By Chris Goldberg
Phillylacrosse.com, Posted 10/12/14
Monmouth coach Brian Fisher is a Ridley High graduate so his connection to Nick Colleluori and the HEADstrong Foundation was already strong, but even he was visibly touched by the day’s events Saturday.
Fisher’s Hawks, who endured an 0-13 inaugural season, returned to the 8th Annual Nick Colleluori Classic for the second time and won one game while tying another. Perhaps more importantly, Monmouth was honored during a speech by HEADstrong President Cheryl Colleluori for sponsoring Thomas, a 12-year-old cancer survivor, who was introduced to the large crowd.
Monmouth was paired with Thomas as part of of a national program called Team IMPACT, which pairs courageous kids with college athletic teams. Just as Nick Colleluori, a Ridley High grad who passed away in 2006 from Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma while a lacrosse player at Hofstra, has inspired so many in the lacrosse world, Thomas has inspired the Hawks, Fisher said.
“Thomas is in remission, but still receives daily tablets and monthly chemo,” said Fisher, a 1997 Ridley grad. “He has been with us for a month and what an inspiration he has been to the team.
“He has been to some of our practices, but this was his first live lacrosse event. It blew him away, seeing the generosity and the kind of people at HEADstrong. Like Nick Colleluori, Thomas has been relentless. He has been through a lot and it’s great for our guys to see him and for me it’s great to see what we are forming with him. From what his parents are telling us, it’s really helping Thomas out.”
Clearly, Monmouth is a new team. Last year the Hawks struggled through the growing pains of a 0-13 season, dropping two one-goal games and one in four overtimes to Wagner. On Saturday they downed Bellarmine, 7-1, and tied Hartford.
“It’s not even fair to compare us to last year’s team,” said Fisher. “The players have turned the corner. Their work in the off-season was amazing and they guys came back hungry and motivated. After the adversity they went through last year, I that the last four weeks this program has taken off, in the community with Thomas and most importantly on the field.
“You look at the depth; we just didn’t have it at times last year. We are unbelievably excited for the next step.”
Monmouth sophomore midfielder Zack Schleicher was named the team’s recipient of the Nicholas Collelouri Award for his dedication, relentless play and leadership. Schleicher said the freshmen class last year has grown up quickly.
“I think today went really well,” he said. “The experience all of us freshmen gained from last year was impeccable and now we know the offense, we know the defense and how we need to clear. We know all the aspects of the game.
“We have that year under our belts and most freshmen don’t get that.”