By Chris Goldberg
Phillylacrosse.com, Posted 10/9/12
One could excuse Villanova’s Paul Mita and Mark Jackson, two products of Philly high schools, for being optimistic Saturday at the 6th Annual Nick Colleluori Classic at Ridley High.
After all, both are making a bid to play key roles next spring for a Wildcats team expecting to improve on an 8-7 season that ended in disappointing fashion (losing in semifinals) at the Big East tournament at home.
Mita, a Conestoga High grad, has worked hard to make himself a challenger for a regular role. The 6-4, 230-pounder saw much playing time for the Wildcats in their 11-8 victory over Colgate in Saturday’s opener and was singled out by coach Michael Corrado as one who may make an impact on a team that expects to return to the NCAA tournament in 2013
“We lost a lot of key players from last year, but we had a lot of players on the bench (ready to step up) and our incoming freshman class is great,” said Mita, who played in seven games last year. “We have a bunch of talent.
“We are not rebuilding, we are reloading. Right now the team is still coming together and trying to find its identity.”
Mita – who has the reach, the smarts and the sizzling shot to play a significant role this year – is hoping to continue to make strides.
“I started to see the field toward the end of the season,” he said. “Hopefully, I will see the field more by working hard.
Mita took special pride in competing at the tourney; he formerly played for the Team HEADstrong club program.
“It’s nice to see the program going strong and doing well for the community,” he said.
Jackson, a junior midfielder from Malvern Prep, played in all 15 games last year as a defensive middie. It was a near-miracle he played at all after suffering a serious thumb injury which caused him to tear two ligaments.
He just taped up the hand, but had reconstructive surgery after the season and is ready to play an even bigger role in 2013.
“I was able to get it taped up and I didn’t miss any time,” he said. “Everyone has three tendons; I had one. They took a tendon from my index finger and weaved it back in the thumb and reattached it. I have four major scars.”
Jackson said the pain will fully subside if the ‘Cats reach their potential this year.
“We have a lot of talent,” he said. “The young guys have invigorated the program and the key is working as a cohesive unit.
“Our defensive coach, Andy German, has done a great job and this fall we are all on the same page. We have a lot of good individual players; we just have to keep acting as a cohesive unit to get back to where we want to be – atop the Big East.”
Corrado, who has brought his team to the Nick Colleluori Classic four times, loves the atmosphere of the 24-team tourney (11 Division I squads competed on Saturday).
“It’s a great event because it’s local,” he said, “but at the same time through their Foundation and Mr. and Mrs. (Pat and President Cheryl) Colleluori, the message has gone through the country, from youth and high school playing in tournaments, to this great tourney.
“They have done a great job getting the message to all different ages and genders around the country. It is not uncommon to see someone in Florida wearing a HEADstrong shirt. It’s a testament to their awareness, which is getting better and better every year.”
Corrado believes Villanova will challenge for the Big East crown in 2013.
“We were all disappointed at the way the season ended last year,” he said. “We had a lot of injuries and we wore down by the end.
“We learned from that and the guys came back this year focused and working hard doing. I think we need to have some of our young freshmen contribute this year and for some of the players like Paul Mita and Mark Jackson to step up.
“Our big question is depth at the midfield. We have juniors and seniors on defense; the midfield has talent, it just has to grow.”
Tomorrow’s Nick Colleluori Classic features; St. Joseph’s, Philly Division II-III roundup; Chestnut Hill, Neumann, Widener, Rosemont