La Salle rallies for title

La Salle players celebrates defeating St. Joe's Prep. (Elizabeth Robertson/Staff Photographer)

La Salle's Zach Drake glanced at the Neumann University scoreboard before sprinting behind the net. He saw that just seconds remained in the Catholic League boys' lacrosse final against St. Joseph's Prep on Wednesday night. The score was tied.

Someone had to do something, he said afterward. And his winning play - the goal that lifted La Salle to an 8-7 win - "just kind of happened."

The junior attackman came from behind the net, ran his defender into a pick from Stephen Hudak, and fired the ball into the goal with just 8.8 seconds left. It sealed La Salle's third straight title. All three have come against the Prep.

" 'Not today' - we just kept screaming that," Drake said. "We weren't losing. It wasn't a thought in our mind."

The Explorers were scoreless in the first half, entering halftime trailing by three. Hudak said they remained confident, knowing their first-half play did not match what the scoreboard read. La Salle tied the game by scoring three times in a 2-minute, 30-second span late in the third quarter.

"We just knew that we had 24 minutes to play for basically the rest of our lives," Hudak said. "For us seniors, some of us are not going to college to play. We put everything on the line and took care of business in the second half."

La Salle's Colin MacDougall recorded 10 saves, and Aidan Kerrigan scored three times for the Explorers. Kerrigan was hit hard after his third goal with 2:44 left, but it gave La Salle a two-goal lead.

Prep's Pat Walsh scored twice in the final two minutes, including the game-tying goal with 51.3 seconds left. He finished with three goals. Kevin Stump and Steve Tobia each scored twice.

La Salle's Anthony Giuliani won the faceoff after Walsh's goal, setting up Drake's winner. The freshman specialist won 18 of his 20 draws, paving the way for the Explorers' second-half rally.

Hudak said Giuliani "dominated the game."

"I just had to do my job, get off the field, and let our leaders take over," Giuliani said.

With seconds remaining after Drake's goal, Giuliani trudged into the faceoff circle. Win this, he told himself, and the game's over.

Giuliani did just that and flicked the ball behind him. A teammate corralled the pass and heaved it down the other end of the field. The time elapsed, and the game was over.

La Salle's players rushed the field, littering the turf with their sticks and gloves. The celebration appeared unorchestrated. It just kind of happened.

St. Joseph's Prep 1 2 1 3 – 7

La Salle 0 0 5 3 – 8

Goals: SJP-Kevin Stump 2, Steve Tobia 2, Pat Walsh 3; LS-Aidan Kerrigan 3, Michael Rihm, Stephen Hudak, Mitchell Soufleris 2, Zach Drake.

Saves: SJP-Mike Marchese 8; LS-Colin MacDougall 10.