By Pat Leonard
For the Inquirer
Episcopal Academy thrives in transition, relying on a stout defense to ignite fast break scoring chances.
That’s how the Churchmen built an early lead and ultimately defeated visiting Malvern Prep last night, 7-5, under the lights and in steady rain at Sonje Field in Newtown Square.
Sophomore attackman Tyler Odell scored two goals for Episcopal (8-2, 1-0), which moves into second place in the Inter-Ac League behind The Haverford School (9-2, 2-0), percentage-wise, by virtue of winning its league-opener last night.
“Our [midfielders] do a good job getting the ball in transition past midfield or ‘up the ladder,’ as our coach says,” said Odell, who scored in the second and fourth periods. “We’re ready for the fast break because we know that’s where we score most of our goals.”
Malvern Prep falls to 5-4 and 0-2 in league play, having lost to Penn Charter, 9-8, in double overtime on Tuesday.
Episcopal led, 5-0, last night with 9:53 remaining in the third period after senior midfielder Chase Growney scored off an assist from junior midfielder Ryan Gallagher.
But Malvern Prep burst back into the game with three goals in the next six minutes by junior midfielder Keith Dryer, senior midfielder Mark Jackson (Villanova) and senior defenseman Henry Lobb (Duke).
Then, off a Friars’ turnover in the Episcopal defensive zone, Churchmen senior defender Elliot Albert scooped a ground ball and raced across midfield into the offensive zone.
Albert passed over the recovering Friars’ defense to junior attackman Shane Morrell, who stepped in and buried a point blank shot past Malvern senior goalie and North Carolina recruit Andrew O’Connell (nine saves).
Albert and fellow senior defenders Jackson Place (Bucknell) and Bryson Craft not only frustrated Malvern Prep’s attack early but showed ability to fuel Episcopal’s offense.
“The defensive side of the ball is our strength this year,” Episcopal coach Andy Hayes said. “These three guys are tremendous athletes who are able to start transition. They are always trying to get up field, make assists and make plays.”
Churchmen sophomore goaltender Tyler Morrell made 12 saves in the win.
Entering the fourth period up 6-3, Odell scored with 11:35 remaining to stretch the lead to four.
The Friars’ Jackson scored his second goal of the game off an assist from senior midfielder Bobby Hill (Virginia), who then scored against with 2:05 remaining. But their second surge fell short.
“We just kind of outlasted them in the fourth quarter, despite the weather,” Hayes said.
Malvern Prep 0 0 3 2 5
Episcopal Academy 1 2 3 1 7
MP: Mark Jackson 2, Keith Dryer, Henry Lobb, Bobby Hill.
EA: Tyler Odell 2, Joe Scullin, Bryson Craft, Andrew Gordon, Chase Growney, Shane Morrell.
Saves – MP Andrew O’Connell 9; EA Tyler Morrell 12.