Malvern Hosts 2021 GEICO High School Lacrosse Showcase

The second annual event consisted of two games that were nationally televised on ESPNU. The Friars handily took care of The Lawrenceville School (NJ) 16-3, while Brunswick School (CT) barely edged out The Haverford School 9-8.

Matt Powers, Editor-in-Chief

Hosting an event of this magnitude is no easy task. Athletic Director Jim Stewart Jr. had his work cut out for him once he received a call that ESPN would be traveling to South Warren Ave in less than a month.

“There was lots of planning involved – meetings, answering questions via emails and phone calls, helping their producers get to know our community and lacrosse team, coordinating the flow of traffic on campus at that time, coordinating guests/fans with the other schools involved, marketing the event, and a lot more behind the scenes. It was all worth it as it was a fabulous event” Stewart said.

Stewart adds that some of the pandemic concerns were lifted off his shoulders due to ESPN’s stringent COVID-19 protocols, but Malvern still had to enforce their own protocols as well.

“I believe things would have been a bit less hectic if it were a normal year,” Stewart said. “ESPN has strict protocols in place for their employees and we had to accommodate them. We had the challenge of making sure that we didn’t have an overflow of people trying to attend the game so that we could stay within our Covid protocols. But, perhaps the greatest challenge was being accessible for their last-minute needs, but this was a wonderful learning experience for our athletic department.”

Not only was this event great for student-athletes to showcase their skills, but it also gave the school tremendous exposure on a national level.

“Given the beauty of our campus and nice cooperation from Mother Nature, we had a terrific showcase for all viewers to see,” Stewart said. “The fact that we were dominant in our game definitely helps our program from a marketing standpoint. They also had a couple of clips of our Rugby and JV Baseball games during breaks, which was a nice ‘plus’ that marketed our athletic program.”

With his mind locked in on the game, Head Varsity Lacrosse Coach Mr. John McEvoy ’86 was happy to hear the positive feedback from the community following the event.

“I haven’t seen the TV production yet, only the game tape, but I’ve heard that Malvern showed really well, the campus looked warm and welcoming, and the entire event was well run,” McEvoy said. “Obviously, we ran away with the game and it reflected well on our program, but it’s also good for Malvern to be represented like this in front of a lot of people.”

To keep his players calm before the game, McEvoy advised them to stay level-headed, focused, and play their game. 

“Our goal as the team was to not make the game any bigger than any other game this year and to treat it normally,” said senior midfielder Cooper Frankenheimer. “Keeping a level head is something that Coach Mac [McEvoy] and the captains keep saying because if we get caught up in the spotlight, we could end up not playing our game.”

Frankenheimer, pleased with the team’s dominant win, describes the event as a dream come true and a memory he will never forget.

“It was such a special time having my family from all over the country texting me that they were watching me on national TV, it’s a memory I’ll have forever,” Frankenheimer said. “It was even better since we had a great team win, it’s hard not to be happy when you win 16-3 against a really tough opponent.”

Frankenheimer, who will continue his lacrosse career next year at the University of North Carolina, believes this experience will be very beneficial when the Tar Heels compete on the national stage for years to come.

“I think this awesome experience will help prepare me for the future playing on TV much more often,” Frankenheimer said. “It will help because I will not need to think about all the outside distractions that playing on ESPN brings, and can just think about it as a normal game and prepare just like I would for any other game.”

Like Frankenheimer, senior attackman Eric Spanos will be playing on ESPN quite a bit over his next four years. Spanos is committed to the University of Maryland and made this announcement back in eighth grade.

Instead of becoming nervous before the game, Spanos was eager to get out there, compete, and play the game he loves.

“I was not nervous at all, rather excited because everyone was wishing me luck and had high spirits for me to be playing,” Spanos said. “We [the team] talked as a whole before the game about blocking out all of the extra stuff that could distract us like the nerves that came with a big game like this. We knew if we stuck to our brand of lacrosse and played our game, we would be just fine.”

After a five-goal performance that tied the tournament record, Spanos was presented with the game’s MVP award. However, his favorite aspect of the entire event was creating a life-long memory with his brothers.

“This game was definitely one of my favorite moments at Malvern because it was just genuinely fun seeing all of the guys on the team just cherish the moment,” Spanos said. “As well as being a senior, it was amazing to see some of our younger guys get out there on ESPN and just ball out.”

For senior leader Jake Brownley, his approach before the game stayed the same despite the high stakes and national spotlight.

“I made sure to tell the team that it is just another day at the office,” Brownley said. “Even with the cameras, commentators, and TV timeouts, my mindset and the team’s mindset stayed the same. No moment is too big for this team, not even being on ESPN changes the way we approach the game.”

Because of his experience, Brownley doesn’t get nervous before big games and mentioned that the only distractions he faced were the frequent TV timeouts.

“As soon as the game started I completely forgot that we were on ESPN, my mind was fully on the game,” Brownley said. “For better or worse, ESPN reminded me that I was on TV by having TV timeouts and big microphones on the field. Besides these distractions, I was able to have my mind completely focused on the game.”

For members of the junior class who are still in the recruitment process, which was limited this year due to COVID-19 restrictions, this game provided a chance for them to showcase their talents on the national stage. 

“The exposure in this event was huge for players who haven’t had many opportunities to get seen,” junior Jack Irish said. “ESPN and Malvern did a great job promoting the event, and we were really able to display our talent on national TV. It also showed what we are about as a team and how competitive and well we play together.”

Instead of worrying about all the people watching, junior defenseman Chris Datz approached it as a regular game, going out there and competing to the best of his ability.

“It was a great event and one that I really enjoyed. From an exposure standpoint, a lot of the younger guys played well and it was a great opportunity for coaches to see us play which has been difficult because of the pandemic. But at the end of the day, it was just a really fun event and we just went out there and played our hardest. We weren’t really worried about who was watching.”

Brian Ciarlone, another junior who is looking to play at the next level, saw this event as an opportunity for the entire team to get looked at by college coaches, especially the players who have struggled to get noticed during the pandemic.

“The national spotlight was great for players that are still trying to get recruited to a high division 1 team. The exposure at this high of a level is definitely a positive for our program because we have a lot of talented guys on our team who have had trouble with getting noticed during the pandemic. The event was great in that sense and it also reflected well on our program because of the big win.”