By Chris Goldberg
Phillylacrosse.com, Posted 10/26/14
Johns Hopkins senior goalie and co-captain Eric Schneider said playing in the 2nd annual University City Classic Saturday at Penn Park was a special event.
“Honestly, it’s a huge honor to be asked to come here and play for the HEADstrong Foundation,” said Schneider, who was named his team’s Nick Colleluori Award winner for exemplary spirit on and off the field. “The one thing I took away from today is not to take life for granted.
“What we have and do on a daily basis is really special and we’ve got to appreciate it. When things get tough, (you realize) there are way worse things in life and you really need to appreciate what you have and appreciate where we are.”
Where? Yes indeed, the setting was picturesque on Saturday as Johns Hopkins and host Penn and neighborhood rival Drexel played each other in a final Fall Ball invitational at James “Ace” Adams Field, located behind Franklin Field and in full view of the Philadelphia city skyline. The weather was ideal and the elite competition brought a large crowd as the event raised money for the HEADstrong Foundation and its fight to cure blood cancer in the name of Nick Colleluori. Nick, a Ridley High grad who was playing lacrosse at Hofstra University, passed away in 2006 after a 13-month fight against Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and was treated at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, within a mile from the field.
Just to the west was a walkway to Franklin Field where, for the first time, women’s teams – Penn, Albany, Delaware and Towson – competed in the Classic. The assistant coach at Penn, Ridley High graduate Kerri Whitaker, helped the Classic expand due to her close ties with the Colleluori family.
“There’s a reason we do – it’s a great thing,” said Drexel coach Brian Voelker. “The Colleluoris … the foundation; it’s great for our guys to see some of this stuff and be awakened about what’s really going on in the world and hopefully feel lucky about the situation they are in. They should feel good about helping people.
Lacrosse-wise, all three men’s coaches tried hard to de-emphasize the scores and look at the value of their final games of the Fall Ball season. Penn forged a 6-6 tie on a goal with six seconds left to play by David Kalin. The game was more exciting than usual for a Fall Ball game because it was Drexel that defeated Penn in the NCAA tournament in May. Meanwhile, Hopkins looked strong in defeating Drexel, 14-3, and Penn, 11-8. Of course, all three coaches used many players.
“Obviously, it’s a great day,” said Voelker, who had several spots depleted by injuries. “There are some things we did well and some things we didn’t do very well. The bottom line is we’re 0-0 after today and we’ve got a lot of film to show guys so we can say, ‘Hey this is what we need to do better and what the group needs to do better.’
“It’s tough to play when you don’t have the ball and when you don’t win face-offs and you throw the ball away. That’s not a good combination. Hopkins is a very good team and Penn is going to be very good. It was good for our guys to see teams like that and figure things out. We can say to some guys, ‘Hey if you don’t do better you’re not going to play.’
“Some guys stepped up and did some things that surprised us in a good way. We have got to figure that stuff out. We have a lot of hard work before we play Virginia in the first game of the season, but we have a lot of time to get ready for that game.”
Drexel’s Nick colleluori award honoree was senior face-off specialist Nick Saputo, who did not play due to an injury.
Hopkins coach Dave Pietramala said his team met its main goals.
“No. 1, we were happy to be participants,” he said. “It’s fun, it’s for a great cause and thankfully no one got hurt. It was Fall Ball it looked like fall lacrosse.
“Now we have two great films to watch and evaluate. We had a longer fall than usual and we got to see a lot of young guys and got to see old guys. Now, this will help us to show, ‘Hey, this is why these guys are going to play and this is why these guys aren’t. It’s really good for us.”
Penn coach Mike Murphy has had a close connection to the HEADstrong Foundation ever since his days as coach at Haverford College. One of his players there, KC Peterson, was being treated for Lymphoma at the same time Nick Colleluori was being treated.
“It means a lot for us to be able to host a fall tournament that has significance beyond the sport of lacrosse,” he said. “I have two connections with the Colleluori family. KC was being treated here at Penn with Nick and that makes this this event close to our hearts and my heart. I am very excited to be a part of it. We were kind of going through that experience together.
Murphy said playing the high competition can only improve his team’s outlook heading into the spring.
“It was fantastic and we learned a lot about ourselves,” he said. “We played pretty well. We had a lot of new faces in new places and we saw that if we do things the right way against Drexel or Hopkins it’s going to look pretty good.
“If we make mistakes, it exposes us – and that certainly happened today. It was fantastic for us and gives us a really good idea of what we are good at. We can take this and learn from it and start out in February and build on it.”
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Penn senior face-off specialist/midfielder Joe McCallion (The Haverford School), the team’s Nick Colleluori honoree, said the players relish playing in the setting for Nick.
“It’s a great event and the fact that Nick Colleluori actually spent some time in this hospital over here is significant,” he said. “There were three great teams, all wearing shoelaces supporting a great cause to raise awareness for Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and cancer in general. It was a great thing.
“Our goal for Fall Ball is just to get better every day and this being our final performance opf the fall I think we met our goal. We played hard and played a lot of guys and battled for two games. I am happy with our performance and we have a lot to build on. Some younger guys stepped up and older guys continued to show consistency.”[tubepress video = “SCuqUyqDgk8”]