DOVER – It would take all your fingers and toes to count the number of times Salesianum has been in the DIAA lacrosse state championship game (18, to be exact), but few have gone the way of the one the Sals played Saturday at Dover High School against perennial rival Cape Henlopen. The Sals, the top-seeded team in the bracket, found themselves down by a pair, 10-8, after the Vikings’ Joseph Coveleski scored in the first minute of the fourth, but there was a long way to go, and Salesianum knew it.
Never mind the turnover after the Sals won the faceoff. They got the ball back and embarked on a patient possession, which paid dividends when Luca Pompeii skipped a shot past Cape goalie Mason Trench with 9:09 to go. That seemed to provide a spark for the Sals, and for their faithful who — along with the Cape crowd — filled the grandstand at Dover Stadium.
A faceoff win led to another long Sals possession. They missed on a few attempts, but with 7:42 on the clock, Ryan Cunnihngham bounced in a goal to tie the score. It was set up by Noah Driggs, who positioned himself behind the net and found Cunningham cutting in front. This was Driggs’ first game of the season after being cleared following a knee injury.
A dropped pass by the Vikings gave the ball back to the Sals with six and a half minutes remaining. Feeding off the crowd and their recent success, they went to work. Rowyn Nurry and Cunningham worked out of the X position, and Cunningham saw Chase Black coming in from Trench’s left. Black’s low laser found the net, and the Sals had the lead for the first time since five minutes into the third quarter.
After having a goal waved off for a crease violation, it took the Sals another 15 seconds to add to their lead. This time, Nurry picked up a loose ball after a Vikings player lost his footing on the turf, and he moved in, deked and shot over the goalie. With a two-goal lead, the Sals turned to defense.
Cape Henlopen wasn’t finished. They managed to hold on to the ball for a few minutes after a timeout, and without a pair of ten-bell saves by Sals goalie Cam Taylor, the margin would have been one. Elliot Dotson added a goal for the Sals into an empty net with 1:08 to go, and they held the Vikings off the board until Coveleski scored with 10 seconds remaining.
The strong ending by the Sals stood in contrast to the beginning of the game, when Cape jumped out to a 2-0 lead. The Sals were getting shots, but Trench made several saves, and others missed the mark. Meanwhile, the Vikings were true in the early going, efficiently taking advantage of their opportunities. Dotson got the Sals on the board in the middle of the first, spurring a three-goal run that put Salesianum on top by one after a quarter.
After Cape’s Coveleski scored on a putback five minutes into the second to tie it up, Salesianum added another three straight, only to see the Vikings storm back. It was a two-goal game at the half.
The Vikings continued their strong play into the third quarter, much to the delight of the large contingent that made the trip from Sussex County. Brexton Carter and Jahden Cannon scored in quick succession to tie the game, 7-7, and after a big save from Trench, Luke Burton put the Vikings in front. Nurry equalized, but Coveleski gave Cape the lead near the end of the quarter while taking a whack in front of the net.
This was the fourth consecutive year the Sals and Vikings met for the title and the ninth overall. Salesianum has won six of them.
Final statistics were not available Saturday night. The Sals finished with a record of 14-4, while the Vikings wrapped up at 15-4.
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