Phillylacrosse.com, Posted 4/29/21
La Salle’s Jack Pilling said Explorers coach Rob Forster asked his team not to be distracted by the family matchup while preparing for Thursday’s long-anticipated non-league game vs. Academy of the New Church.
“Coach Forster talked to us this week in practice and today before the game and reiterated that this is just another game,” said Pilling, noting that Forster’s brothers, Jack (ANC head coach) and Kevin (associated head coach) would be leading the foes. “He didn’t want us focusing on the brother vs. brother matchup and wanted us to focus on ourselves and get better as a team.
“Coach did a great job at making it feel like just another game and prepared us to play at our best.”
After a slow start, the Explorers – ranked No. 3 by Phillylacrosse.com – played their best, scoring the final three goals of the first half to take a 7-4 lead before claiming a 13-8 triumph over the No. 10 Lions.
The Forster connection is strong at La Salle (10-1); in fact Rob (Class of 2005) helped lead La Salle to its first state title in 2004; Jack played three years at La Salle and then they later played together at Penn State. Rob Forster also coached as an assistant at La Salle before taking over a struggling and small ANC program in 2014 before quickly turning it into a prep power. Rob Forster led ANC to five straight Friends Schools League championships, with Jack Forster (also a La Salle standout) as his assistant the whole time.
Rob coached for a year in college at Penn and in 2019 his replacement, Jack, led ANC to another title (with younger brother and former La Salle great Kevin as his assistant) and was named Phillylacrosse.com Co-Coach of the Year.
Meanwhile, Rob was named as the replacement for Bill Leahy after the Explorers won the 2019 PIAA Class AAA championship. The teams would have played last year – but the pandemic came, of course, to cancel the season.
Finally, COVID could not stop this exciting matchup. The game did not disappoint. ANC actually led, 3-2, at one point and it was 4-4 midway through the second period before La Salle’s depth was too much for ANC to stay even.
Pilling had five goals to lead the La Salle attack, while Mason Lasasz scored three and Charlie Huntley and Franky Fix each added two goals and two assists. Stevie Davis won 10 of 17 faceoffs.
“I have a lot respect for ANC and how they play,” said Rob Forster. “Jack, Kevin and the rest of their staff do a great job with their team and they compete at a high level.
“It was pretty nerve racking leading up to the game because I am their No. 1 supporter and want them to always do well so it is hard competing against them as their brother. It was bittersweet but thought our guys played well today.”
Jack Forster said his team jet the challenge, but was facing a deep and talented squad.
“Going into the game we knew what we had to do, we knew they were going to try and get up and down the field and play fast,” he said. “The middle of the field hurt us in the ride, clear and even some face offs. They took advantage of every little mistake and ended up taking its toll on us.
“I’m proud of our guys and how they battled all game during a humid day. La Salle was very disciplined, unselfish and made us pay for every mistake we made which is what great teams do.”
Jack Forster also wanted his players to play the game for them, not for the coaching rivalry.
“Going into the game I wanted to make this game about about our guys and what we had to do to beat La Salle,” he said. “It was very weird for Kevin and I going against Rob. It was probably the first time we have been on opposite sidelines since PC vs. La Salle my freshman year in high school (before he transferred to La Salle)56, but you don’t see three brothers coaching against each other very often. I am sure we will remember this forever.”
Pilling said his team is starting to gear for the playoffs.
“Up to this point in the season the guys have been getting to know their roles,” he said. “Our end goal has always been to make a run into early June.
“As the weather is changing and we get into May, our energy at practice is increasing and everyone is focused on the same goal. With our season being canceled last year, our team is very fortunate to make it this far and we hope to capitalize on the opportunity given to use this year in playoffs.
Pilling said the Explorers appreciate the chance to play the sport they love more than ever due to the loss of the 2020 season and the need to follow protocols to assure they get a shot in 2021.
“Every time we step on the field we know how lucky we are to get the opportunity to play,” he said. “When we end practice our coaches always remind us to be smart outside of school and look out for everyone on the team.
“One wrong action could effect our entire season and everyone is well aware of the potential consequences. Our team has showed a lot of maturity through this whole process and everyone is looking out for the guy next to them.”
La Salle 13, Academy of the New Church 8
Jack Vandegrift 2 assists
Andrew Kelly 1 assist
Charlie Huntley- 2 goals 2 assists
Jack Pilling 5 goals
Franky Fix 2 goals 2 assists
Mason Lasasz 3 goals
Stevie Davis 1 goal
Matty Wills 1 assist
Stevie Davis 10/17 FO
Seth Michalak 1/5 FO
Luke Hreshko 7 saves
ANC – stats to come