By Chris Goldberg
Phillylacrosse.com, Posted 10/10/13
With 21 freshmen on the roster and a host of returnees coming back from injuries, St. Joseph’s coach third-year head coach Taylor Wray felt as though he was starting all over again Saturday at the 7th Annual Nick Colleluori Classic at Ridley High.
The Hawks went a respectable 5-11 last year despite many key injuries. The re-building process continued Saturday against Monmouth (win) and Villanova (loss.)
“It’s exciting; I don’t think I have had a team hungrier than this one to work with in the Fall,” said Wray. “And that says a lot because I felt that the first two years our team was really motivated.
“It’s a young team. I feel like it’s all new guys in Year 3. Some of them know the system and younger guys are pushing into new roles. But we still have a lot of teaching to do.”
Wray said competing in the Nick Colleluori Classic is the ideal setup to kick off Fall Ball competition.
“Half the team is from Philly so getting them here to support the event is great,” he said. “The families come and pay admission and help raise money. It’s a great day and we love it.”
One of the key returnees is senior attackman Ryan McGee, the team’s leading scorer in 2012 (38 goals). “It was tough last year; some key people went down. But it forced some freshmen to step up and get more playing time. This year we have 21 freshmen and a lot of guys that can play some great lacrosse.”
Villanova reached the Big East championship game last year and the Wildcats are looking to get back to the title game and advance to the NCAA tourney for the first time in three years.
“Our goal is to win the championship and get back into the tournament,” said senior long stick midfielder John LoCascio, who was a Third Team All-American last year. “That loss (to Syracuse) stains. It stinks we’re not playing them this year (the Orange left for the Atlantic Coast Conference).
“We have a lot of young guys on offense. So, implementing coach (Simon) Connor’s offense is one of our main goals. Down low our defense is a veteran group and we have a battle between three goalies. The freshmen and sophomores will need to step up on offense.”
Wildcats coach Michael Corrado said competing in the NCC helps educate his players. His squad played St. Joseph’s and Hofstra.
“I think there are two things about competing here,” he said. “One is the cause. I am a big fan of our kids knowing what else goes on in the world and this brings into light real world stuff. And we get to play locally.
“From a lacrosse standpoint, we have a lot of question marks. We need to show who got better from last year and how the freshmen look. We want to know something of what the lineup looks like and we do evaluations.
“We’ve been going against ourselves for 5 weeks. This is the first time we played against someone else.”
Lafayette finished 3-10 last year in Jim Rogalski’s first year as head coach, but the Leopards stayed close to nearly every foe with a young team. This year’s Lafayette squad is still young, but loaded with top freshmen. On Saturday, Lafayette scored wins over VMI and Binghamton, and continues to gain momentum.
“I think we came into the Fall looking to build upon where we left off last year,” said senior starting defenseman Matt Evans, the team,’s Nick Colleluori honoree. “We have a great group of freshmen and a great group of returnees. Binghamton and VMI are good teams so we are looking to build off today.
“I think everyone’s goal is to make it to the Patriot League tournament. There are some great teams so we have our work cut out for us. We have struggled the past few seasons, but with all the hard work and schemes coach Rogalski has put in, I think we’ll be successful.”
Rogalski was happy with his team’s performance and mental approach on Saturday.
“The guys played with a lot of excitement,” he said. “Every day we try to get a little better. Our starting attack from last year didn’t play, but our young guys were executing and they cut down on turnovers.
“The key to lacrosse is knowing you’ll make mistakes. It’s how you react to the mistakes.”
Rogalski said he was honored to have his team participate in the Nick Colleluori Classic.
“I did it when I was (coach) at Scranton,” he said. “This is the first time for Lafayette and it’s what lacrosse is all about; family, getting together and doing something that’s a good cause.
“We are honored to be here. It’s something important to us; somewhere cancer has touched everyone’s life.”