Defending champion and No. 1 seed Salesianum will go for an unprecedented fourth straight state championship on Saturday after ending No. 4 Caesar Rodney’s season for the third straight season on Wednesday night.
Salesianum, backed by five goals apiece by Jason Kelly and Sam Fink, took down the Riders 14-4 to advance to the state championship game.
Under rainy conditions, Salesianum took control of the game early. Kelly opened the scoring on Wednesday night tallying the game’s first two goals. Fink scored the first of his five goals in the opening period, scoring twice to give Salesianum a 4-0 lead after one.
Tom Aloe scored three minutes into the second to put the Riders on the board, but Salesianum scored four unanswered goals from Kelly, Andrew Witherell (2), and Mike Drake to take an 8-1 lead at the half.
Kelly, Fink, and Witherell would all tally goals in the second half putting Salesianum up 14-2 with under four minutes to go. With time winding down, Hunter Schaefer and Sean MacLeish registered goals but it was too little, too late.
Kelly, who finished with five goals on the night, praised the team’s defense after the victory, applauding them as the most important part of their team.
“Defense has always been the best part of our team,” said Kelly. “They’re always keeping goals to a minimum and they definitely stepped their game up today and played their (Caesar Rodney) defense very well.”
Salesianum head coach Bob Healy echoed the sentiments of Kelly by praising his team’s defensive effort on Wednesday night.
“I think it was a total team effort, defense played very well tonight and they’ve done that all season,” said Healy. “It starts with our defense and that was the key.”
For the third year in a row Salesianum ended the Riders season this time in the semifinal round after defeating CR in the last two state championship games. Kelly believes that CR will be a great test in preparation for Cape Henlopen who stands in the way of Salesianum and a historic fourth straight title.
“They (Caesar Rodney) present a big challenge and they’re a very talented team both offensively and defensively,” Kelly said. “We just come out and we do what we do. We move the ball on offense, we play defense solidly, and our goalie was on point today.”
Salesianum took on No. 2 Cape Henlopen in their season finale, a 14-7 Salesianum win. The Vikings gave Sallies quite a game, and one can be sure they’ll be ready to play on Saturday. Healy hopes his young team has hit their stride and are prepared to make some history.
“Hopefully we’re peaking at the right time, this is a great group of kids,” said Healy. “We’re a young group with a small group of seniors who have done a great job of leading this team and I’m very proud of what they’ve accomplished this year.”
“Cape is well coached, very athletic, led by a great group of seniors,” Healy said. “It’s going to be a war, I can’t say enough about their program.”
Salesianum will take on Cape Henlopen with the state title on the line Saturday at Caravel Academy, game-time scheduled for 7:00 p.m.