Phillylacrosse.com, Posted 5/18/10
Editor’s note: St. Pius X fielded varsity boys’ and girls’ lacrosse teams for the first time in the Pioneer Athletic Conference this year even though the school will be closing next month and merging with Kennedy-Kenrick to form Pope John Paul II High School in the fall.
Phillylacrosse.com recognizes the efforts of both Pius teams in a two-part, question-and-answer series that begins today with Winged Lion boys’ coach Mike Bryson. Though the team went winless, Bryson considered the campaign a total success, as evidenced by the team’s sportsmanship and resiliency.
(At bottom, the Pius players are listed. Tomorrow: The St. Pius X girls get going.)
Q: Mike, can you tell us a little about your background in lacrosse?
A: “I have been coaching youth lacrosse for a couple of years – mostly at the assistant level with the Collegeville Cougars and the Phoenixville PMYC programs. I learned to play lacrosse in intramurals as a cadet at West Point – and learned to love the game.”
Q: How did the idea of starting a lacrosse team at St. Pius X begin?
A: “There had been many attempts over the years to get a team started at Pius, but I think the event that cracked the code – was the girls’ team got organized first. Jody Shollenberger got the girls’ team started as a club sport two years ago. Several of the players who I had coached were in 9th, 10th, and 11th grade at Pius and they asked me to ‘help’ get the boys program started.”
Q: What youth lacrosse programs do your players come from?
A: “Our feeder programs really come from Phoenixville, Collegeville, Pottsgrove, Pottstown, and Boyertown. My son is also a lacrosse player (10th grade), but frankly he wasn’t initially convinced, and stuck with track! There were a couple of other coaches/parents from other youth programs (Vipers, Cougars, etc.) who offered to help.”
Q: So how did you get the support to begin the team? Was there any thought to beginning with a JV schedule?
A: “Last year, we kicked it off as a club sport. It was mostly practices with three scrimmages (1-3), but there was definitely a lot of excitement. We finished the season last year with the thought of starting as a JV program, then going varsity in the new school. But the PAC-10 was willing to take our program as a varsity program, and there was a lot of thought in deciding to go that direction – Kennedy Kenrick has a varsity team, so it might be a good building step before merging the schools and teams. The PAC-10 has some very good teams, and some new teams, so our players, parents and coaches were willing to tackle that schedule. I got feedback from PAC-10 and other coaches that it would be difficult scheduling a JV-only schedule.”
Q: How did you prepare the team for its first season?
A: “We started out as a team in an indoor winter league. Coming out of that league, I was comfortable we would have a varsity and JV, with 3 or 4 seniors. By the time we hit our first practice, I lost a dozen players to transfers, injuries, academics, and other sports. The JV program took the hit. We had a good core of experienced players – mostly juniors and sophomores, with two seniors and a solid freshman goalie, and some first-time players.”
Q: How have the kids been through the trials of this first season?
A: “They were very enthusiastic, even after the first couple of shutouts. I got some good leadership from my two seniors. While it was easy to see the building program for the underclassman, the seniors quite literally were playing for this year – and they did a great job of keeping the team motivated. Despite some of the very lopsided scores, the team and coaches began to see some very promising things in each game – seeing the defense working together, the offense putting plays together, players talking on the field and sidelines. The tough week was six games in six days – a very long week, but it was hard to tell it from the enthusiasm each day, getting on the bus. Oh yeah – that didn’t help – no home games! It made for an interesting schedule.”
Q: So what kept the kids going?
A: “The one-sided scoring was always frustrating, but also motivating. I was constantly amazed by the resiliency of our players. There were several games, where if you had wandered onto the field at the end of the game, you would have had a difficult time determining which team won – we learned to celebrate each other’s little improvements.”
Q: Tell us more about your team’s growth during the season.
A: “The players quickly recognized improved play on their part. They learned from each other – and all from other teams. One obvious example of resiliency was our goalie – Josh Bildstein. He obviously got frustrated and took every single goal personally. I saw him develop from being a quiet freshman goalie to a leader on the defense. In the second Boyertown game, he had 31 saves. He is one of those players who finishes games with more intensity then he starts with – it has been infectious, and the team celebrates each save. The seniors really stepped it up – particularly around the second Methacton game where they really transitioned from strong players to strong team players and team leaders. I had four freshman on the team who were essentially first- or second-line midfielders each game – and I threw them into the fire with the rest of the team. The other factor we had was that about six players who never picked up a stick before this year.”
Q: What does next year look like?
A: “Like I said earlier – a lot of the reason I pushed for this season is to get building as soon as possible. Next year, St. Pius X and Kennedy-Kenrick will merge together into Pope John Paul II High School. It will likely mean a new coach for some or all of the players, with new team dynamics for everyone. I think the new school, new team, new facilities will help the program. Everyone playing this year sees this as a stepping stone, and realizes next year needs to build on this year. High school lacrosse is still a growing sport in this state – the more teams that enter the PIAA, the better for the sport as a whole. Even in the PAC-10, it would be great to have 10 teams.”
Q: How do you think this young team was accepted by the rest of the PAC-10 league?
A: “The PAC-10 coaches were instrumental in this program getting off the ground – especially the Pottsgrove and Phoenixville coaches. Just one example of how classy the PAC-10 coaches were – at our second Pottsgrove game – their senior night – the Pottsgrove team also recognized our seniors – recognizing that we didn’t have a home field.:
Q: Quite a journey in year one. Who do you thank for making this happen?
A: “You could write a whole article on the people I could thank for getting this up and going. Some of the parents and coaches who had a vision for this – long before I did – are Chris Bildstein, Dan Mitchell, Greg Pollick, Terri Mueller and Don Gill. The group of them talked me into coaching, but they pulled the lion’s share of the hard work getting things going – fields, equipment, uniforms. The other assistant coaches – local graduates Chris Bruno, and Mike Urie, Greg Eads, Greg Pollick and Dan Mitchell. Of course, the St. Pius administration – Rory Graver, Dom Zampogna, Judy Owens, and Father Okon, who supported the aggressive approach to getting this program started; the St. Pius X girl’s lacrosse team for paving the way, and the PIAA referees who were always very supportive, and instructive in each of the game. I am sure I am forgetting others.”
2010 St. Pius X Varsity Lacrosse Team:
Tyler Pollick – 12th grade – midfield / defense
Nick Pollick – 11th grade – midfield / attack
James Kelly – 11th grade – midfield
Matt Bildstein – 10th grade – attack
Michael Bryson – 10th grade – attack
Matt Copley – 10th grade – attack
Austin Mueller – 11th grade – defense
Jacob Gribb – 10th grade – defense*
Ryan Mitchell – 10th grade – defense
Josh Bildstein – 9th grade – goalie
Kyle Schutz – 12th grade – long pole midfield*
Reid Gill – attack / midfield
Tyler Eads – 9th grade – midfield / attack
Matt Eads – 9th grade – midfield
Joe Dedrick – 11th grade – midfield
Chris Cummings – 9th grade – attack
Tom Reeves – 11th grade – defense*
Brian Lynch – 10th grade – midfield
Joey Venezia – 10th grade – long pole midfield
Sam Brennan – 10th grade – midfield
Nico Peloro – 10th grade – midfield*
Mark Gamma – 10th grade – attack*
Mike Sexton – 11th grade – midfield*
Tyler Seroskie – 10th grade – defense*
Tom McKeon – 10th grade – midfield*
Sean Welch – 10th grade – defense*
Eric Giacomucci – 10th grade – midfield
Listed in order of starters 1st – the (*) means their first full season.