La Salle to face nemesis for title

Jake Scott (left), celebrating a goal with teammates, and the Pioneers will aim for another state title.
Jake Scott (left), celebrating a goal with teammates, and the Pioneers will aim for another state title. (RON CORTES / Staff)
Posted: June 09, 2013

As Sean Coleman worked his way through the celebration Tuesday on the field at Cumberland Valley after La Salle's semifinal victory, someone pressed a giant Hershey's chocolate bar into his hands.

He didn't show any immediate interest in opening the treat.

Getting back to HersheyPark Stadium for the PIAA state boys' lacrosse championship game isn't going to be satisfying enough for the Explorers when they face old foe Conestoga in the final at 2:30 p.m. Saturday (live, Pennsylvania Cable Network).

Conestoga, the three-time defending champ, has been the burr in La Salle's saddle for the last four years. The Pioneers defeated La Salle in the title game twice during their run, including last year.

"I would not have anyone else besides Conestoga," said Coleman, a senior midfielder. "I was hoping."

The two teams come in off vastly different seasons.

Nationally ranked La Salle (22-2) has been dominant, winning 20 straight games, including a 13-5 pasting of Conestoga on April 19. Maryland-bound attack Matt Rambo is widely considered the area's best player.

Conestoga (15-10) has been a work in progress. After losing their entire attack and 70 percent of their goal production, the Pioneers lost three of their first five games and were 5-6 after losing to La Salle.

Lately, the Pioneers have looked more like the powerhouse they have been over the years. They've won five of their last seven, and both losses were by one goal. In the state semifinals, they reversed a district loss to Avon Grove by winning, 13-4.

"After that win, they were just a team that kind of feels like they finally turned some heads and raised some awareness," Conestoga coach Brian Samson said. "These guys have battled through a lot. We've been up and down, and I think to extend your season to as far as it can go is really special."

Samson knew it would take time to develop the offense, and it's rounding into shape.

Junior Pierre Atkinson has become the leading scorer in the midfield, and junior Jake Scott has taken the reins of the attack. Senior Zack Schleicher moved to midfield and has helped shore up things there.

"I just really like this group of kids, and I believed in them," Samson said. "A lot of them were role players on prior state-championship teams, but this year, they've had to step into leadership roles where they're primary players."

Still, toppling La Salle will be no easy task.

The Explorers have won their three state-playoff games by a combined score of 33-9. They've given up only eight goals or more three times this season and haven't lost in more than two months.

"For us to beat them, we have to play a clean game," Samson said. "We can't have turnovers. Because La Salle will just make you pay for mistakes. We have to figure out a way to score eight goals on them. That's a tall order."

Contact Tim McManus at Follow on Twitter @ByTimMcManus.

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