By Chris Goldberg
Phillylacrosse.com, Posted 1/17/11
Two of the most successful Philly boys’ youth lacrosse programs, Abington Lacrosse Club and Ashbee Lacrosse Club, have left the Southeastern Pennsylvania Youth Lacrosse Association (SEPYLA) to compete in the Chester County Lacrosse Association (CCLA).
Ashbee was a charter member of SEPYLA when it was formed in 1987. Abington entered the league the following year. Each program has developed numerous players that have gone on to successful careers at the scholastic and collegiate levels.
Chris “Hup” Hupfeldt, a member of the Ashbee leadership, said his program wanted to compete in a league that is age-based rather than grade-based. He also said the CCLA is much smaller, making it easier to be organized. Lastly, Ashbee wanted to play in a more balanced and competitive league.
“Ashbee wanted to be an age-based program instead of grade(-based) so that travel teams will be in compliance with US Lacrosse guidelines,” Hupfeldt said. “As a result of the fact that the majority of youth programs are age-based, almost every lacrosse tournament is also age-based.
“Secondly, the actual size of CCLA was also an important factor. Ashbee feels that because CCLA is a much smaller league, it is well organized with respect to league communication and tasks such as completing the master schedule.”
SEPYLA President Tim Udinski wished both teams success in the CCLA: “We wish Abington and Ashbee youth lacrosse the best of luck in their future endeavors in the Chester County League,”
The CCLA now has 14 programs with the addition of Abington and Ashbee, two longtime rivals. SEPYLA has 37 programs. The leagues field teams for players in grades 3 through 8. The CCLA also includes Avon Grove, Brandywine, Collegeville, Conestoga, Coventry, Great Valley, Kennett, Lionville, Phoenixville, Unionville, West Bradford and West Chester.
“There are a number of excellent programs in CCLA such as Conestoga, West Chester, BYC, Lionville, Collegeville, etc., which are comparable to Ashbee in size,” said Hupfeldt. “That will make for a more balanced schedule of competitive games for all travel levels.
“Another advantage is that all U-13 and U-15 travel teams participate in a playoff format,” continued Hupfeldt. “This gives many more players the experience to play in an end-of-season big game. In SEPYLA, only the top 5th & 6th grade and 7th & 8th grade teams have playoffs.”
Abington President Greg Wilson said Abington based its decision on similar reasons. He also noted that the extra drive of an average of 13 minutes for away games was worth it.
“We have close to 80 kids in each age group and we’re bigger than a lot of the SEPYLA programs,” he said. “The move will make our games more competitive at most levels. Also, we’ll play 12 games in the CCLA where we had eight in SEPYLA.
“We used to scramble for non-league games. Also, our lower level teams will get playoffs and that’s a big plus.”
Mike Walsh, President of the CCLA, said that adding Abington and Ashbee will strengthen the league.
“Both are high quality youth organizations that fit within the model and philosophy of the CCLA,” he said. “We try to provide the best opportunity for our kids to learn the game and love the game.
“Both organizations approached us about joining; they have top-notch lacrosse with top-notch people.”
SEPYLA fields teams mostly in Montgomery, Bucks and Delaware counties, but also has teams in Chester, Philadelphia and Berks counties.
Some of the players produced by Ashbee include Chestnut Hill College men’s coach Brian Dougherty (2010 U.S. Men’s National Team Goalie, Episcopal Academy grad), Wings Assistant General Manager Dave Stilley (1997 Duke University All-American defenseman, Haverford School grad), Philadelphia Wing and LEAPS Co-Director John Christmas (2005 Virginia All-American attackman, Lower Merion grad), Matt McMongle (2007 Cornell University All-American goalie, Episcopal Academy), John Haldy (2011 University of Virginia captain, Haverford School), and Duke freshman attackman Jordan Wolf (2010 Phillylacrosse.com Co-Player of the Year, Lower Merion).
Some of the players produced by Abington include Princeton assistant coach Colin Ambler (two-time all-CAA and CAA Academic winner at Drexel, Abington grad), 2009 Phillylacrosse.com Player of the Year Tucker Durkin (started as freshman at close defense at Johns Hopkins and is a preseason All-American, La Salle grad), the Forster brothers (Rob, Jack, Randy and Kevin, all standouts at La Salle), two-time scholastic All-American Peter Schwartz (attackman at Harvard, La Salle grad), scholastic All-American Brian Neary (captain at Drexel, La Salle grad) and Mike Sullivan (standout at Loyola, La Salle grad).