By Chris Goldberg
Phillylacrosse.com, Posted 5/26/14
Flash back to 2007, and there is Tom Slate coaching Downingtown East to its first state championship with junior attackman Owen Blye and sophomore defenseman/LSM Mason Poli as two of the team’s regulars.
Now fast forward seven years to last weekend as Boston Cannons assistant coach Tom Slate helped coach the Cannons to a 14-6 victory over the visiting Charlotte Hounds in a Major League Lacrosse game. Scoring his first two MLL goals for the Cannons was Owen Blye – and playing defense against him was Mason Poli.
“Last Saturday night was one of the most surreal experiences I have ever had in lacrosse,” said Slate, who has coached many years in the MLL and National Lacrosse League as both a head coach and an assistant. “Owen and I playing and coaching on the Boston Cannons – and doing it against Mason Poli on the Charlotte Hounds, in the MLL.”
Poli, in his second year for the 2013 MLL runner-up Hounds, was a three-time USILA All-American at Bryant (44 career goals as a LSM) and a high school All-American at Downingtown East. Blye was an Academic All-American, a two-time captain and a two-time National runner-up at Maryland who also was a high school All-American.
“It’s always a great experience to play against a former teammate, especially now in the ML,” said Poli, “It was a little different lining up against one of my former coaches.
“This was the first time in my career I had the opportunity to suit up against Coach Slate. Obviously, it was a great experience for all of us to be on the field at the same time.”
Blye also enjoyed facing Poli.
“Playing against Mason was a great experience as well,” he said. “I have known Mason from the time we were young and we have played with each other all through youth and high school lacrosse.
“Mason is an incredible player and an even better person. I am proud to see him out on the field representing both Downingtown East High School and Pennsylvania lacrosse in the MLL.
“Between the lines it is all business for both of us, but when the game is over it is great to catch up with old friends and teammates.”
Slate said he had to stop himself from rooting for the wrong guy when Poli had the ball.
“Throughout the game, at times I would catch myself almost trying to coach Mason,” he said. “Shaking hands at the end of the game was great – and catching up after.
“I thought it was a neat experience to share; all of us being from the Chester County, Philadelphia area. I think it’s great that all of the youth kids around Philly can have some guys to look up to from the area.”
Poli credited Slate for much of his development.
“Coach Slate provided me the opportunity to learn the game at a higher level than most high school athletes,” he said. “ It made the transition into college much easier, already having the lacrosse IQ to play at the DI level.
“Coach Slate also did a great job drilling fundamentals, both our defensive skills and stick work. I think the one thing that has allowed me to play in the MLL, was his acceptance of allowing me to push the ball in transition. This is a part of my game I brought to college and the main reason I switched to LSM.
“With the MLL being a fast paced up and down game, being able to handle the ball gave me the opportunity to play in the league. Having coached in the MLL during my high school career, Coach Slate knew that the best defenseman in the game had this ability and he let us do this at Downingtown East.”
Slate felt like a proud father.
“Congratulations on Owen Blye’s first-ever MLL goal – it will be the first of many,” said Slate. “It has come full circle for me.
“It’s pretty cool when your coaching one of your former high school players in the MLL vs. another one on the other team. A lot of different people have helped along the way.
Added Blye: “I am blessed to have the opportunity to play for Coach Slate again. He has the unique ability to keep lacrosse fun, while demanding focus and respect from his players.
“I think his greatest strength as a coach is his willingness to learn more about the sport of lacrosse from everyone he meets. He is never too proud to learn something new, and loves evolving his knowledge of the sport.
“While Coach Slate has helped plenty with my lacrosse career, it’s off the field where I truly value our friendship. He has always made himself available to me with advice, guiding me through any issues I may be having.
“Reconnecting as player and coach in the MLL has been an incredible experience and really brings things full circle for both of us. I could not ask for a better situation and feel a sense of
comfort with him as my coach.”
Tags: Downingtown East