By Chris Goldberg & Matthew De George
It was clearly one of the highlights of the 4th annual Nick Colleluori Classic held over the weekend at Ridley High. Cornell, an NCAA Division I Final Four team last year, defeated Villanova, 11-10, Saturday after scoring just seconds into overtime. The game drew more than a 1,000 spectators to the grass field at Ridley, where more than 7,000 people spent two days watching 20 teams play in an event that benefited the HEADstrong Foundation’s fight against blood cancer.
Villanova coach Michael Corrado, whose team went 10-5 last year and cracked the Top 10 in the national rankings for a spell, thought the game was a great test for his Wildcats. He also spoke about the cause of the HEADstrong Foundation and the chance to honor Nick Colleluori, the former Ridley great who died four years ago after a lengthy fight against Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.
“It’s a great effort to support,” said Corrado, whose team, like each of the 20 involved, sold t-shirts to raise money for the Foundation. “The Colleluori family does a fantastic job of putting this together.
“The whole Ridley lacrosse program rallies around it, as well as Hofstra’s. Our guys love coming here. It’s a great competition and it’s been a fun event for us – one that we look forward to coming back to in years to come.”
And the game? “Yeah, it was a fun game – 10-10 and then overtime in the fall!” said Corrado, whose ‘Cats were one of three Philly teams and 10 Division I squads overall to compete Saturday. “I didn’t know they were going to do overtime – unfortunately, we lost it. I think we’re pretty solid.
“We’re pretty experienced at both ends of the field and we’re pretty deep at face-offs now. I think we have potential to have a good season this year – it was encouraging playing against a Final Four team. This should give our kids a lot of confidence.”
Cornell first-year coach Ben DeLuca, a former assistant, takes over this year for Jeff Tambroni, who went to Penn State. The Big Red went 12-6 last year, bowing to Notre Dame in the NCAA semifinals.
DeLuca said his team was thrilled to compete at the Colleluori Classic for the first time. He admitted his team was a little sloppy, but said the cause and the brilliant weather outweighed the mistakes. “It’s a great event for a great cause,” DeLuca said. “They dialed in the weather and it’s great for our guys. I think for starters, the timing was right for us (to participate). It (the event) falls on our Fall Break, which allows us to travel and play everybody. The cause of the Colleluori Classic and HEADstrong Foundation is important for us because it plays a big role for our team.
“Villanova was tough. They have a great team and I think we were sloppy. I was frustrated with our stick skills, passing and catching and our communication. But it’s a learning experience and it’s good for our guys to get out and play against good competition.”
Sophomore defenseman Mike Bronzino earned a starting role as a freshman late last year and played a key role in the team’s trip to the Final Four. A key cog in Conestoga High’s ride to the state finals in 2009, Bronzino was a member of the Team HEADstrong club program and was pleased to get the chance to come home for such a positive event.
“It’s unbelievable to be involved in the HEADstrtong Foundation for such a great cause,” Bronzino said. “It’s awesome to be a part of it and spread the awareness of the Foundation.
“I’m here for the school to carry on Nick’s legacy and to support research for lymphoma blood cancer. It’s really just an honor to be down here and to be invited to the event.
Bronzino was happy to see many old friends. “It just makes it all the more meaningful,” he said. “It’s a lot of fun to be able to see familiar faces and to be able to see people that I’ve played with and got to know throughout my high school career.”
What is the day’s message? “It just shows you that you can’t take anything for granted,” Bronzino said. “You have to work hard and just enjoy everything about the game and enjoy the presence of your teammates and being part of the team. It’s really about the big picture.”