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BOYS LAX: La Salle Doesn’t Take PCL Titles for Granted

By John Knebels Photos: Brendan Baldwin, 06/04/23, 5:00PM EDT


Photos/Videos: Brendan Baldwin & John Knebels

By: John Knebels

ASTON, PA – They know how to win. It’s that simple.

On an overcast and occasionally rainy afternoon on May 20, La Salle snared its seventh consecutive Philadelphia Catholic League lacrosse championship and 26th in 30 years with a 6-3 victory over a stubborn, determined St. Joseph’s Prep squad at Neumann University.

Such dominance might suggest that winning has become almost ho-hum for the Explorers. But just because the Explorers are expected to win every Philadelphia Catholic League title, nothing detracts from the Explorers’ annual success.

“It definitely doesn’t take from the overall experience,” said junior goalie Matt Nelson. “Every year, we prepare for that day. We work all year to get to that moment. St Joe’s has the same goal as well, so the championship game is always something to look forward to because we know we will get the best out of them.”

La Salle vs. St. Joe's Prep in PCL Championship Final Game. (video/ Highlights John Knebels for PSD)

Asked to assess the game’s key difference, Prep coach Mark Princehorn cited Nelson’s performance. No one could realistically dispute that analysis.

Whenever the Hawks seized momentum, Nelson came to the rescue. The Explorers, however, have come to expect excellence from their netminder, one of 13 Explorers who were named first-team All-Catholic.

But even with Nelson’s performance, the Explorers needed offense. Systematically, they found it.

La Salle’s Jack Vandegrift scored twice in La Salle’s 6-3 PCL lacrosse championship win over St. Joseph’s Prep. - PSD Video by John Knebels

Sophomore Max Wickersham scored 3 straight goals in La Salle’s 6-3 PCL lacrosse championship win over St. Joseph’s Prep - video by John Knebels

La Salle took a 1-0 lead on a goal by junior Paul van Bastelaar in the first quarter, but Prep senior and PCL Most Valuable Player Anthony Laber tied the game in the closing seconds. A goal by senior Jack Vandegrift with 6:36 left before halftime gave the Explorers a 2-1 lead.

A La Salle-dominated third quarter fueled by sophomore Max Wickersham’s two goals in a span of 1 minute, 55 seconds pushed La Salle’s lead to 4-1. After Wickersham notched a hat trick with 7:31 left in regulation to make it 5-1, the Hawks appeared finished.

But 1:13 later, senior Grant Snyder lowered the Prep’s deficit to 5-2. A Prep goal by junior Teddy Fenlin with 1:14 left ignited a bit of faint hope, but any suspense dissipated when Vandegrift scored with 50.6 second left.

After the final seconds ticked away, the Explorers’ animated on-field celebration reflected the tense nature of the contest, the lowest scoring PCL final since 2009, when La Salle beat the Prep, 4-3.

For the second straight season – last year’s final score was 8-6 – the Hawks had remained within victory distance. The Explorers, therefore, were not at all surprised by the Prep’s effort, especially considering that during the regular season, they had to claw back from a 5-0 deficit to win, 10-5.

“I think the pressure makes a good game,” said van Bastelaar. “The expectation does not in any way give us the idea that we do not have to try to win. Every year is a battle in its own way. Winning the PCL is and always will be special. We as a program love competing, especially for a hubcap.”

PCL Trophy Presentation to La Salle High School. (Video/ John Knebels for PSD)

La Salle’ goalie Matt Nelson talks about LaSalle’s 6-3 PCL lacrosse championship win over St. Joseph’s Prep - then gets some love by his teammates. (video/ John Knebels for PSD)

Vandegrift wholeheartedly agrees.

“I wouldn’t say we are particularly supposed to win,” said Vandergrift. “La Salle and St. Joe’s Prep have a great history of battling it out in the championship, and it’s an awesome game to experience. Each year gets better.”

La Salle aims to capture a PIAA Class 3A state title. At 6:30 on June 6, the District 12 champion Explorers visit District 1 five seed Garnet Valley.


(Contact John Knebels at or on Twitter @johnknebels.)