By Ryan Kaczmarski
The sport of lacrosse is one of the fastest growing sports in the country, and the city of Rocky River has been at the forefront of youth and high school programs on the West Side of Cleveland.
The Pirates have proved that point by making the state Final Four the past two seasons, and going all the way to the state championship game last year. Three of the key players from last season’s team have signed to play college lacrosse after they are done with their senior year in high school, this year.
Bobby Perez will attend Endicott College (near Boston, Mass.) and will play on the varsity lacrosse team. He stated that the school’s internship programs, coaching staff and campus are “perfect” for him. He had to choose from many schools that were interested in him, including Adrian College, Mount Union, Washington College, Ohio Wesleyan, Baldwin-Wallace University and DePauw.
“When making my decision, my parents made it exactly that, mine,” he said. “I knew that they would support me, no matter where I had chosen to go to school.
“I am very lucky,” Perez added. “Something I liked about Endicott is they want to develop the players as a productive citizen, as well as a student-athlete. (Head) coach (Sean) Quirk’s motto is family, and that message really stuck with me.”
There were many people involved with Perez gaining knowledge and passion for the game, which has made his college signing a possibility.
“First, I can thank Mr. (David) St. Pierre, Mr. (Gary) Cintron and Mr. (Skip) Guilford for running such a great youth program, but a special thanks goes to Mr. (Doug) Blossey having to deal with the early stages of my career as he got rid of my terrible underhand habits,” he said. “Once I got to high school, Coach (Steve) Anderson really turned up the pressure,” Perez added. “He has taught me to grow up and control the field. He expects me to keep my head and stay calm in the most tense situations. Coach Anderson always holds me to my very best and nothing less. I have to also give credit to Coach (Ted) Diamond, Coach (Brian) Karalunas and Coach (Jason) Davis.
“Finally, Coach (Woody) Calleri, my summer ball coach, who has had to deal with me every summer since eighth grade,” he added. “In the Burning River Program, they hammered into our heads that as attackmen, we must have both hands, we must ride hard and, most importantly, play together. Even though it was summertime, Coach Calleri made sure that we remembered we were student-athletes. I have to also give credit to Coach (Bill) Fallon, Coach (Jake) Kabasta and Coach (Brady) Christiansen.”
Perez had many people in his life who have been influential, both on and off the field.
“As my mom battled breast cancer – which she defeated – she signed me up for this new strange game (of) lacrosse,” he said. “The sole reason I started playing the game that I love so very much is because she needed a little peace and quiet while going through chemo. It’s kind of funny how things work out. At first, it was just a game, and it turned into a passion that I cannot imagine my life without. Love you, Mom!
“My dad took me to my official visits and dealt with the long drive all the way out to Massachusetts,” he added. “Thanks to him, I got the chance to see Endicott, which in my opinion is the only school for me.”
Perez feels that with hard work, dedication and the hand-eye coordination carried over from ice hockey, he will make a smooth transition from the high school game to the college game.
“In order to compete at the next level, I need to become faster and stronger,” he said. “Thankfully, I have a gym – Traq 3D, in Avon – helping me prepare for my final high school season, as well as the future. Also, every part of my game needs to be worked on. Nobody is perfect, and I can only get better as long as I work hard. Lacrosse is a game where you only get out what you put in.”
Aaron Blossey will play at Wittenberg University (Springfield, Ohio).
“Wittenberg is a great school, has a good lacrosse program, good coaching staff and is close enough to Rocky River that my family can come to my games,” he said.
Over the last couple of years, Blossey had considered Dartmouth, Yale, Brown, Denison, Skidmore, Haverford and Wooster.
“Most of the schools I considered were interested in me at some point,” he said. “In the end, my decision was between Wittenberg, Wooster and Haverford. I was the top goalie recruit for all three schools.”
Blossey’s coaches and parents got him to the point that he would have the best overall options, but the final decision was left up to him.
“The Rocky River lacrosse programs, both youth and high school, have taught me a deep love for the game,” Blossey said. “(Rocky River) is where I learned the basics, as well as the more complex parts of the sport.
“Rocky River High School has given me an excellent education, that I am sure will give me an edge in college,” he added.
Unfortunately, with Wittenberg being a Division III program, lacrosse players are not allowed to receive athletic scholarships; however, Blossey still has a lot of people to thank for giving him the opportunity to even play college athletics.
“My dad (Doug Blossey) introduced me to the game and also coached me from fifth to eighth grade,” he said. “He is also the reason I started to play goalie. He put me in the goal when our regular goalie was sick.
“Skip Guilford was another influential coach when I was younger,” Blossey added. “Then came Woody Calleri, my head travel team coach, who would help me in the offseason and at tournaments. He was my main contact with the college coaches and helped me with the recruiting process. Jack Kubarta is my travel goalie coach, and he taught me more about playing lacrosse than all of my other coaches. Finally, Coach Anderson helped me with recruiting and lacrosse, but most importantly, he taught me to be a leader and how to be a better person.”
Finally, Michael Poe will attend Mercyhurst University (Erie, Pa.) and will play lacrosse for the Lakers.
“They are the best Division II team in the nation, and I’ve always liked the school and the location,” Poe said.
He had also considered Towson, Hofstra, SUNY Cortland and Canisius; and Wooster, Baldwin-Wallace, VMI and Mount Union actively recruited him.
Coaches Anderson and Karalunas, along with his parents, helped Poe to decide which college was best for him.
“My parents support me on my decision and helped me with all college talks and visits,” he said. “Coach Karalunas made calls to many colleges for me before I even asked him to. That meant a lot to me. My travel coach made countless calls and got me in touch with Mercyhurst.”
Poe had played in the Rocky River youth program since he was in fourth grade.
“The youth program helped mold my skills in the midfield position, and when I switched my position to long-stick midfield, I was still able to use my skills to control the ball as well as playing defense, which came natural,” he said. “Lacrosse motivates me in class (as well), because no matter how good you are, you won’t go anywhere without grades.”