April 22, 2013

Making Sense: Roanoke Flying High With Co-Pilats

by Jac Coyne | LaxMagazine.com | Coyne Archive | Twitter

The Roanoke players might goof on him a little bit about being the coach's son, but Will Pilat (above, with his father, head coach Bill Pilat) has earned his spot in the starting lineup. The father-son duo has helped the Maroons grab the top spot in the ODAC tournament.
© Roanoke Athletics

The fast break drill ends when either the offense gets three consecutive goals or the defense makes three straight stops. It's standard practice fare for most college programs and is an easy way for the 'ones' to square off with each other. One of the Roanoke's offensive attempts failed, leaving the ball on the ground and the players milling around waiting for the next sequence.

An enterprising Maroon freshman — a tall, lanky kid — picked up the loose ball and deposited it in the back of the net. Bill Pilat, Roanoke's head coach, counted the score, giving the offense the day. The defenders held their hands up, looking at the coach incredulously. "You play until you hear the whistle," admonished the coach.

One of the poles grumbled, "If anyone else scored, it wouldn't have counted."

The rookie who scored the goal was Will Pilat, the 6-foot-5 son of the head coach, causing the veiled accusation of nepotism. It was all in good fun. There might be concerns about some home cooking during full-field drills, but no one questions the presence of the Pilat scion in the starting lineup these days.

Second in scoring and fourth in points for the 13-3 Maroons, Will knows that the barbs he receives are in jest. "I don't get a lot of crap, it's just a lot of joking," he said.

The ribbing rolls right off of Will's back, but when he decided to join the Roanoke program, his father was slightly less comfortable. Bill wasn't concerned about any whispers from the guys about favoritism — you don't build a tradition like Roanoke's unless the best players play — but he wasn't sure just how the dynamic of coaching his son would work.

During the summer leading into this year, Bill made calls to Hampden-Sydney head coach Ray Rostan and Denver head man Bill Tierney, a pair of coaches who shared their programs with their sons. The conversations were illuminating, and gave Pilat an idea about the emotions he would be dealing with when it came to Will.

"Coach Tierney said he would yell at his son and would be concerned later thinking, 'I wonder if he's mad at me?' He'd call him in the dorm and his son would say, 'Nah, I don't even remember it,'" Pilat said. "It's the same thing with Will. I'll yell at at Will — 'Hey, you've got to hustle or pick up the ground ball' — and I'm like, 'I wonder if Will's mad that I yelled at him?' Will says, 'I don't even remember.' It's just part of practice. It's much easier on them than it is the parents."

The elder Pilat has always taken things harder than his son. When Will was cut from the middle school basketball team in seventh grade, Bill remembers that he was the one crying in the car with his son consoling him. "Hey dad, it's all right," remembered Pilat, with a chuckle.

When he was looking at colleges, Will never viewed playing for his father as a negative. While he received some interest from Salisbury, he had his heart set on playing for the program that he had been around since he was six years old. Now that he's wearing the Roanoke uniform that he idolized as a youngster, Will understands that the team trumps lineage.

"People always ask me if I get treated any differently, and even before I came to Roanoke people said, 'Not sure if I'd want to play for my dad,'" Will said. "But I wasn't really worried about that because he treats me like everyone else on the team. I'm just another player. Obviously, I'm his son, but I've got to earn my playing time like everybody else and I get yelled at like everybody else."

He's treated the same now, but the younger Pilat definitely benefited from having a coaching father. It's pretty much the reason that Will was able to step into the starting lineup after coming off the bench for the first three games. Using many of the drills that his dad gave him, Will, a natural righty, became nearly ambidextrous. When lefty Mike Hayden was bumped up to midfield during an early-season reshuffling, the Maroons had a void and a paucity of lefties on the roster.

"I wasn't sure how he would fit in, but one thing is his stick skills are really good," coach Pilat said about his son. "He worked really hard on his skills. I gave him the Salisbury wall ball routine when he was younger, so he has been doing that stuff. His left has been really good and I figured that would help him, and that's what has gotten him on the field earlier."

"During this summer, I always work on my off hand to get as good as I can," Will said. "When I was growing up and playing wall ball, I worked on my left hand because you'll never know when you'll need it. It paid off this year."

Despite his proficiency with his off hand, Bill wasn't quite sure that Will would handle being a catch-and-shoot guy. Will's high school team, Hidden Valley, wasn't a powerhouse, and he had the ball in his stick most of the time. Dad was pleasantly surprised about how well Junior was able to make the transition.

"He's really intelligent where he goes and how he moves off ball," Bill said. "I was a little surprised about that because in high school, he had to handle the ball 90 percent of the time, which helped his dodging and vision. I was worried that off ball, he wouldn't know how to work in space, but he's been really good."

Will has been helped by the presence of senior Richard Lachlan and assistant coach Zach Thomas. Running with a pair of rookies — Pilat and Tyler McWilliams — on the first attack line, Lachlan has taken the greenhorns under his wing, passing along the finer points of the position. Will idolized Thomas, a two-time All-American attackman for the Maroons who graduated in '09, and eagerly accepts any nuggets he passes along.

There's also a third party that holds sway over the younger Pilat: his mom, Diana.

"She's been around for a lot of games, so I'll take advice from her as well as my dad," Will said.

With Will's twin sister, Emily, attending Mary Washington, Bill understands who rules his semi-empty nest.

"That was one of the main pieces of advice that coach Tierney gave me: keep his mom happy," said Bill with a big laugh. "I've listened and learned from that. She's always been pretty tough on Will. If he's not hustling, she'll let him know. Everything's been good on the home front; it's just a different dynamic. I'll come home and she'll say, 'Will played pretty well' or 'He could have played better.'"

The way this season has been going, Diana has been singing her sons praises more often than not. The Maroons are now the top seed in the ODAC tournament after beating Washington & Lee on Saturday, a game in which Will had a goal and an assist.

It's been a rookie campaign that has exceeded the expectations of just about every member of the Pilat clan. It's one, however, that the head coach is determined to cherish on the advice of Rostan and Tierney.

"Both of them said it goes really fast, so it enjoy it," Bill said. "This first year has just flown by, but I'm really loving it. It's fun and it's great to see him grow up."

Only three years to go.

Players of the Week

NCAA Division II
Vinny Coiro
, A, Sr., Adelphi

With No. 3 Merrimack in town and holding a two-goal lead heading into the fourth, No. 4 Adelphi was going to need some big goals. Over the course of the day, Coiro provided three of them, including the eventual game-winner with 3:50 to go in the contest in the 11-10 win for the Panthers. Coiro had eight goals entering the game.

NCAA Division III
Luke Wooters
, A, Fr., Nazareth

No. 6 Stevens ran into a Roc-City buzzsaw on Saturday, thanks to Wooters. The rookie scored six goals and set up two others, helping Nazareth rout the Ducks, 17-8. Wooters leads the Flyers in goals (39) and points (55), and has helped Naz into a position where they determine their own fate in relation to the E8 top seed.

MCLA Division I
Matt Allemang
, G, Soph., Michigan State

If there is one thing that Davenport has always been able to do, it's score goals. Well, until they squared off Allemang, who made 12 saves and held the prolific Panthers to just a lone goal in an 11-1 whitewashing. Allemang currently as a 71.2 save percentage for the 11-2 Spartans.

MCLA Division II
Danny Kransberger
, G, Jr., Grand Valley State

In a pivotal game against CCLA rival Dayton, Kransberger not only made 12 saves in the Lakers' comfortable, 15-7 victory against the Flyers, but he also chipped in with an end-to-end goal. It was the junior's fourth career goal, helping GVSU solidify its postseason resume.

Power Fives

NCAA Division II
1. Merychurst (12-0) – In a season packed with great D-II games, 'Hurst-Seton Hill could be the best of the bunch.
2. Limestone (14-1) – The Saints were third in the regional rankings, but after the ECAC plays out, they should be second.
3. Adelphi (11-1) – Will the St. Michael's loss haunt the Panthers? After the Merrimack win, it's looking less likely.
4. LIU Post (9-2) – Just a hunch, but I'm guessing Post took great satisfaction sending Dowling to the showers.
5. Seton Hill (12-1) – Ever since the February loss to NYIT, the Griffins have been crushing everyone. 'Hurst next.

NCAA Division III
1. Cortland (13-0) – The game has been officially canceled, but man, I'd love to see the Dragons on the road against Naz.
2. Dickinson (13-0) – Thirteen different players got into the scorers' column against Swat. The Devils are evolving.
3. RIT (13-2) – The Tigers will want to beat St. Lawrence next weekend if only to avoid Clarkson in the Liberty tourney.
4. Roanoke (13-3) – We'll see how the ODAC shapes up, but the Maroons might want to avoid Hampden-Sydney the most.
5. Cabrini (11-3) – Sadly, the gap between the Cavaliers and the CSAC appears to be widening. That's not helpful.

MCLA Division I
1. Colorado State (15-0) – The Rams' 8-3 win over CU had the look and feel of one of last year's tourney grinders.
2. Colorado (14-1) – Have to put the CSU loss behind them quickly because a rested BYU squad is itching for an upset.
3. Chapman (13-4) – As goes Timmy Andrews, so go the Panthers. He's the straw who stirs the drink in Chaptown.
4. Boston College (9-0) – The win over UConn is looking better and better. Final two games at home before the PCLLs.
5. Michigan State (11-2) – Holding a high-octane offense like Davenport to one goal tells me Sparty is a bracket nightmare.

MCLA Division II
1. St. Thomas (9-0) – The ease in which the Tommies dispatch quality programs has to be completely demoralizing.
2. Westminster (11-4) – The win over Utah means the Griffins would have qualified for the RMLC-I tourney this year.
3. St. John's (9-1) – I guarantee there will be some kind of inclement weather for the Johnnies' first game in Greenville.
4. Liberty (13-1) – Not really sure how Ryan Miller (56g, 31a) hasn't been named an MCLA Player of the Month.
5. Concordia (10-3) – I'll be interested to see where the Eagles get seeded in Greenville. There are question marks.


NCAA Division II: Mercyhurst is undoubtedly the best team in the land, but there is plenty of work to do.
NCAA Division III: They might be part of Pool B, but Eastern has high hopes for this year, as well as the future.
MCLA Division I: BYU's tradition rivals any in the MCLA, but that doesn't mean there was some rebuiding this spring.
MCLA Division II: It didn't produce any wins, but the Wolves' 36-hour journey to Minnesota had its benefits.

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