By Joseph Santoliquito
Phillylacrosse.com, Posted 6/9/19
He got lost amidst the sea of white. Somewhere in the middle of all the hugging, and hand slapping, and raised arms was La Salle senior Brett Mallee.
The Explorers just won their third PIAA state lacrosse championship, beating off a late charge by Conestoga to walk away 7-5 winners in capturing the Class 3A title on Saturday at West Chester East High School.
It was La Salle’s first state title since 2013—Matt Rambo’s senior year as an Explorer.
And, it seemed, all anyone could do was find and hug Mallee— “the captain,” who had been through so much physically to even be able to step on the field. Mallee missed the second half of last year recovering from a torn ACL in his left knee. The Yale-bound long-stick midfielder was forced to watch La Salle lose in the state championship to Manheim Township from the sidelines.
This year, Mallee missed three weeks with a hip flexor and a separated left shoulder. He came back for the Catholic League playoffs and the PIAA 3A state playoffs.
On Saturday, he was a bandaged, braced-up mummy under his white La Salle No. 1 uniform, wearing a brace on his left knee and over his left shoulder, to keep his iffy shoulder from falling out.
When Mallee was mentioned to Explorers’ coach Bill Leahy, the word that came instantly to mind was “warrior.”
If a doctor had checked Mallee, he may have found glue, tape and paste that pieced him together.
“It was great to be back here this year and see this,” said Mallee, who was on three state title teams in his four years at La Salle, winning this year. “We were here twice before and lost it.
“I was forced to watch last year after I got hurt. A lot of guys on this team watched last year, and this year, they came out to play.”
The Explorers did not come into the season as a state favorite, as they have many times before. But this year’s team fulfilled a mission.
“We’re a tight-knit group and the guys have helped me this year,” Mallee said. “The guys stuck their heads down and kept working. It gives me pride and joy that these guys respect me as a leader that much. We had some embarrassing games this year, some shots at our pride.
“Even today, when the game was tied, 5-5, we kept battling.”
Mallee grinned when he was asked how he felt. He did a very good job of hiding the pain. The state championship gold medal hanging from his neck probably had a lot to do with that.
“I’m exhausted, but this is a great feeling,” said Mallee, who was playing with a separated left shoulder. “My whole left side is in a little bit of shambles. The last few weeks my left shoulder was slipping out a little bit, and my left knee is a little swollen. But I have some time to recover.
“The one thing I’ll take from this season and this group of guys will be our team motto, ‘Dig in.’ There was noise in the beginning of the season. We didn’t have a lot of returning starters and much experience back. It showed in the beginning of the year. There was noise outside of our team about this not being a ‘typical La Salle team,’ with the talent we had.
“But we fought through it. This is probably one of the best La Salle ‘team teams’ you can have here. Everyone loves each other. Everyone is willing to work for each other. There were definitely La Salle teams that were more talented than us.
“But as far as a true team, where guys stick together and fight for each other – and play for each other – I don’t know if you can find a better one than this La Salle team.”
Leahy said Mallee embodied what this Explorer team was about.
“Brett is a warrior, he’s barely patched together,” Leahy said. “He has a separated shoulder. His ACL was put back together. He’s like the bionic man and just keeps competing and competing. I would say he is the (composite) of what this team is about—and he is a captain, and the guys look to him as the ‘warrior,’ the guy who fights for it.”
Despite the soreness he was going to feel in the coming days, Mallee will have a lasting memory: “I’ll remember that since the beginning of the season, I envisioned running around the field, throwing my helmet off and celebrating a state championship with my brothers.
“That vision came true today.”
Tags: La Salle