Conestoga three-peats in lacrosse

Posted: June 10, 2012

HERSHEY, Pa. - From the outset, Conestoga coach Brian Samson professed that this season held a particular significance.

With 21 seniors on his roster of 37, it made for an extended swan song for a team rich with talent and Division I stars-to-be. Only a state title would provide a fitting send-off.

The Pioneers delivered Saturday, outdueling La Salle, 10-7, for their third straight PIAA boys' lacrosse championship at Hersheypark Stadium.

Tyler Brooke, a Maryland signee, led Conestoga with four goals, recording a hat trick before halftime. Bradlee Lord, who will continue as Brooke's teammate in college, assisted Brooke three times, finishing with four assists and two goals. Connor Frisina, ticketed for Delaware, scored twice as well, as Conestoga (23-3) topped La Salle (20-5) for the second time in four years in the state finals.

"What a day for our seniors. Looking at our scoring and our attack, what a day," Samson said. "I don't think Connor, Bradlee, Tyler, Jamie [Ikeda], Jared [Jacobs], Miles [Thomas] - I don't think anyone could have had a better game. They played so hard and so well today."

The victory capped an impeccable four-year run for this senior class. Conestoga went 96-8, swept four District 1 titles and advanced to four straight PIAA title games, winning three, in their tenure. Their only postseason blemish was a loss to La Salle in the 2009 championship game.

"It means so much," Brooke said. "This is what we've been working for the whole season. We have 21 seniors, and all of them have been part of this championship run. I want to thank those seniors for everything they've done."

La Salle jumped to a 3-1 lead 15 minutes into the game, but a four-goal second quarter took Conestoga into halftime with a 5-4 lead. The Pioneers mounted a 7-2 run to lead by 8-5 at the start of the fourth.

La Salle junior Matt Rambo (one goal, three assists) was in on each of the Explorers' first-half scores, but was held without a point in the second half. After intermission, Conestoga committed to marking Rambo, a 60-goal scorer this year, one-on-one, with Connor Scott as his primary defender.

"We wanted to shut him off. We wanted to not let him get the ball," Samson said. "He is so good. He's such a special player that we had to do something."

Conestoga's defense was outstanding overall, containing an Explorers team that had averaged 13.33 goals in three previous state games. Not even Sean Coleman, La Salle's wiz of a midfielder, managed more than a goal.

"It was more about us than them. We wanted to play our game," said Ikeda, a defender. "We know they're good players and we're a good team, too. We went toe-to-toe with them."

Conestoga goalies Brody Shea and Robbie Zonino each played a half. Shea made four saves, and Zonino recorded six, including a clutch stop on a La Salle breakaway when the Pioneers led by one goal early in the third quarter.

La Salle, the Catholic League and District 12 champion, made its third title-game appearance in four years. It fell to Conestoga in the 2010 final and in a regular-season encounter May 5, when the Pioneers eked out a 5-4 win. The Explorers - champs in '09, beating Conestoga - will return 19 juniors next year.

"I hope they absolutely hated to lose," La Salle coach Bill Leahy said of his players. ". . . They love to win, but they don't despise losing. I think it was Michael Jordan who said, 'It's the losses that drove me to greatness, not the wins.' "

La Salle   2 2 1 2 – 7

Conestoga   1 4 3 2 – 10

Goals: LS-Matt Rambo, Stephen Hudak, Adam Schaal, Adam Stefanowicz 2, Sean Coleman, Brian McNamara; C-Tyler Brooke 4, Jake Scott, Connor Frisina 2, Bradlee Lord 2, Pierre Atkinson.

Saves: LS-Corey Schaffer 8; C-Brody Shea 4, Robbie Zonino 6.


Contact Evan Burgos at rallysports@phillynews.com.

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