WEST CHESTER >> The seniors on the La Salle lacrosse team understood the task in front of them.
After losing the state final as sophomores and being knocked out in the state quarterfinals as juniors, they had the chance to reshape the program not only for this year, but the next few seasons down the line. While La Salle fell short of its goal of claiming its first state title since 2013, losing 6-4 to Manheim Township on Saturday, the seniors did leave their mark.
They showed the classes below them just what it means to wear a La Salle jersey.
“They re-presented La Salle lacrosse,” Explorers coach Bill Leahy said. “That was one of our themes, to re-present how we do things, not that we were far off, but they came along and made it one step classier, one step more to being gentlemen. They held their heads high and helped the younger guys to follow their leadership.”
There was a certain bond with this year’s La Salle team, one where class standing didn’t hold much weight but the measure of work and dedication did. Sure, seniors held some of the key positions in the lineup, but there were plenty of other seniors who didn’t see much time in the postseason that gave as much as the starters.
After the team’s state semifinal win, Leahy compared this group to some of the others he’s had. While this team didn’t have one or two all-world type players, they had a lot of grit, a lot of heart and an unwavering trust in each other.
“You have to work for everything,” senior midfielder Brendan Meagher said. “We didn’t have a singular talent that was above anybody else. We were a group of guys that worked really hard and we’re going to look at this as an experience where anything you’re going to get, you have to work for it.”
Some of the players, like seniors Joe Burnham and Bobby Bohner, were leaders on their other sports teams at La Salle. Others were strictly lacrosse guys, but they helped set the tone during offseason workouts and weight lifting sessions.
Meagher felt there was a special connection with the entire team and felt it not only made the Explorers better, but also helped get across the message of having to work to gain opportunities.
“I think this senior class did a great job of showing the younger guys what it takes to make it in this game,” Meagher said. “I know we didn’t end up winning this game but I hope they can learn from us what it takes every day, in and out of practice. It’s everything you’ve got for the three months we’re together.”
Burnham, who is continuing his lacrosse career at St. Joseph’s, echoed Meagher in saying he wanted the returning players to see the value in taking lessons from everything.
“I’m proud of our accomplishments,” Burnham said. “We’ll take the lessons we learned in practices and games, especially this one, failure sucks, but we’ll apply them wherever we go next.”
Burnham was optimistic that if the cast of returning players and the next wave of guys ready to step in around them could learn from Saturday, they could be right back in the state final next year. La Salle graduates a lot, but also returns a lot.
Juniors like Brett Mallee, Chris Mockaitis, Joey Taylor, Connor Helm, Rob Foster and Grant Pinto will all have major roles next year and be asked to set the same example this year’s senior class did.
Burnham called this year’s group “brothers” and felt the bond they built over the season is something he’ll carry with him even as they go their separate ways. It wasn’t a sentiment he carried by himself.
“We’re the type of team that after practice, we’re all going to someone’s house for a cookout or something,” Meagher said. “It was great getting to know these guys better this season but I know this isn’t the end for our friendships.”
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