WEST CHESTER, PA – Sometimes you play a strong game yet still don’t emerge victorious.
For argument’s sake, check out the footage of the PIAA Class 3A lacrosse state championship June 9 at West Chester East High School.
La Salle maintained possession significantly longer than Manheim Township and had twice as many shots, many of them from point-blank range. In the end, however, the Explorers lost, 6-4, and finished with a record of 19-5 that included dominating the Catholic League en route to a championship.
“It’s definitely tough,” said senior Greg Osborne. “Manheim was a great team. Well coached and very talented. This is obviously not the way we wanted to end the season.”
The Explorers got two goals from senior Brendan Meagher and led, 2-1, before Manheim tied the game and meticulously took control of the scoreboard.
On several occasions, La Salle appeared ready to punch home a goal to reverse momentum, but Blue Streak All-American goalie Caton Johnson made numerous sensational stops.
Still, La Salle persisted.
“I think our coaches do a great job of helping us keep our heads in the game,” said Meagher. “They teach us that if you shoot a good shot and he saves it, you shake his hand. The kid played great. So hat’s off to him.”
The killer blow was when Manheim made it 6-4 with 2:45 left after the Explorers had climbed to within 5-4 on a tally by senior Ethan LaMond only 55 seconds earlier.
“That was a tough goal,” said Osborne. “Number One (Grayson Sallade) is a great player. He made a great athletic play. That was kind of a stinger. We didn’t have a lot of time to get the goals back.”
After the loss, La Salle received their second-place medallions. Most of the team immediately took them from their necks because finishing second was, they said, unacceptable. Their sole purpose was to win the state title, and the medallions were reminders that they had not.
Later, the players shared a few extended moments alone with coaches and embraced each other in a moving tribute that, despite its temporary disappointment, celebrated an overall job well done.
The respite seemed to lessen the pain from being denied their dream.
“My past four years on this team we’ve faced adversity,” said Osborne. “Losing to (St. Joseph’s Prep) in the PCL the first year. Lost on this field two years ago in the state championship to Springfied Delco. The early quarterfinal loss last year. So we definitely had our fair share of losses at the end of the years. It wasn’t fun, but we bounced back every year and we fought hard and that’s all that matters.
“As much as it hurts right now saying goodbye to all these guys, we really had a helluva season. We had a lot of fun together through the ups and downs and we’re brothers forever.”
“It was nice to kind of tell each other we loved each other and kinda get one last hug in,” said Meagher. “Everything has to come to an end eventually, and we knew it was going to end today. It wasn’t the way we wanted it to.”
(John Knebels can be reached at Jknebels@gmail.com or on Twitter @johnknebels.)