By James Boyle
Phillylacrosse.com, Posted 10/6/12
Ridley High School, the sight of the Sixth Annual Nick Colleluori Lacrosse Classic, saw some familiar athletes take the field on Saturday – and none more familiar than Ridley graduate Daniel Stranix.
Stranix, a key senior midfielder at Mount St. Mary’s, found the back of the net three times against Michigan at his old stomping grounds.
“It was really cool coming back,” said Stranix, who later was named the winner of the school’s Nicholas “Head” Colleluori Award winner. “It’s funny, when you get here everyone on your team expects you to know where everything is at the tournament… I get to go two minutes back to my house for fall break.”
The HEADstrong organization, which helps organize the Nick Colleluori Classic, raises money in order to fight blood cancer. The tourney honors the message of founder Nick Colleluori, who passed away six years ago from Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Thanks to Nick’s determination, HEADstrong has spread to every facet of the lacrosse world.
“It’s definitely different,” added Stranix, who used to work at the tournament while he was still in high school and also played for Team HEADstrong L.C. “Because you see people wearing Michigan shirts, and they’re coming halfway across the country to Ridley Park and you never thought it was a big deal before.
“And it’s for a great cause so the more people they get from across the country, the more HEADstrong spreads to different states.”
Mount St. Mary’s won the game by a score of 19-10.
(Check back for more coverage and pictures from the Nick Colleluori Classic)
Marist defeated Michigan, 15-8, with the help of some local talent, and a goal from Plymouth Whitemarsh grad Colin Joka (sophomore attackman).
“It’s like being back at home,” said Joka. “Everything feels natural and feels right, just playing here where I knew a lot of people growing up… it just feels special to me.”
Joka and his teammates will be returning to the Philadelphia area in two weeks to compete in the Edward Taylor Coombs Memorial Tournament at Hatboro-Horsham. Coombs, who played lacrosse for Hatboro-Horsham and was a teammate of Joka’s on the rebel Elite club team, died in a vehicle collision in 2011.
“We were pretty close,” said Joka.”He was one of the players I looked up to on the (Rebel Elite) team. Since I was one of the youngest players on the team… he pretty much took me under his wing and told me the ins and outs and how to stay tough and always keep my head up and always keep fighting.”
Dillon Walker and Pat Stepek, both Salesianum School alumni, also returned to the area with Marist. Stepek, a manager with Marist, was forced to end his playing career during his junior year of high school because of multiple concussions.
“On the bus ride here, we drove past the Linc, drove past Citizens Bank Park, a couple of my favorite spots here,” said Walker a freshman attackman who earned Phillylacrosse.com Northern Delaware Player of the Year honors last spring. “Just seeing the exit signs and everything is a great feeling… I just wanted to drive right into my driveway.”
Tyler Rankel, who played his high school lacrosse at Downingtown West, is now a junior LSM at Robert Morris. He was joined by his freshman brother Eric, a midfielder who earned All-Phillylacrosse.com honors last year and scored the late game-winner in a 12-11 win over Lehigh.
“Probably the closest we’ll get back to Philly is playing here,” said Tyler Rankel, whose parents and grandparents attended the tournament. “Just having the friends and family who can’t make it far is fun.”
Rankel stressed the importance of the HEADstrong organization as a former Team HEADstrong player.
“It’s special indeed,” he said. “It was really cool knowing we were coming back and supporting the team that I always played for… Back then I played on the first team, and it was a shock to see how much grew. Playing on the team is always exciting.”
Robert Morris lost its first game of the day to Marquette, 12-8.
Brad James and Pat Farrell of High Point University and Blaine Fleming of Marquette were part of the St. Joseph’s Prep lacrosse team that made state finals in 2011, but lost to a Conestoga team that won its second of now three straight titles.
“It feels good. A lot of my friends are here, my family is here,” said Fleming as he waved to them in the stands. “It feels good to play against [James and Farrell]. That was a real big year for Prep lacrosse.”
Marquette defeated High Point, 13-7, to kick off each team’s Fall Ball schedule. Both Marquette and High Point are first-year Division I programs.
“It was weird seeing Blaine in a different uniform,” said James. “But it was cool; I got to see how he improved from high school and hopefully he got to see the same from me.”
While James does admit that he expects to hear about the outcome of their game from his former teammates, he says that it will all be worth it come the spring, for “the real trash-talk to come.”