It’s been a few years in the making, but the 2013 Inaugural Season for the La Salle Rugby squad has been nothing but success. There’s been much talk around La Salle about the surprising 4-0 rugby squad. “It’s very, very exciting,” said head coach Matt Derrick when asked about what it was like to bring rugby to La Salle. “It’s a result of many years of student interest,” he added.
At the beginning of the year there were many speculations on whether or not there would even be a competitive rugby team. But with the hard work and dedication of Derrick, rugby has been brought to La Salle as a varsity sport and very competitive team to say the least. “I found out this year that we might not have been a real program, so I was getting a little upset thinking that we were just going to be a scrimmage team, and eventually when I found out we were going to be a real team I was excited to play,” junior star Eddie DeAngelis said when asked about new rugby program.
The first few practices and scrimmages of the season didn’t give Coach Derrick much of an insight to what the season would be like. Getting the players some experience and just being competitive during an inaugural season are what most first year programs strive to do. But The Explorers have surpassed all expectations in the early going. La Salle has outscored opponents 269-7 en route to wins over Vaux, Conestoga, Second City Troop, and Father Judge with its most impressive win coming in a 104-0 annihilation of Second City Troop. While the squad may be surprising others, they’re definitely not surprising themselves. “In the beginning of the season we struggled in our first two scrimmages… but we have a lot of really good athletes, a lot of good football players, along with really good coaches so I don’t think we’re that surprised,” DeAngelis added. The addition of ex-football players and other athletes has seemed to have certainly helped The Explorers so far this season. “We’ve got a bunch of tough kids playing rugby, a couple of ex-football players who just enjoy playing the game,” added Mike Eife, who previously starred for the La Salle Football program. Coach Derrick didn’t seem too surprised by the success either; rather he was happy with the way his team has been playing, as he echoed the comments of Eife and DeAngelis on La Salle’s longstanding athletic tradition. “The success they’ve had is based on all the hard work they’ve put in and that’s a good thing.” Derrick commented.
If La Salle wins out in its final two games in Division II against the likes of Cardinal O’Hara and Roman Catholic they will advance to play the fourth seed from Division I. The eventual goal is to continue to improve this season and hopefully move up to Division I next season. The future looks bright for a program thriving in its first year. Coach Derrick looks to build off of this seasons’ success in hopes that the rugby program continues to grow, but he won’t look past this season just yet. “We have to keep winning, keep getting better and finish up the season strong.”
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Wyndmoor, PA (WEXP)- It’s that time of year: it’s time for playoff hockey. Not for the NHL, but for the state of Pennsylvania. Monday, March 4 marks the beginning of the playoff season as Salesianum takes on Roman Catholic in a play-in game at the Skatium. In order to reach the Flyers Cup championship at the Wells Fargo Center, La Salle will have to win that game and an additional game against the winner of the matchup of Malvern Prep and St. Joes Prep on Wednesday, March 6.
While there are some fantastic teams competing for this year’s Flyers Cup, La Salle could be competing for their third straight Flyers Cup, and second consecutive State Championship. But, what is different about this year’s team?
The first notable difference is between the pipes. For the past two seasons, the La Salle Explorers have been backstopped by either Nick DeSimone or Andrew King ’12. Neither King nor DeSimone are on the team anymore, so La Salle needed to find someone who could step up and fill the gap left by the graduating King and transferring DeSimone. They found someone to fill that gap in Corbin Gustafson and Harrison Feeney.
“Harrison and Corbin have done outstanding,” Head Coach Wally Muehlbronner said in an interview with WEXP Sports’ Chris Jastrzembski. “Both are outstanding goaltenders, very similar, very technically sound. We’ve alternated the goaltenders throughout the year, and Harrison being a freshman and Corbin being a sophomore indicates a lot of stability for years to come.”
And both goaltenders have been outstanding. Combined, Feeney and Gustafson have let up just 36 goals all year, or about 1.8 goals per game, an outstanding margin for new members to the team.
One thing that has been constant is what is in front of the goaltender, whomever that may be. La Salle returned 12 seniors to the team this year, and they have stepped up in leading this team.
“The leaders have done a very good job,” Muehlbronner said. “I would say that they have been very consistent from game to game. They have been with the team three to four years, so they know what I expect of them. But this is really their year; their senior year is their legacy. I think their focused on making sure the team is prepared for each game. They’re taking it one game at a time.”
The one game at a time mentality has worked wonders for these Explorers. The team is 16-2-1 overall, and 13-0-1 in league play. La Salle has outscored teams 256-75 this year, showing that the team is clicking everywhere.
La Salle plays the first game of these playoffs on March 6 against the winner of the play in game, and, with two wins, will play at the Wells Fargo Center on March 12. I can almost smell the Crabfries from here!
No streak can last forever. After 73 straight Catholic League wins, the mighty Neumann-Goretti Saints have fallen. This is the website report I thought I would only write in my dreams. Since La Salle moved to the Wyndmoor campus in 1960, this game has to rank as the one of the best wins in the Explorers’ gym. In fact, I would cite this game as the best La Salle win of Joe Dempsey’s tenure as head coach. Now yes, a regular season victory, even over Neumann-Goretti, doesn’t win a City Title; it doesn’t get you to the Elite Eight of the state tournament, but this was the win Dempsey needed.
In my opinion, beating Neumann-Goretti united the school around a basketball team that for years had been second…third priority behind football and baseball. Only minutes after the game ended, the school’s incredible fan base spread the word on Facebook and Twitter; most of the tweets were congratulatory messages to Amar Stukes, Steve Smith, and the rest of these magic Explorers. The amount of work put in by this coaching staff and the players, especially the incomparable Amar Stukes, merits this well-deserved victory.
This win capped an incredible journey for Dempsey and his players—a journey that has only just begun. I am beyond happy for them. I’ll recap the incredible fourth quarter before giving some context for the full game.
The Explorers entered the game’s final period trailing the Saints by four points, 47-43. At this point, Carl Arrigale, the head coach of Neumann-Goretti, had not used a timeout. After realizing this at the beginning of the quarter, La Salle’s premier assistant, Jim Sheedy, presciently stated, “Oh, he’ll be using them. Don’t worry.” How right Sheedy was. A basket by senior forward Alex Cuoci cut Neumann’s lead to 47-45 with 5:53 left in the game. The Explorers earned the lead after Stukes was fouled by Saint junior Troy Harper on a layup attempt. The basket went in, as did Stukes’ ensuing foul shot, putting the lead at 48-47 La Salle. After a Neumann basket, La Salle regained the lead with a three-pointer by senior Steve Smith. Smith would have six total treys on the day. His basket gave La Salle a 51-49 lead; the Explorers would own the lead the rest of the way. Another Smith trey along with a layup by Neumann junior Ja’Quan Newton kept the score close—54-53 La Salle with three minutes left. Another three-point play by Stukes extended the Explorers lead to 61-56 with just under a minute left. Neumann sophomore Lamarr Kimble was then fouled while shooting a trey—he made all three free throws. A La Salle bucket in response extended the Explorers' lead again, this time to six points, with around twenty seconds remaining. The Explorers rode their 65-59 advantage into the final seconds, where a Kimble trey at the buzzer gave the game its final score: 65-62.
Stukes scored 11 of his 26 points in the quarter, cementing a victory that he owned the whole way. La Salle as a whole outscored Neumann 22-15 in the final period.
While I began this report with La Salle’s happy ending, this game actually looked like an easy “W” for Neumann for a long time. The Saints led by ten at halftime, and were especially potent on offense. Newton did not start—for “personal reasons,” according to the Neumann manager—and he only entered the game with 2:27 left in the first quarter. The Saints led by one (16-15) after one period. Neumann continued its offensive rampage in the second quarter, scoring eighteen points. Newton and fearsome senior center John Davis led the way. Davis is absolutely excellent—his rebounding is terrific and his interior moves get him points pretty much every time he drives. His foul shooting…well, that could be a point of improvement. I was also really impressed with Kimble and Harper, who will surely torture La Salle in the years to come (smile).
Last year, I wrote a mildly depressing column detailing an 82-53 Neumann victory in the La Salle gym. Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined the Explorers beating them. No respect has been lost for Neumann; this is surely only a game to motivate them further. I have the utmost respect for Carl Arrigale’s squad and always have. Their players are excellent and I love watching them play. But boy, how great is it to see the Explorers end that streak? All I can say is there is ABSOLUTELY NOTHING like the Philadelphia Catholic League. Ted Silary is my idol, but c’mon—“only in the Pub…?” How about “only in the PCL?” The Catholic League is second to none.
I’ll end with this anecdote: After a nonleague loss to Imhotep Charter, I rode back to La Salle with John Shields, a fellow manager, and Coach Dempsey. During the ride, we discussed the difficulty of the league and how ridiculously tough it is to compete in the PCL. One thing Dempsey said (that is something most Catholic League coaches, surely Dan Spinelli, Sr., would echo) is “Do people realize how good these other teams are? It’s not easy playing in this league at all.” Dempsey's right. It’s not easy playing these teams and hoping to succeed. La Salle’s playoff record against Archbishop Carroll will sadly attest to that fact. But Dempsey, along with his extremely motivated team, beat one of the best teams in this city. Amar Stukes, Ryan Winslow, Steve Smith, Alex Cuoci, Pat Cooney, and Malik Janifer—all seniors, all leaders, contributed to this win. Winslow played out of his mind, battling under the basket with John Davis. Cuoci came into his own again and didn’t let anyone from Neumann intimidate him. Cooney didn’t just “belong,” he made things happen on offense. And Malik did his job and produced a team victory. I mean every word I write about these guys. They have amazed me yet again. But I think the final congratulations has to be given to the man who eats, breathes, and sleeps La Salle basketball—I hope Coach Dempsey gets a great night’s sleep. He deserves it beyond a doubt.
Students in the Advanced Multimedia Production Course, Sports Information Club and WEXP Morning show have been producing a 10 minute sports show during homeroom every other Friday. Below you will be able to view the show online for the 1st time on the internet, This week's episode provided a winter sports preview, an interview with Amar Stukes and Steve Smith of the basketball team, and informaiton and video about the PIAA State Football Semifinals.