October 6, 2013

Monmouth Debuts at Busy Colleluori Classic

by Mark Macyk LaxMagazine.com

Photo Gallery by Kevin Tucker

Monmouth got its DI life underway with the Colleluori Classic in Folsam, Pa.
© Kevin Tucker 

FOLSAM, Pa. -- There was plenty of confusion on the sidelines at Monmouth this fall. It took a week for the coaching staff of the first-year program to learn everyone's name, and once they did circumstances forced them to start all over again.

"We got to know them by face," said head coach Brian Fisher after his team made its fall ball debut at Saturday's Colleluori Classic at Ridley High School. "Then we put the helmets on and had to go back to the drawing board and figure out who was who."

Turns out that feeling was mutual. Sort of. It's not that Monmouth's players didn't know who the coaches were. They just didn't know what Monmouth was.

"I had never even heard of it until [Fisher] contacted me," said freshman Kevin Murphy.

"I couldn't even pronounce the name," added freshman Tyler Keene

For the record, Monmouth rhymes with, well, "with" and it could be a name Philadelphia-area natives like Murphy and Keane hear often in the coming years. Fisher is a Ridley alum and 13 players on his inaugural roster played high school ball in the greater Philadelphia area. Monmouth is in a prime recruiting position, smack dab between New York and Philadelphia. Thirteen more players on the roster hail from the NYC metro area.

Basically, the young program is not in a bad spot.

"We're slowly building," Fisher said. "We're tucked away in that Northern Jersey Shore area, but we're not far from New York as the crow flies. On the right day on the beach you can even see the Manhattan skyline."

Said Murphy: "Once I got on campus I was like, 'whoa where did this place come from?'"

The Hawks lost to St. Joe's in their first game on Saturday, but played well considering they're working in 33 freshmen, five transfers -- including Ryan Schwartz from powerful Onondaga CC -- and several walk ons. And that they had only 19 practices before Saturday and for half of those no one knew anyone's names.

"We had to introduce ourselves, but we'd hang out after practice," said freshman Eric Berger, Murphy's high school teammate at Penn Charter (Pa.). "We all know it's an awkward situation but we make it the best we can. By the time we're seniors we might be making some damage in the NCAA tourney. But we're starting from Day 1 and going from there."

Day 1 went pretty well, but the Hawks aren't getting ahead of themselves.

"It will be really easy to say, 'look at what you saw and imagine where we'll be in three years,'" Fisher said. "But our path and our journey has been a little different."

And there was no way that journey wasn't going to begin at the Colleluori Classic.

"What great maturity and strength Nick had," Fisher said. "Way back when, for him to say, 'This is what I want my legacy to be' It's great to come back and wear the shirt, wear the laces, and honor his foundation and his life as well. It's good for our kids to see there's more to life than lacrosse."

27 Forever

After the early games concluded the scoreboard at Ridley read 27:27, with the score tied at 27. It was a tribute to Nick Colleluori, the former Hofstra and Ridley player who lost his battle with blood cancer in 2006 and wore the number.

"It's everything to us," said Hofstra coach Seth Tierney. "We've been doing this since the beginning. Everything is secondary to the meaning of it, to 27, and what lacrosse meant to Nick and what Nick meant to Hofstra"

Hofstra chose not to retire Colleluori's number 27. Each year it's given to a selected player who embodies Colleluori's spirit.

"Instead of just hanging his jersey on the wall and leaving it there like 'there it is,' now there's a story of a guy who's wearing it and keeping Nick's spirit alive," said Hofstra coach Seth Tierney.

Last year that meant All-American faceoff man John Antonides. This year it's Anthony Zappone, a senior captain and short-stick defensive middie.

"It was one of greatest honors I've ever received," said Zappone, who found out he would wear No. 27 after last season.

To date, Colleluori's Headstrong Foundation has raised over $4-million for cancer research. And while his foundation keeps his mission alive, Hofstra's staff keeps his memory alive.

"It gets harder and harder because it's one of those things that as it fades into history it becomes something you want to keep fresh," Tierney said. To help that process, Hofstra shows a video of Nick and his family on the bus trip in to the tournament.

"Every year we watch it and every year everyone is in tears on the bus," Zappone said.

This year, the Pride also made a visit to Nick's House, which boasts free living accommodations for the family's of loved one's being treated in the Philadelphia Area. The team met a young boy named Otto, who shared his story with them. In previous years they visited Colleluori's grave, leaving yellow Hofstra ribbons behind.

"It's cool to hear stories about him," said Zappone. "And it's great to pay your respects because he did leave such an impact on our program."

The Year of the Bearcat?

Saturday's most surprising result came in the early afternoon when Binghamton defeated Hofstra, 13-8.

Hofstra rotated in its entire roster, while Binghamton was still playing some starters late, including senior captain Matt Springer, who scored 5 goals, but that was out of necessity. The Bearcats are down 10 injured players, including a starting midfielder, attacker and faceoff man. Nearly all are expected back by the spring.

Freshman faceoff specialist Dan Mazurek, out of Don Bosco Prep (N.J.) was pressed into duty because of the injuries and was impressive.

This will be the third season for BU coach Scott Nelson, who has made it a goal to increase the pace of Binghamton's offense.

"We wanted to change the tempo of the play," Nelson said. "Hopefully get a little more exciting. Today we got a little off that, I was pretty happy with that. We wanted change that atmosphere and make it a great place to play."

Binghamton scored 10 goals before halftime, a nice pace for a team that was held to single digits in four of its five America East games last season.

All that scoring should help redshirt junior Max Schefler, who looked good in goal.

"The future looks extremely bright for us," Schefler said. "Every year we've gotten better. There's a lot more heart. A desire to win. The program is going to grow exponentially."

St. Joseph's Welcomes Freshmen

When St. Joseph's defeated Monmouth in the first game of the day, the members of the new team from the Jersey Shore weren't the only inexperienced players out there.

St. Joe's is working in 20 freshman in coach Taylor Wray's second season. The Hawks looked solid in the first game, but their second contest against local rival Villanova was a bit tougher.

"We played good at times, not so good at times," said Wray. "It was what a fall scrimmage typically is. There were a lot of mistakes, but it's fun for your guys. We learned a lot today."

Wray said the key to the fall with the freshman is getting them acclimated to the Division I level

"The game just moves so much faster," Wray said. "The ball moves faster. The players move faster. And the skill level is adjusted. Every kid that plays high school lacrosse is the best player on the team. Now it's like, 'What am I going to do to separate myself to be successful at this level?' You gotta be smart. You have to great skills. You have to be athletic enough to play. There are a lot of things to work on to be ready for those first few months."

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