By Mike Prince
Phillylacrosse.com, Posted 4/19/13
In the 2009 Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association Championship game, La Salle defeated Conestoga to win its second straight state title. But since then, the Pioneers who have been the class of the state, winning three titles while defeated La Salle five consecutive times, twice in the finals.
But that streak ended Friday as the host Explorers, with star senior Sean Coleman back in the lineup, built a 10-0 third-period lead and blitzed Conestoga, 13-5.
Coleman, who had been out while recovering from a serious ankle injury sustained in the football season, finished with one goal and three assists. Seniors Matt Rambo and Jeff Cimbalista each added three and two goals to help the Explorers claim their first win over Conestoga (5-6) in four years.
“We lost five games in a row to (Conestoga) and to get that back under our belt was great,” La Salle coach Bill Leahy said. “To get that win, especially after the first half, was great.”
The Explorers (8-2, ranked No. 15 by TopLaxRecruits.com) definitely felt the effect of having Coleman back in the lineup. Last year he missed most of the season with another football injury.
“It was awesome to be back out there,” said the Harvard-bound Coleman, who took six shots on goal. “Obviously with being hurt last year and this year, it was frustrating, and I can’t even explain how excited I was to play.”
After several quality scoring chances, Coleman found senior Adam Schaal for the game’s first goal at the six-minute mark of the first quarter. Less than two minutes later, junior Stephen Hudak put La Salle up 2-0. Only six seconds later, sophomore Jack Auteri threw a perfect pass to Rambo, made it 3-0.
A late first-quarter goal by Rambo and goals by senior Brian McNamara, junior Michael Rihm and another by Hudak – thanks to a beautiful pass by Coleman – put La Salle up 7-0 at the half.
“The first half did not go well for us,” Conestoga coach Brian Samson said. “We had some things to figure out, but La Salle is a very good team and I give them a lot of credit.
“When you’re playing a lot of defense, it builds on itself and La Salle was winning the effort battle. Tthey just wore us down in the first half and they were good on capitalizing on our mistakes. We didn’t really make them pay for the mistakes they made.”
After Cimbalista scored early in the third quarter, Coleman scored his first goal, much to his team’s delight.
“Sean has been through so much two years in a row,” Leahy said. “Just to see him play was great.”
The Explorers continued to build on their lead, going up by as many as 11 goals late in the game before the Pioneers scored a few late goals.
“I thought our fourth quarter was a good effort,” Samson said. “We definitely started making some plays there at the end and that’s something to build on. La Salle was just better than us. They’re good and they were all over the field.”
For La Salle, Auteri tallied a game-high seven groundballs, while juniors Trent Melsheimer and Mitch Soufleris added fourth quarter goals.
La Salle senior goalkeeper Nick Hreshko stopped six shots in net, not allowing a single goal until the fourth quarter. Junior Colin MacDougall played the final four minutes and 40 seconds in goal, stopping three shots.
The Explorers outshot the Pioneers, 35-22, while collecting 17 groundballs to only 10 for Conestoga.
Even with the strong effort, Coleman believes that he didn’t play his best game on Friday.
“I think there’s definitely a lot of room for improvement,” he said. “I have a lot of kinks to break out. I played lacrosse three days this week, so it’s just good to get back on the field, especially after the last game I played in before this one being when we got killed by Conestoga. It was just awesome to come out and play them.”
With Coleman back, Leahy likes the Explorers’ chances moving forward, especially with the way his senior helps out his teammates on the field.
“It doesn’t put as much responsibility on guys like Matt (Rambo) when we have Sean out there,” Leahy said. “It’s like Batman and Robin. We’re just happy to have Robin back. It’s all good now.”
The Explorers will host Father Judge on Monday in a Philadelphia Catholic League game, but the game they are most looking forward to is a meeting with the Haverford School next Saturday at the Katie Samson Festival at Radnor.
“We have such a historic rivalry with Haverford,” Leahy said. “We’re such good friends with them and their coaches and it should make for a good day.”
Follow Mike Prince at @Mike_Prince21
La Salle 13, Conestoga 5
La Salle 4-3-3-3—13
Pierre Atkinson: 1 goal
Sam Friedman: 1 goal
Alex Mezel: 1 goal
Jake Scott: 1 goal, 1 assist
Matt Schleicher: 1 goal, 1 assist
Goalie Rob Zonino: 11 saves
Matt Rambo: 3 goals
Jeff Cimbalista: 2 goals
Stephen Hudak: 2 goals
Sean Coleman: 1 goal, 3 assists
Adam Schaal: 1 goal
Brian McNamara: 1 goal
Michael Rihm: 1 goal
Trent Melsheimer: 1 goal
Mitch Soufleris: 1 goal
Goalie Nick Hreshko: 6 saves
Goalie Colin MacDougall: 3 saves