By Chris Goldberg
Phillylacrosse.com, Posted 10/13/10
After its most successful season yet in 2010, the Immaculata men’s lacrosse team was happy to participate for the first time Sunday at the 4th annual Nick Colleluori Classic at Ridley High.
The Mighty Macs were one of nine Division III squads, along with Division II Chestnut Hill College, to compete in the two-day Fall Ball tourney that benefits the HEADstrong Foundation and its fight against blood cancer.
Immaculata opened against Widener Sunday morning and then pulled off an exciting 9-8 triumph over Eastern on a goal with 18 seconds left in the game. Robert Devers, who is serving as the interim co-coach along with Matt McMillen while the school searches for a replacement for Marty Mullen, was happy his Mighty Macs got the exposure of being in the event.
“Last year they invited us late because a team dropped out and we couldn’t pull it together, but it planted a seed for us,” Devers said. “We were pushing the t-shirts (a fundraiser every team must do) on campus.
“It’s such a good cause. Also, we play four or five of the teams here in the regular season and we get to see all the local draw. Recruits are here checking us out and we’re hoping we open some eyes to the lacrosse community.
“We’re a young program, but we went 9-6 in our fourth year. We’re really disappointed we didn’t hit double digit wins. Certainly, we think double digit wins is within our reach. We have a good young core group of guys and hopefully we can replace some of the seniors we lost.”
The Nick Colleluori Classic drew over 7,000 people and raised well over $100,000 for blood cancer treatment and awareness. More than 100 volunteers helped organize the event, which honors the spirit of Ridley graduate Nick Colleluori, who died after a valiant fight against Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma four years ago while a student-athlete at Hofstra.
At mid-day in each of the two days of action, Nick’s mother, HEADstrong President Cheryl Colleluori, gave a heartwarming speech about continuing her son’s legacy and how the lacrosse world has embraced his message of being relentless in achieving goals.
Jamie Steele, the coach at Ursinus, also enjoys the experience of bringing his Bears to the event.
“Both years I’ve been at Ursinus we’ve gotten to come here and it’s a tremendous event; our guys love it,” Steele said. “Seeing the Colleluoris speak up there about their son and how much it still touches is amazing.
“I have four sons and I can’t imagine how I would handle this. It’s so cool how they took a (tragic) experience and turned it into this. I recruited Nick. He didn’t give me much of a look because he was pretty good! I can actually still remember his recruiting card sitting on my table with his name.
‘His name is so unique that I could easily remember it.”
One of Steele’s highlights came late in the day when his Bears edged Widener – the school he coached form 2001-06. One of his former players and now head coach at Widener is Jamie Lockard, still one of Steele’s best friends.
“He played for me for three years and coached with me for one year,” Steele said. “We played them here last year. It’s kind of cool to play against him.”
Lockard, whose Widener squad has come to the Class for the past three years, has built a close connection with the Colleluori family and the HEADstrong Foundation. Last year Widener hosted the first Rivalry Games, an all-day scholastic event that featured five high school games between league rivals and a college battle between Widener and Cabrini.
“I think raising funds for a great cause is just fantastic,” said Lockard. “This is a great venue and right around the corner, and near and deer to the hearts of our local kids. e always have a lot of Ridley kids on our team, too.
“We like being involved with HEADstrong in general. We had the Rivalry Games and have hosted some of the (club) tryouts at Widener. We do a lot of things with them.”
One team that made its first appearance at the Colleluori Classic was Division II Chestnut Hill College, which is now in its second year of play. Interim coach Mike Terranova said the Griffins used the experience to become more connected to the Philly lax community.
“We liked being involved in this tournament,” he said. “It has done a couple things for us. It makes us feel more of a part of the Philadelphia lacrosse community. We’re the only D2 team in this region and it’s great for us to be part of it.
“There is the added focus of the guys and their play. But to be able to present them with the message that the HEADstrong Foundation provides adds a different perspective to the whole Fall Ball thing. As opposed to just scrimmaging, we look at this time they take to put priorities on good things.
“Also, this is great because it adds exposure to Chestnut Hill. There are so many established teams here to see.”
Roland D’Ortone, the coach at Neumann, also was pleased for the chance to bring his squad to the Classic.
“To a man our guys felt it was a great event,” he said. “To be able to support a great cause, and to see and be a part of the lacrosse community at it’s best was a wonderful opportunity. We look forward to continuing to be a part of this event for years to come.”