The common move for York County lacrosse players recently has been south.
Since last season ended, several of the top players in the county have committed to NCAA Division II colleges in Florida. Red Lion’s Ben Hornberger and York Catholic’s Chandler Hake will play at Florida Tech, while York Catholic’s Cole Witman and Drew Snelbaker are joining forces at Tampa.
Susquehannock’s Connor Kernan, however, is going north for college. The junior goalie verbally committed recently to NCAA Division I Cleveland State.
“When I met with the coaches, saw the school and saw the facility, I really liked it,” Kernan said. “I met some of the kids on the team, and I felt that was where I wanted to be.”
New program: Cleveland State’s men’s lacrosse program was created in 2017, and Kernan, whose other options were Salisbury, Bryant and High Point, said he’s excited to join an “up-and-coming program.”
“It’s a newer program,” Kernan said. “The mentality the coaches have for the game and their passion for the game is great. The campus is downtown in the city, and there’s a lot to do. They’re putting a lot into the lax team up there, and that’s nice to see.”
The Vikings went 9-19 in their first two seasons combined but are 4-6 this season with close losses to No. 1 Penn State, No. 20 Michigan and No. 15 Ohio State.
About Kernan: Growing up in southern York County, Kernan started playing lacrosse in Hereford, Maryland.
“Lacrosse is our family sport. I started playing in preschool,” he said.
Kernan started playing goalie almost immediately, which he attributes to his fast development as a Division I-level player.
“I just say the biggest thing is you get better each year," he said "You’re not jumping into something random. You don’t have to catch up to other guys.”
Kernan saw some varsity time as a freshman and started last season for a Susquehannock team that made it to the PIAA playoffs for the first time in program history.
“That was a big year I had last year. I got (second-team) all county, but our team had a lot of success, which matters more,” he said.
Quick hands: Tom Mayne, who is in his first season coaching Susquehannock, said the first thing he noticed about Kernan was how quick his hands were.
“The first thing I look for in a goalie is if a guy has quick hands and fast reaction times,” Mayne said. “I think that’s what sets him apart as a goalie.”
Mayne also said Kernan’s stick skills, which some goalies overlook, are also crucial to his success.
“A lot of goalies neglect their stick work,” Mayne said. “They may be able to stop the ball, but when you ask them to pass it, they can’t. Goalies have to make precision passes quite often. He can do those things as well. That’s a sign of a good goalie and someone who is dedicated to their craft.”
Leadership skills: Kernan’s “dedication” to the program, Mayne said, is what stood out about the junior goalie when he first met him. Kernan was involved in the interview process to bring in the former Central York head coach, and Mayne said his demeanor was impressive.
“What I like about Connor is he’s dedicated to the team first and foremost," Mayne said. "He’s been very communicative about the team, and I can tell his desire to work with this team and continue an uphill trend, not fall off the map after being such a storied program here for so long. His commitment and leadership are noticeable, and that’s why I made him one of our captains.”
The Warriors graduated 13 seniors from last year’s squad. Mayne doesn’t know what to expect from his squad this season, but he knows he will at least have a good goalie. In the Warriors' first game of the season, Kernan tallied 18 saves in Susquehannock's 13-9 loss to defending league tournament champion York Catholic.
“As a coach, he’s a great asset for me to have. Especially in my first year, I know if we have a good goalie we can do a lot wrong and still look good on paper if he plays well. Any team that plays us knows what they’re facing in him.”
Reach Jacob Calvin Meyer at firstname.lastname@example.org.