October 6, 2013

Dowling Begins Reboot at Colleluori DII/III Event

by Mark Macyk LaxMagazine.com

DI (Sat) Coverage: Monmouth Debuts | Photo Gallery by Kevin Tucker

Dowling is just a year removed from its NCAA title, but is making some changes after a down year last spring.
 Kevin Tucker

Folsom, Pa. -- Nothing went right last time around, so Dowling is taking a different approach this fall.

"We learned a lot of things that we did wrong last year," said Dowling coach Tim Boyle. "We experienced so much in 2011. Coming into the year it was a brand new situation, a place we'd never been in. We didn't handle it well from top to bottom."

After wining the program's first NCAA championship in 2011, the Golden Lions struggled through a 7-6 record last year. They graduated a ton of talent from the championship team, but it went beyond that.

"We were inexperienced but that's not the reason," Boyle said. "We just couldn't handle our position well. We were always the chaser, always the team fighting for respect. All of a sudden we got to the top of the mountain and we didn't know how we were supposed to act."

To deal with the pressure of being defending champions, Boyle turned to a variety of sources, seeking advice from staff members of Dowling's 2006 NCAA champion soccer team and reading Bill Belichick's book. Still the season ended in disappointment with three straight losses and without a return trip the NCAA tournament.

So, two years removed from a national title, Dowling is calling 2014 a rebuilding season. And not just on the field.

"We're rebuilding our identity," Boyle said.

Dowling isn't simply working on X's and O's or strength and condition this fall. The Golden Lions are rebuilding their souls, too. Community service is at the top of the list, right beside academics and adjusting to college life, as to what Boyle hopes to accomplish.

On Sunday that meant a trip to the Nick Colleluori Classic, in Ridley Pa., where the Golden Lions got their first action of the season against D-III Rosemont and Randolph-Macon, but, more importantly, all where all the proceeds go toward the Headstrong Foundation.

Dowling made the trip to suburban Philadelphia with a skeleton crew of a little more than 20 players thanks to injuries and other issues. Those left behind on Long Island were doing their part as well, taking part in the Strides Against Breast Cancer walk.

The week before, the Lions walked for the Make-a-Wish Foundation. On Oct., 27 they'll host their own Wishmaker Tournament, bringing in Adelphi, LIU Post and American International College with the goal to raise the $6,000 required to buy a wish for a local girl, who they then hope to spend some time with.

Another community service event, last weekend's Tunnel to Towers Run, ends up ranking ranking right up there with the NCAA titles in the memories of Golden Lion players.

Stephen Siller was a Brooklyn firefighter who got called in 9/11. When he found traffic blocked off at the Brooklyn-Battery tunnel, he put on his gear and ran the distance under the East River and into lower Manhattan, where he later perished. More than 30,000 people gathered last week to recreate Siller's trek and raise funds for fireman's charities. Boyle said in the future he'd like to bring his entire team, but at the moment he uses it as a reward for his senior.

"When you come out of the tunnel there 343 banners for every fireman that died," Boyle said. "And you're running through that. Everyone's singing Gold Bless America, USA Chants. It's so moving and motivating."

All that perspective should come in handy, as Dowling's schedule will be rough this spring. Despite the rebuilding, Boyle added Merrimack and LeMoyne to a schedule that already including Mercyhurst, LIU Post and NY Tech.

"We have a lot more motivation this year," Boyle said.

FSC's Romanelli Happy to Be Playing

Sunday's proceedings held a special meaning for Farmingdale State's Damian Romanelli.

The Rams' sophomore midfielder was coming off the field after a high school game during his junior year at Lindenhurst (N.Y.) High School, when his dad broke the news. He had Hodgkins Lymphoma.

Romanelli grew up less than half hour from Hofstra, where Nick Colleluori played and received his fatal diagnosis of non-Hodgkins lymphoma, so he knew what that could mean.

"It was a scary reaction honestly," Romanelli said.

Romanelli went through two and a half cycles of chemotherapy and 14 straight days of radiation at Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in Manhattan. He's now been cancer free for two years and two months.

Throughout the process, Romanelli did not let the cancer get him down.

"When I was on chemo I felt like myself every day," Romanelli said. "I never got sick even one day. I was always positive. Only thing was, I lost my hair. It's good to have it back."

The diagnosis ended his junior season and cost him a chance to play college away from home. He returned for his senior year at Lindenhurst and earned a spot at nearby Farmingdale State, which reached the Skyline conference semifinals last season.

"I'm just happy to be here," Romanelli said. "It feels good to be playing. We have a good team. A good family."

Neumann's Zielinski Helping Off the Field, Too

How a lacrosse team or community can become a part of your family was something Colleluori's mother, Cheryl, brought up when she addressed the teams on both days of the tournament.

Neumann's Evan Zielinski has taken that message to heart. Zielinski, who played high school ball 40 miles away at Spring-Ford, was a social media intern with the Headstrong Foundation this year. He now calls the Colleluoris some of his best friends and even went with the family feed cancer patients at area hospitals.

"I wanted to leave an impact on somebody's life," Zielinski said. "There are more important things than lacrosse. There are difficulties that people face on a daily basis. It's just important to see everybody come together for a great cause."

Zielinski actually saw the advertisement for the internship on Twitter, than went on to run the foundations's account, helping to spread awareness one tweet at a time. He saw first hand how the lacrosse community can impact a charity when the account received a 1,000 follower bump during the NCAA Final Four, which was played just 14 miles away at Lincoln Financial Field.

Zielinski's selflessness was recognized during the Headstrong Ceremony, where he received his team's Nicholas Colleluori Award.

"It's just inspiration," Zielinski said. "Growing up I've always been associated with Nick. I've always had that hard-working mentality, but I've never actually been compared to Nick. To have that, you can't ask for anything else."

A Homecoming for Malampy

Zielinski's coach, Cory Malampy, also had a personal connection to the day. He was Colleluori's teammate at Ridley High School.

"It's pretty surreal for me," Malampy said of being back at his alma mater, honoring his late friend. "It's always an emotional day coming back. Playing on this field, at this high school, those emotions kind of come back. It makes me think about specific times, or something that Nick and we'd have a laugh about. A lot of memories come flashing back."

Before heading off the tournament Malampy made sure his Knights, who play nine miles away in Aston, Pa., understood the meaning behind everything the Headstrong Foundation does.

"We're not just out here to wear lime green because it looks cool on our shoelaces," Malampy said. "There's a meaning behind everything. And we kind of get into that. The guys take it and run with it."

After the morning's games, Cheryl Colleluori said the Headstrong Foundation had raised over $4-million for cancer research. Malampy wasn't too surprised.

"It's really amazing," Malampy said. "I would say I was shocked, but if Nick were here, this is what he would have expected. He wouldn't have expected anything less. This is what he would have wanted."

Honoring Colleluori's Spirit

Zielinski and Romanelli were both honored during the Headstrong Presentation as players representing what Colleluori stood for.

The other Nicholas Colleluori Award award winners were: Rob Moran (Bryn Athyn), David Cram (Centenary), Ryan Hildebrand (Chestnut Hill), Derek Muzio (Dowling), Garrett Nealon (Marymount), Jared Hunt (Misericordia), Kyle Snodderly (Randolph-Macon), Dan Lamela (Richard Stockton), Michael Manning (Rosemont), Dylan Larmony (Maritime) and Casey Decker (Widener). Like Zielinski, Decker was a headstrong intern.

Coaches were asked to identify a player who was their Nick Colleluori, a player who exemplified heart, selflessness and determination.

"It just goes to show what Nick stood for," said Malampy. "To bring total strangers in toward a common goal, that's pretty amazing.

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