CHERRY HILL – This is probably Ryan Landis’ last ride.
The Cherry Hill East goalkeeper played the best stick of his life in the first five weeks of the 2022 season, but when he puts his stick down in June he won’t take it back in anger.
Landis will move to York (Pennsylvania) College in the fall and may end up playing for a club team, but his main focus will be mechanical engineering.
“It all started with LEGO,” Landis said. “I love taking things apart, seeing how they work and putting them back together. My car, my dad’s car, I’ll take anything apart.
On Monday, he made 14 saves, and it was Egg Harbor Township that was dismantled. Four goals from Cooper Pike and three each from Tyler Short and Jason Jaczko propelled the Cougars to a 12-3 win.
It was 12-3, but it wasn’t a 12-3 game. The slow-starting Cougars only led by a pair after the first quarter and might as well have been behind, except for the guy on the back line.
Landis snatched Tyler Wright’s perimeter drive in the air in the second minute. He went in the air to knock down an attempt at the right post from Tevon Belgrave a moment later and again kept Belgrave from going over his head at the left post a few minutes later.
In the second quarter, he dropped to his knees to stop Zack Pennock’s rebound attempt and made two back-to-back saves on Belgrave – who grabbed a rebound after his first shot from close range, only for Landis to deflect the second.
The variety of his saves was as impressive as the volume.
“He was unstoppable today. He’s been unstoppable all year,” said Short, whose 17 goals lead the Cougars. on us to score.
Not quite true, as it turns out. Cherry Hill East coach Lou Cerino is thrilled with Landis’ performance, but he wouldn’t mind if fewer of those stops were needed.
“He’s been our rock so far this year,” Cerino said. “There’s been a lot of games this year where he’s bailed us out. We don’t like to see him get to that point, but we’re one of the lucky teams that has this thing that we can say is holding us back. in defense – he’s had a few wins and held us back, but we’ve got to start getting ahead of him, just to not put so much pressure on him at the end of the day.
The pressure doesn’t get to him, though – that’s the whole secret of Landis’ approach.
“You really have to stay as calm as possible,” he said. “I just focus on seeing the stick and making the save. It really is the most important part of the game.”
If the pressure doesn’t get to you, neither does the momentum. Landis doesn’t ignite to make the next stop by the effort it took to make the last one. His regular keel serves him well and he struggles to maintain it.
“If they come in or I save them, I really have to keep my mind on the game and the next move,” he said. “No matter how many I save, I just watch the next move.”
The Cougars scored four straight goals to open the second quarter. Short’s second made it 7-1 with 4:36 to go.
You can take a deep breath at this time.
“It certainly helps relieve the pressure from the defense,” Landis said. “They are a rock. They are the reason why I make so many saves. They force so many easy shots. But I think attacking, really pushing and holding the ball really helps us as a defense to catch our breath, relax and rethink what we’re going to do for the rest of the game.
Landis took a step back to rethink his lacrosse career in his freshman year. He was a member of the Bishop Eustace team, moving into goalkeeping for the first time, and he was just frustrated with his lack of progress. He left the team mid-season.
There was little progress to be made in its second season either; it was lost due to the COVID shutdown.
When Landis returned to the field, he was a member of the Cougars and all that frustration was behind him.
“We have a bunch of great coaches. Coach (Justin) Meyers, my sophomore year brought a goalie coach – coach (Justin) Colbeck,” Landis said. “And he really helped me progress as a goalkeeper, he gave me drills and inspired me to improve, in every game and in every training session.
It’s something the Cougars have done as a team this season. A win over West Deptford on Thursday would give them a 9-1 record, which would be their best start since the 2016 season.
Landis was the fuel that powered this drive.
“He’s the first out there when somebody’s down, he’s the first to pick somebody up, and he’s been losing his mind all season,” Cerino said. “And the guys bought into the way he plays and the way he handles his business. It was a great help to us. He was a leader for us last year, and he has played an even bigger role for us this year, on and off the pitch.
The two go together in an unusual way for Landis, a member of Cherry Hill East’s Athletes Against Bullying organization. It doesn’t do much to put opposing shooters at ease, but there’s room for everyone.
“I really like – not being a leader, but I really like being nice to everyone,” he said. “I want to make sure everyone is welcome and everyone can really feel like they can approach me.”
John A. Lewis is a sports reporter for the Burlington County Times, Courier Post and The Daily Journal. Email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @JohnLewis19. Please consider supporting local journalism with a subscription.