BEAR – Thirty minutes after Salesianum’s lacrosse team had clinched the 2018 DIAA state championship, the Sals’ players, coaches and their families lingered on the turf at Bob Peoples Stadium at Caravel Academy. Repeated announcements over the public address system asking them to vacate the premises were unsuccessful.
The Salesianum lacrosse community had reason to celebrate. The team’s 14-9 win over Caesar Rodney on June 4 not only earned the school it’s 10th title in the sport since the DIAA began sponsoring a championship in 1993, it was the Sals’ fourth straight. That made them the first program to win the crown four straight times.
“You guys were focused, and you got it done. I’m so proud of you,” coach Bob Healy told the players after the win.
This group of seniors – there are 12 on the roster – did what their predecessors could not. Sallies had won the state championship in 2011, ’12 and ’13 before being upset by Cape Henlopen in 2014. This time, they would not be denied.
The latest win, however, would not be easy. The top-seeded Sals defeated No. 2 Caesar Rodney in May by a 19-8 score, but this time the Riders stayed close. The Riders were down just a goal late in the second period before Salesianum’s Patrick Drake scored with 14 seconds left on the clock to make it 8-6 at the half.
The Riders came out firing in the third, as Demetrius Stevenson fired a shot high past Sals goalie Brady Emmi just 17 seconds into the quarter. Cooper Urban answered less than a minute later after he took a pass from Brett Hobbs, but the defenses took over after that.
A long Riders possession halfway through the third culminated with a goal from Noah Longest, bringing them within one at 9-8. But the Sals regrouped and took that one-goal lead into the fourth. They also went into the final 12 minutes on a man-up situation, and they used that to their advantage as they pulled away from CR.
Opening the quarter with possession, Hobbs and Urban killed about 30 seconds passing the ball around the perimeter. With the advantage nearing its end, Hobbs fired the ball behind Riders keeper Jacob Stant to put his team up, 10-8.
Hobbs said he felt the momentum shifting toward the Sals during the third quarter.
“I think what turned the tide for us probably wasn’t the man up,” said Hobbs, who will continue his lacrosse career at Penn State. “We had a talk in the middle of the third quarter. We were just like, no matter what happens, we’ve got each other’s back, and I think at that moment we realized this is it for us. And we gave everything we had.”
Emmi rejected two Riders shots in quick succession with just under six minutes to go, and his teammates thanked him by rushing downfield after the second save and getting the ball to Logan Falconetti, who deposited it into the net. Urban added another goal with 3:06 to go, increasing the lead to four.
Urban, who will play next at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, said the Sals’ defensive effort after halftime made a difference offensively as well.
“We were just able to hold a couple goal lead for a while. They had to press out and chase us around on offense. That opened up a lot of opportunities for us to put a few more in,” he said.
They would add another two goals in the closing minutes to seal the win. Bradley Santore worked the ball from behind the net and found an empty net with 2:02 remaining, and Falconetti scored once more at the 51-second mark. With the outcome decided, Jared Wagenhoffer ended the Sals’ five-goal run when he scored with 13 ticks on the clock.
The Sals converged around Emmi as helmets, gloves and sticks rained down. After the initial commotion, the players took turns raising the state championship trophy before settling in for some words from the coaching staff, then photographs.
The players said they knew they would be in for a battle against the Riders, but Emmi noted it didn’t change how they prepared for the evening.
“It’s the same every game. You prepare for your opponents,” he said. “We knew we had to shut down Meat (Stevenson) and Wagenhoffer, couldn’t let them get going. All of our practices we were making plays designed to stop them. We knew that they were going to score and we were going to score. You just have to get back up and score again.”
Emmi, who will suit up for Salisbury University next season, said becoming the first team to win four straight titles was the driving goal all season.
“We said we’re going to be the team to make history. The year before we came, when we were in eighth grade, they almost had the four-peat, but they let it slip, and we weren’t going to live with that regret. We knew we had to get it done today,” he said.
Urban wouldn’t be surprised to see the returning group extend that run to five next year. “They definitely have the leadership to come back and do it again. I think they’re in good shape.”
Urban finished with five goals to lead the Sals. Drake had three, and Falconetti, Santore and Hobbs had two each. Sallies finished the season 16-3.
Wagenhoffer led the Riders with a hat trick. Josh Cosden and Noah Longest had two each, and Stevenson and James Cava added one apiece. The Riders also ended with a 16-3 record.