By Mike McMahon
---- — NORTH ANDOVER — Merrimack College head coach Mike Morgan doesn’t like to just toss around phrases like “heart and soul” of the team.
”They’re overplayed by most of us coaches,” he says.
But the fifth-year head uses those words when it comes to fifth-year senior captain Bryan Pollack, who will help lead the 11-2 Warriors into tonight’s Northeast-10 semifinal against Le Moyne (7 p.m.) at Merrimack’s Martone-Mejail Field.
”He is the heart and soul of our entire program,” Morgan said. “He is everything we want to be. He eats, sleeps and breathes Merrimack lacrosse and his entire attitude is everything we want in our players. The type of sacrifice I’ve watched him make for this program and for his teammates is incredible.”
After undergoing season-ending knee surgery last year, he missed all of what was supposed to be his senior season. Then his father, Edward, died suddenly at the age of 51 last June. ”I remember being at his dad’s wake,” Morgan said. “The last thing on my mind was lacrosse. I had the opportunity to spend a few minutes with Bryan outside the funeral home and one of the first things he said to me was, ‘I’m coming back next year.’ I remember telling him that we’d wait and see how it played out that he didn’t need to make any decisions, especially not at that time. But he was insisting. I think this season was for his dad. He wanted to get back and play as a tribute to him.”
Morgan says Pollack leads by example.
Earlier this season in a game at Adelphi, an errant shot skipped feverishly towards the end line. Pollack, on a knee that still isn’t 100 percent, chased down an opposing defender and dove, at full speed, headfirst in order to remain closest, maintaining possession for the Warriors.
“That play was probably the difference between us winning and losing that game,” Morgan said.
“If they get the ball there, you never know what can happen. It definitely secured the win for us.”
And for Pollack, winning is all that matters.
“I never think about my knee,” he said. “That’s just how I’m wired. If we win, I’m happy.”
The decision to come back, which came with the risk of permanent knee damage, was a simple one for the civil engineering major.
“I felt like I wasn’t able to contribute last year,” he said. “I didn’t want my career at Merrimack to end like that. If I could come back and help on the field and off it, that’s how I wanted to finish here. Right now, all I’m thinking about is leaving Merrimack with a championship. That’s our goal.”
The quest starts tonight.