Coleman and La Salle seniors go out winners

Posted: June 10, 2013

HERSHEY - They all wanted a shot "with Sean." Parents, teammates, friends, coaches, assistant coaches, anyone associated with the La Salle High lacrosse program yanked at Sean Coleman's jersey sleeves pulling him every which way Saturday afternoon at Hersheypark Stadium.

Partly because Coleman was a senior, and an integral piece of La Salle's state championship lacrosse team. Partly because Coleman scored more points than any player on the field. But, mostly because he was the leader.

On and off the field, the Harvard-bound Coleman was the spiritual and emotional fulcrum of a special group of La Salle seniors who ran over a pretty gutsy Conestoga team, 13-4, to capture its first state lacrosse championship since 2009.

La Salle (23-2) and Conestoga appeared for the fourth time in five PIAA state finals, since the PIAA first began sanctioning lacrosse in 2009.

For the Explorers' seniors, Conestoga (15-11), the three-time defending state champion, always stood in the way of closing. The Pioneers beat Coleman and his senior teammates when they were freshmen in 2010 and again last year, as juniors.

Coleman, Matt Rambo and Jeff Cimbalista, La Salle's explosive senior-laden attack, weren't going to let that happen again. The trio combined for nine of La Salle's 13 goals and the Explorers jumped on the Pioneers with a commanding 6-0 lead in the first quarter.

Coleman finished with a game-high six points (two goals, four assists), followed by Cimbalista (three goals, one assist) and the multi-talented Rambo, considered by many the nation's best player, who finished with four goals - including a hat trick in the opening 8 minutes.

Taking special solace in this state title, Coleman admitted he was spoiled early in his athletic career at La Salle, winning a state championship in football his freshman year in 2009. Since then, each time Coleman reached Hershey, he was denied.

Until Saturday.

In 2010, the spring of his freshman year, he lost to Conestoga in the state lacrosse finals, then fell to North Allegheny in the fall of 2010, his sophomore year, in the football championship game. In 2012, the spring of his junior year, he had a down game against Conestoga in losing to the Pioneers again in the state lacrosse championship.

Beating the Pioneers this time was a great bookend finish for Coleman, who still opted to play football last fall despite committing to Harvard for lacrosse. The selfless act cost Coleman the first 2 months of this lacrosse season, recovering from a broken left tibia he suffered in the Explorers' state semifinal loss in December to Coatesville.

But Coleman wouldn't change a thing. He wanted to play football because he didn't want to let his buddies down, who relied on him as a game-changing slot back and kick returner. It's that character that made him such a magnetic force for both the football and lacrosse teams.

It's no coincidence that when Coleman returned to lacrosse this spring, after spending countless hours in the training room, the Explorers went 21-0 - including the state championship.

"That's typical Sean, always thinking of others before he thinks about himself," La Salle lacrosse coach Bill Leahy said. "I'm really going to miss him. I think if you talk to any teacher or coach at La Salle they would say the same thing about the kid. There's a reason he's going to Harvard.

"This group had the best chemistry of any team that I've ever had. They love each other and play for each other. We played a lot of people. Once we got Sean back, we were undefeated. When he came back, Sean became the facilitator. He and Matt were like Batman and Robin."

Afterward, Coleman couldn't wipe the smile off his face. He kept looking down at the gold medal dangling from his neck. He went out a winner.

"You win as a freshman and think every year is going to be like that, but I've been to three other state finals and lost, so this is a nice way to go out," Coleman said. "To me, I don't think I did much; I just played two sports that I really loved. But this is bittersweet. It's been an awesome 4 years at La Salle. You don't realize how tough it is to win a state championship until you lose one. It's something that I'll never forget."

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