By James Boyle
TopLaxrecruits.com, Posted 6/4/13
WEST CHESTER, Pa. – The Conestoga boys’ lacrosse team outscored Avon Grove, 12-1, in a stunning run that carried the Pioneers to a 13-4 victory over the Red Devils today in the PIAA semifinals at Henderson High.
The win vaulted the three-time defending state champion Pioneers (15-10) into the PIAA championship game vs. La Salle Saturday (2:30 p.m.) at Hersheypark Stadium.
Conestoga, the fourth-place team from District 1, has advanced to the PIAA finals for the fifth time in the five-year existence of the tourney. The Pioneers have played La Salle three times, defeating the Explorers in 2010 and 2012 while falling to the Explorers in 2009.
Sam Friedman led the Pioneers with three goals while Pierre Atkinson and Jake Scott each scored a pair of goals. Zach Schleicher had a goal and three assists, while Connor Ashton and Alex Mezey each had a goal and two assists.
La Salle was leading North Allegheny, the District 7 runner-up, 9-1 after one half of their game at Cumberland Valley.
Avon Grove, the District 1 champion, finished at 21-4.
Friedman gave the Pioneers their first lead of the day to close out the first half, capping a 3-0 run to end the period.
“We’ve really just been jelling as a team throughout the season,” Friedman said. “Some of our losses have made us come together, I think a little more on offense and really made us focus.”
Ashton connected with Friedman for his third goal to put the Pioneers up by two, 6-4, early in the second half. The Pioneers eventually scored nine straight goals to end the game.
Goalie Rob Zonino (10 saves) was instrumental in keeping his team in the game early, and the majority of his saves came in the first half when the offense was struggling to get possession.
“I definitely felt that in that moment it was kind of my time,” Zonino said. “That being a Senior and a captain I really had to step up and I had to shut these kids down so my offense could get going.”
Avon Grove’s Anthony Cardile was 11 of 20 on faceoffs. But the Red Devils struggled to hold onto the ball in the second half.
“I think we might have gotten the initial possession,” Avon Grove head coach Eric Jackson said. “But they swarmed the ball very well and there’s one thing in the stat book of winning faceoffs and there’s a whole other thing of keeping possession.”
Conestoga dominated possession in the final two quarters by forcing turnovers and picking up key ground balls.
“[Going back to the finals] means the word to us,” Jake Scott said. “We look forward to this every year. This is our goal at the beginning of the season to get to the state championship and we base every practice off getting here.”
Conestoga 13, Avon Grove 4
Sam Friedman 3g
Pierre Atkinson 2g
Jake Scott 2g
Alex Mezey 1g, 2a
Tim Langerhans 1g
Steve Hildebrand 1g
Connor Ashton 1g, 2a
Brendan Bassett 1g
Zack Schleicher 1g, 3a
Chris Brady 1a
Christian Jobs 1a
Robbie Zonino 10 saves
Beau Kush 2g
Matt King 1g
Steven Cyron 1a
Eric Russo 2a
Will Schreiner 6 saves
La Salle 14, North Allegheny 1
MECHANICSBURG – It’s been nearly a full calendar year since La Salle lost to Conestoga in the 2012 PIAA championship game, but the replay of that game still holds a special spot in Sean Coleman’s house.
It’s been saved on the Coleman DVR and occasionally the star Explorers midfielder will watch the replay. He’s not a fan, though.
“I didn’t personally have a really good game (against Conestoga),” said Coleman, who had two goals and three assists in La Salle’s 14-1 thrashing of North Allegheny in Tuesday’s PIAA semifinal at Cumberland Valley High. “It just fuels the fire. I know I’m going to watch it before this game.”
“This game” is another crack at the Pioneers, this time with the roles reversed heading into play. A year ago, it was senior-laden Conestoga taking out underdog La Salle, 10-7, for its third straight state title. Fast forward a year later and the Explorers (22-2), ranked No. 10 by TopLaxRecruits.com, will go into action as the favorites Saturday at Hersheypark Stadium at 2:30 p.m.
“That’s going to be the main factor,” said defenseman Stefan Bergman, who led the usual dominant effort from the La Salle defense. “You’ve got 19 or however many juniors last year that played in the game, we all remember what it was like to leave Hershey empty-handed. We’re definitely back to get it this year.”
They played like it against the Tigers (13-8), rolling out to leads of 4-0 and 9-1 after the first and second quarters, respectively. North Allegheny, like the rest of the state, had no answers for the lethal combination of Coleman and star attackman Matt Rambo. Rambo tallied five times in limited minutes, which was plenty of ammunition for an Explorers team that has outscored opponents 23-2 in the first halves of the state tournament.
Brian McNamara scored twice and set up another for La Salle, while Aidan Kerrigan tallied twice. Explorers coach Bill Leahy, fresh off his 400th career win last round against Garnet Valley, rolled out three goalies for No. 401. Nick Hreshko (five saves), Colin MacDougall (six saves) and Conor Scafidi (three saves) did the honors in net as Leahy substituted liberally.
Against Conestoga, which avenged a loss to Avon Grove in the District 1 tournament by handling the Red Devils, 13-4, La Salle will have plenty of motivation against a familiar foe. This will be the fourth time in five years that the two teams face other for state supremacy and the Pioneers hold a 2-1 edge in that series. The Explorers’ seniors would love nothing more than to even that margin up.
“We felt like we could beat them last year with all of our juniors against their seniors, so we’re going to come back this season” Bergman said. “We played them well during the season (a 13-5 win), so we feel like we match up well but it doesn’t mean anything.
“We saw that against Radnor, too. We saw them in the regular season and it was a blowout and they came right back and we won 6-4. We’re going to approach it like every other game and work hard and try to come out on top.”
La Salle 14, North Allegheny 1
La Salle 4-5-3-2- 14
North Allegheny 0-1-0-0- 1
Grant Page 1g
Kyle Rullan 1a
John Brandon 13 saves
Matt Rambo 5g
Sean Coleman 2g, 3a
Brian McNamara 2g, 1a
Aidan Kerrigan 2g
Stephen Hudak 1g
Zach Drake 1g
Mitch Soufleris 1g
Jack Auteri 1a
Travis Miller 1a
Nick Hreshko 5 saves (one goal allowed)
Colin MacDougall 6 saves
Conor Scafidi 3 saves