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PIAA boys’ AAA quarterfinals: Gritty defense, solid goaltending help La Salle past Parkland, 6-3

Sunday, 3rd June 2018

Categories Boy's/Men's, High School  

By Chris Jastrzembski, Posted 6/3/18

The finale of a PIAA quarterfinal quadruple-header at Exeter Township High School was originally scheduled for 6 PM before getting pushed back to 7:30 a couple days before the game.

Mike Clibanoff

Then after the first three games with two weather delays, La Salle and Parkland finally took the field around 9:15, nearly two hours after the scheduled start time for the day. It didn’t bother La Salle at all.

“I got to listen to my pump-up music more, which was awesome,” said La Salle senior goalie Mike Clibanoff. “It was great listening to that, and I just got going right when I stepped on the turf.”

Combine that with graduation for the Explorer seniors, and many of them exploded with energy from the start. That energy and their “Philly ball” style of gritty play aided La Salle (18-4) in a 6-3 win over District 11 champion Parkland (20-4). La Salle advances to Tuesday’s PIAA AAA semifinals against Conestoga – a 12-6 winner over Avon Grove – at a site and time to be determined.

From the get-go, Explorers on both sides of the ball stymied Parkland’s athletic personnel.

“They’re really good and they have a lot of athletic, free-playing, free-styling, whipping it around the field and the whole game was to never let their horses get out of the barn,” said La Salle hed coach Bill Leahy.

The District 12 champs got going 43 seconds in, as freshman attackman Rob Foster found senior midfield Brendan Meagher moving across the middle for the game’s first tally. Meagher would find the back of the net again 2:32 later to extend La Salle’s lead to two.

Senior midfielder Luke Summers cut the Explorer lead in half to get Parkland on the scoreboard, but the Explorers began to use long offensive possessions midway through the opening quarter. Despite only winning two face-offs on the night – one of them coming on a face-off violation to start the game – La Salle ate up clock by valuing possessions. Patience paid off, as senior attackman Matt Clibanoff’s tally late in the quarter to give the Explorers a 3-1 lead.

La Salle continued to produce quality shots in the second quarter. Senior midfielder Ethan Masucci beat hit short-stick defender behind the crease to give the Explorers a three-goal lead, before senior midfielder Andrew Albertson (11 of 13 faceoffs) ripped a shot from the top of the restraining box to reduce the Explorer lead to two. Senior midfielder Ethan LaMond, however, managed to sneak his way past two Parkland defenders to give the Explorers a 5-2 halftime lead.

The third quarter was a defensive 12 minutes for both teams, with neither team recording a goal. Though La Salle failed to score on its long possessions, Mike Clibanoff (8 saves) stood out in goal.

Shane Cassel

“I saw a bunch of explosive dodgers that could crank the ball,” said Clibanoff, bound for Ohio State. “LSMs and the short-stick d-mids did a heck of a job sticking with their hips, checking down on their passes, checking down on their shots. I’m so grateful to have them all.”

The game was still in reach for Parkland, as senior midfielder Braden Groff gave the Raiders their first goal in nearly 25 minutes to make it a two-goal game once again. But Foster responded 65 seconds later for La Salle with his lone goal of the night.

And that’s where the Explorer defense took over. Clibanoff made two big saves to stuff Parkland, and junior SSDM Shane Cassel made a diving play late in the game to give the Explorers possession with 50 seconds left.

“I just wanted to get the ball down to the offense and I knew there would be a greater chance to get it down there if I dove for it,” Cassel said. “Plus, I was getting a little tired at the end. Getting a little extra effort in, and that one play could really save a lot of time and energy for myself getting me another run at the end if I needed it.”

Leahy commended Cassel’s hustle play at the postgame huddle and told him it was one of the best plays he’s seen during his time at La Salle.

The Explorers look to win their first State Championship since 2013, when they defeated Conestoga. Both teams will meet again in a postseason setting for the first time since that meeting up in Hershey.

Even though the Explorers defeated the Pioneers back in late March, both teams have significantly changed since. And the result should end up closer than the 8-3 result on La Salle’s turf.

“I’m expecting it to be a good game,” Mike Clibanoff said. “Us and Conestoga is a classic rivalry. We all have a lot of depth. We go at it hard. It should be a good game.”

La Salle 6, Parkland 3
La Salle 3-2-0-1-6
Parkland 1-1-0-1-3

La Salle
Brendan Meagher: 2Gs
Rob Foster: 1G, 2As
Matt Clibanoff: 1G
Ethan Masucci: 1G
Ethan LaMond: 1G
Mike Clibanoff: 8 saves on 21 shots

Greg Santa-Anna: 2As
Luke Summers: 1G
Andrew Albertson: 1G, 11 of 13 FO
Braden Groff: 1G
James McLaughlin: 8 saves on 33 shots

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