By Chris Goldberg
Phillylacrosse.com, Posted 11/22/15
There were more than a few positive messages Saturday night at the 4th Annual Headstrong vs. Mesa Philly Classic at Immaculata University.
The event featured three rivalry games (Class of 2017, 2018 and 2019) between two Philly club teams that have developed a strong rapport and healthy competitive spirit. Also, after the first game, the 2019 contest, Virginia’s well-respected long-time assistant Marc Van Arsdale spoke about the highly-important topic of recruiting to the players and fans.
Van Arsdale spoke about enjoying the sport of lacrosse and not worrying about the wild and hyped recruiting scene, while understanding that not every player is destined to be a Division I star. He told the players to focus on their grades and making good choices with their future.
He also labeled Philly as one of the top lacrosse hotbeds; in fact Haverford School’s Dox Aitken and Luke Desperito of Mesa Fresh 2016 have signed Letters of Intent to play at UVA and other Philly players dot the roster.
The games themselves also featured great lacrosse. And more than a handful of college coaches attended; obviously many are in for the Philly Showcases (Freshmen at United Sports and 2017 and 2018 event at Episcopal Academy).
In the 2019 contest, Mesa LSM Ryan Niggeman (Haverford School) helped his team win and capped a memorable day that included a trip just hours earlier to the Nike Philly Freshman Showcase and the Fab 40 All-Star Game.
“I am pretty tired – my legs are spent – but I just stretched before the game and came out and we got the win,” said Niggeman. “This is a great atmosphere and the stadium is great. It’s a fun time.”
Niggeman was pleased to represent Mesa Fresh and Haverford School in the Fab 40 Game.
“That’s a great tournament and a great showcase,” he said. “There are a lot of really good kids and it was an honor playing in the All-Star Game, There are a lot of good kids out there from all over.”
One of Niggeman’s Haverford School teammates is Brian Noll, who stood out on defense for HEADstrong 2019 in defeat.
“It was good competition and I love playing good competition,” said Noll. “Mesa has a great team and I especially like playing against them. They have some guys on my team kids and kids from the Inter-Ac.”
Noll said the atmosphere, the lights, and the presence of the coaches just made it more exciting.
“Its amazing,” he said. “One thing is you forget the college recruiters and just focus on the game and have fun. You know you can’t get down on yourself, I just love playing under the lights and playing against Mesa is such a fun rivalry.”
Mesa 2019 coach Pat Carney said the Mesa-HEADstrong Classic has grown into a special event for many reasons.
“The message he (Van Arsdale) gave to the kids is terrific about focusing on the right things, about enjoying the process and not getting too caught up in it,” he said. “It’s about being the best student you can be.
“He also made the comment about the explosion of talent in Philadelphia. That’s good to hear and reassuring that there is so much good talent in this area and that it keeps getting better and better. He said this was the first time there were more kids from Philadelphia than any other area – that’s a nice message for the guys to hear.
“They need to keep working hard; they’re in a nice hotbed, but enjoy the process.”
Carney also thanked Immaculata coach Hugh Donovan – who introduced coach Van Arsdale and said a few words to the players – and the university for hosting the event.
“The facilities are great; we really appreciate coach Donovan hosting us here,” Carney said. “It’s our fourth year and the tradition and it’s only going to get better. We are really glad to be a part of it.”