By Chris Goldberg
Phillylacrosse.com, Posted 10/10/10
Of all the small-school teams that competed today in the Division II/III field of play at the 4th annual Nick Colleluori Classic at Ridley, perhaps no program was more excited than Penn State Abington.
A third-year program that has one win in its brief history, the Lions basked in the experience of competing in the 20-team tourney that benefited the HEADstrong Foundation and its mission to fight blood cancer and drew nearly 10,000 people over two perfectly sunny days.
“This is an awesome experience,” said Penn State junior captain Dan Prior, a defenseman from Springfield-Montco “This is phenomenal; to get out there and have a fall season and get ready for the spring.
“But this is also for a great cause. All these teams are having fun and are having scrimmages, but it’s all for Nick. It’s a great feeling to be able to help out – selling the shirts and everything else.”
Nick Colleluori – a former Ridley lacrosse and football great – passed away four years ago despite a valiant fight against Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma while a student-athlete at Hofstra University. He created the HEADstrong Foundation and his family has continued to make his dream a reality by raising more than $600,000 for treatment and awareness.
This year’s tourney field was the largest yet. On Staurday 10 Division I teams competed and today Division II Chestnut Hill College was joined by Penn State Abington, Cabrini, Eastern, Immaculata, Neumann, Stockton, Ursinus, Wesley and Widener.
Each team was required to sell t-shirts to help in the fundraising efforts. They also were expected to spread the word about Nick Colleluori and his dream of curing blood cancer through awareness and education.
Prior noted that Penn State Abington has a young roster with several players that had never played the sport on an organized team before the fall. In fact, 12 of the 20 players on the roster are freshmen.
“It’s phenomenal to watch these other schools,” said Prior. “We can look at stats online, but it’s another thing to actually watch them. There’s a lot of young guys on our team and they can learn. In this fall season alone, a lot of kids that have never played lacrosse before have done a 180.”
PSU Abington coach Keith Brandon said the experience of playing in the Nick Colleluori Classic has many benefits.
“The big thing for me is to get the guys to understand there is something bigger than lacrosse,” he said. “I met Mr. (Pat) Colleluori a few years ago at the US Lacrosse Convention. He explained to me about the foundation.
“He was emotional about his loss, and I felt for his pain. I said, ‘Wow, I wish I would be able to support a foundation like that.’ I didn’t even know there was such a type of cancer.
“It struck a cord with me. I told him I would like to help down the road. I was honored to get the call and be invited to participate. Our numbers are low, but we made the challenge of making sure we did the fundraising. Our guys understood how important it was. Our campus understood.”
Brandon said his team never had a Fall Ball season until this year – and noted how good it felt to be beside nine other teams that were happy to play for the cause.
“It’s our first Fall Ball season and we’re here for this big cause,” he said. “It’s a great event.
“I’m excited about having a Fall Ball season and guys getting to know each other, building chemistry. I wanted our program to be supportive of some type of service. It’s monumental for our team; we even had our first tailgate together. I’m excited that these guys can take the momentum to the spring.”