state final. Robert Hobbs (Bowdoin) backed the defense with six saves. But more often than not, the ball never got to the Bowdoin signee in goal. For the season, Radnor allowed just 99 goals in 25 games.
Kennett, with 22 wins and the most successful season in program history, doesn’t lack for talent. The Blue Demons had a steady supply of the ball thanks to Providence commit Richie Hughson (10-for-15 at the X). But their pair of Saint Joseph’s-bound attackman, Sam Forte and Jake Freebery, were shut out.
Zach Hulme and Buzzy Hertz scored consecutive goals in the first half to halve the Radnor lead at 4-2, but that was it offensively. In need of a spark, Kennett couldn’t tip the momentum back in its favor.
“It’s hard,” said Vincent Cresci, a senior defenseman and Harvard signee. “Usually it takes a big play, like a big goal or a big groundball or something like that. We have big-time players that can make plays like that, but we just didn’t get it done today.”
Radnor spread the wealth as usual. Sophomore Colin French was the midfield star du jour with two goals in the first quarter. Ramondo finished with three goals, and Murphy added a pair.
For Radnor, a group that watched the program’s last state championship as elementary schoolers, the championship marked the culmination of a long journey.
“Kennett’s honestly one of the best teams in the state,” Ramondo said. “They’re a great, well-coached team. But after we lost to Springfield, I don’t think we would’ve lost to anyone. We were really upset after that, really got the fire going. We really wanted that. Everyone’s all in.”
Ryan Goldstein ’22, attack, Radnor / Mesa / Cornell
Goldstein was everywhere Saturday. He’s not the biggest or the quickest, but he’s an outstanding passer. He can carve up defenses if they elect, as Kennett did early, not to pursue him behind the cage and let him pick passes to Radnor’s passel of athletic and skilled midfielders. Goldstein also is crafty on the crease, with a low enough center of gravity to find shots sneaking out from behind the cage, which keeps defenders honest on his passing ability.
Grant Pierce ’21, defense/LSM, Radnor / Big 4 HHH / Fairfield
Tabbed as the Central League MVP and a U.S. Lacrosse All-American, Pierce is simply a monster. He’s got great technique, fantastic stick skills, the athleticism to play at defense or LSM at the next level and a phenomenal understanding of how to be smartly physical. He’s always in passing lanes and caused several turnovers Saturday, one leading directly to a transition goal. With a bunch of talented defensemen who rotate in, Pierce is the one that keeps a Radnor’s stingy defense connected and dominant.
Vincent Cresci ’21, defense, Kennett / Freedom / Harvard
It wasn’t a great day for Kennett on the defensive end, but Cresci still distinguished himself. At 6-2, he’s an imposing physical specimen with the foot speed to play LSM at the next level. He also was the player Kennett turned to on a man-up chance to try to generate some momentum, a testament to his stick skills. Cresci was one of the standouts all year in Kennett’s most successful season ever.
Richie Hughson ’21, faceoff midfield, Kennett / Freedom / Providence
The Blue Demons’ struggles weren’t for lack of the ball. Hughson won 10 of 15 draws, several clean enough to lead to instant offense, including one attack the produced one of Robert Hobbs’ best saves of the day. Hughson showed the stick work and offensive skills to spend extended runs on the field as, again, Kennett looked for an offensive spark.
Mark McKeon ’21, midfield, Radnor
The SSDM is a tank. After a goal in the state quarterfinal, he added an assist in the final in transition, with McKeon’s stick the trusted hands into which Radnor places possession to exit the zone. A two-sport athlete who is only belatedly committing to lacrosse, he’s got the foot speed and physicality to be a nightmare to match up with, and he’s got plus stick skills once he gets the ball. McKeon will pursue a post-grad year at Hill School in an effort to play lacrosse in college.