By Chris Goldberg
Phillylacrosse.com, Posted 5/21/14
Zach Drake scored with 8.8 seconds to play to lift La Salle to an 8-7 victory tonight over St. Joseph’s Prep in the Catholic League boys’ lacrosse championship game at Neumann University.
The win advances the Explorers (13-7) into Friday’s District 11 title game vs. Northeast at the Northeast Supersite, at 3:30 p.m. The winner of that game moves on to the PIAA tournament as the lone district representative.
The title was La Salle’s third straight and 19th in 22 season of the Catholic League.
St. Joe’s Prep closes at 14-6.
But The Prep did not go down easily as it rallied from a 6-4 deficit in the fourth period and tied it, 7-7 on Pat Walsh’s third goal, a miraculous behind-the-back score with 51.3 seconds to play.
But La Salle dominated the possessions behind freshman Anthony Giuliani (16 of 19 face-offs) and Drake beat his man off a Mitchell Soufleris pick and put one past Michael Marchese.
“I knew the time was short and I got a great pick from Mitch. I came over and saw I had the opening and I looked at the goal and saw white and I hit it,” said Drake.
La Salle was blanked in the first half and fell behind, 3-0, while struggling to solve a strong zone by St. Joseph’s Prep. But the second half saw a drastic change of momentum as junior Aidan Kerrigan (three goals) scored twice in the first 2:45 of the third period to kickstart the Explorers’ attack.
“I think we were a little jittery and we all wanted to make a great play,” said Drake. “The coaches said, ‘Calm down and work as a team and move the ball around and we’ll be fine.'”
Stephen Hudak tied it less than a minute later and after Walsh made it 4-3, Michael Rihm tied it and Soufleris scored twice to give La Salle a 6-4 lead 28 seconds into the final period.
Steve Tobia (two goals) made it 6-5, but Kerrigan scored his third before Walsh scored two more tie it.
Colin MacDougall had 10 saves in goal for La Salle.
“The coaches told us how to bust the zone and we came out with a lot of momentum and started shooting,” said MacDougall of the second-half explosion. “One goal led to another goal and the defense would make a stop and we’d get another goal.
As one of the few returning regulars from last year’s state title team, MacDougall said he was not surprised to see his team win another league crown.
“I think we were well prepared and we have great coaches – Tony Resch and (head coach) Bill Leahy – who can turn anyone into a superstar,” said MacDougall “This is the biggest game of our season and we knew if we beared down and did what we needed to do we’d win.”
Leahy said he changed a few things at halftime.
“We told our guys to go directly at the zone,” he said. “Dodge better and if not, swing the ball. We went with our seniors and took out some of the freshmen, and they got it done.”
Did Leahy think the Explorers would repeat as league champions after losing a monster senior class and relying heavily on underclassmen this year?
“Yes,” he said, emphatically. “I just thought we have a great coaching staff and if we worked real hard they’d come around. There was plenty of talent.
“They just needed experience so we made a hard schedule. Look at our losses: Calvert Hall, DeMatha, Hill Academy, Malvern Prep, Haverford. We didn’t have a bad loss. We would have liked to have a win, we just didn’t get them. So it was a matter of time.
“That’s how you get better. They got there. We turned the corner and got it done and we beat them twice and that’s not easy to do against a real good team like that.”
St. Joe’s Prep coach Eric Gregg credited La Salle, and remained proud of his team.
“I’m so proud of our guys,” he said. “We just happened to run into a team tonight that had one more play than us. I am going to miss our seniors; they are super athletic and super competitive and we just came up short today.”
La Salle 8, St. Joseph’s Prep 7
St. Joseph’s Prep 1-2-1-3- 7
La Salle 0-0-5-3- 8
St. Joseph’s Prep
Kevin Stump 2g, 1a
Griffin Fleming 1a
Steve Tobia 2g
Pat Walsh 3g
Chase Young 1a
Mike Marchese 8 saves
Aidan Kerrigan 3g
Stephen Hudak 1g
Michael Rihm 1g
Mitchelle Soufleris 2g
Cody Mazurek 1a
Zach Drake 1g
Trent Melsheimer 1a
Colin MacDougall 10 saves
Anthony Giuliani 16 of 19 FO