Wednesday marked three years to the date of the Manheim Township boys lacrosse team winning its first state championship. Grayson Sallade was known as a top midfielder and one of the Blue Streaks’ leading scorers then.
So there was a bit of a transition for Sallade at the next level, where he’s since been a short-stick defensive midfielder for Virginia.
“It was definitely difficult,” Sallade said. “In high school I was not learning the defense. So I had to learn new footwork. ...it was a rough transition.”
More recently, Sallade was part of a defensive unit that helped Virginia capture the 2021 NCAA men’s lacrosse championship, topping Maryland in a shootout, 17-16.
“That day was crazy,” Sallade said. “We almost had a feeling going into the tournament that we’re going to win. It was not in a cocky way but a confident way. ...on the drive to the stadium seeing our fans tailgate, little kids screaming at you, it’s something you dream about growing up in the back yard.”
Sallade scooped up three ground balls and caused a turnover in that championship win, adding to his NCAA tournament total of one goal, 14 ground balls and four caused turnovers.
Men's Lacrosse: Virginia junior Grayson Sallade (Manheim Township) with 1 goal, 1 ground ball in Sunday's NCAA tourney win (his goal is at 1:15 mark of this video, dude breaks a double-team then scores)@Grayson_Sallade @MTSD_ATHLETICS @MTLacrosse @canes77 @MTFootball18 ---> https://t.co/LfzVRMGyUN— John Walk (@JWalkLNP) May 17, 2021
It capped his best collegiate season yet, after hitting several roadblocks in the first two. He began his freshman 2019 season as one of the top Cavalier defenders before suffering a broken foot in the fifth game of the year.
“I was clearing the ball, had the ball in my stick and was pushed in my back,” Sallade said. “I jumped, stepped out of bounds and landed on my foot wrong. I hobbled off the field and they (Syracuse) scored a goal off of my turnover.”
Sallade recovered just in time for the postseason, only to re-injure the foot in the NCAA quarterfinal game against Maryland - Virginia went on to win the national title in 2019.
“We I re-hurt the foot in the quarterfinal, it felt like I rebroke the entire thing,” Sallade said. “I was out the whole summer.”
Just as the 2020 campaign began, Sallade suffered a hamstring injury. So it was a sort of blessing in disguise that the COVID-19 pandemic wiped out Virginia’s season six games into the schedule.
“You never want to lose a whole season when it’s in front of you,” Sallade said. “But if you told me we’d win a national championship the next year, I’d take it.”
As a result of missing several games due to injury as a freshman and sophomore, Sallade felt as if he had something to prove coming into 2021. He went on to play in all 18 games, tallying four goals, one assist, 54 ground balls (third-most team) and caused 13 turnovers (fourth-most team). Those unproven feelings are now gone.
“I think my coaches and my teammates know my determination and what I can do on the field,” Sallade said. “I don’t have to prove anything to my teammates and they don’t have to prove anything to me.”
With a 3.3 GPA as he nears a bachelor’s degree in American Studies, Sallade has two more years of athletic eligibility remaining. Next season, he’ll likely take on more of a leadership role as a fourth-year player and key cog of a defense aiming to stay atop the throne.
“I’m very excited,” Sallade said.