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Nick Colleluori Classic: Marist freshman Joka says Eddie Coombs’ legacy lives on through teammates

Saturday, 8th October 2011

Categories Boy's/Men's, College, Features  

By Chris Goldberg, Posted 10/8/11

FOLSOM, Pa. – One of the most heartbreaking and yet heartwarming stories coming out of today’s 5th annual Nick Colleluori Classic at Ridley High does not have to do with blood cancer.

But it does concern the loss of a popular and successful member of the Philly lacrosse community.

Colin Joka

This August, Eddie Coombs, a Marist College rising sophomore lacrosse player and graduate of Hatboro-Horsham (PA) died along with former HH teammate Robert Nagel in a one-car accident in Horsham Township.

Coombs was a standout in high school who saw significant time as a freshman at Marist and figured to have a key role heading into 2012. His loss jolted the Philly lacrosse community and hit hard at Marist, located in Poughkeepsie, N.Y.

Marist is competing along with eight other Division I teams today at the Nick Colleluori Classic. One of Marist’s freshmen is Plymouth Whitemarsh graduate Colin Joka, a teammate of Coombs for several years on the Rebel Elite club team.

“We are very excited to be playing here, we have a reason to be here – for our teammate and the HEADstrong Foundation,” said Joka, who led PW to its first Suburban One American Conference title last year. “We want to show what we’ve been up to here.

“Everything we’re playing for is for Eddie. We have him in our minds and prayers.”

The Nick Colleluori Classic has raised more than $700,000 in its five years of existence for blood cancer research and development. It honors the legacy of Nicholas Colleluori, a former Ridley great who died five years ago after a 14-month bout against Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma while a lacrosse player at Hofstra University.

Today at intermission, HEADstrong President Cheryl Colleluori asked for the crowd of well over 5,000 to remember several lost lacrosse players and supporters, including Eddie Coombs and Robert Nagel.

Joka said Coombs will surely not be forgotten by the Marist lacrosse team.

“I was completely shocked when I heard the news, I didn’t want to believe it,” he said of the fateful day, “I still didn’t want to believe it. Finally, reality hit me that I lost one of my good friends from four years of club. I was so sad.

“He was one of the reasons why I wanted to come to Marist and it’s so sad I won’t be able to play with him.”

Coombs was known for his vibrant personality off the field and his dynamic skills and leadership on the field.

“We have to step it up this year and play like he was on the field with us,” Joka said. “ He had a great personality and everybody loved being around him,

“On the field, he was one of those players that – as soon as he stepped on the field – he had an impact on the game.”

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