Nicholas Mandia played lacrosse outside of Philadelphia and went on to play in college at Eastern University. When his playing days were done, he got his start in coaching at the university as an offensive coordinator for one year. Returning for grad school, he coached for three more years at the college and helped run clinics to grow the game in the area.
His latest stop was here in Colorado at Chatfield High School, where he compiled a 13-19 record over two years.
Experience coaching at all levels, including here in Colorado, makes him an ideal candidate to start up the brand-new Erie program this spring.
"I'm really grateful to be here," Mandia said. "This is an awesome group of kids and I think we're going to have a lot of fun in the year to come and the following years as well."
Mandia and his staff hit the ground running with tryouts to determine which players would play varsity and on the other teams this year. Roughly 65 kids are out for the program, with kids coming from all across the St. Vrain Valley School District.
The sport is new to Erie, but not for many athletes. The team will have some of the top players from other programs joining the program. Aidan Abram — a commit to the University of Denver — and Sage Gardner will anchor the back line after leading the Dawson Mustangs to three straight appearances in the Class 4A state championship game. Many other players come from playing lacrosse before.
Belief in Erie is also seen outside of the program as they were ranked No. 4 in the CHSAA preseason lacrosse rankings for Class 4A and received a first-place vote.
"Fortunately for Erie lacrosse, we don't have the variable of not having enough talent," Mandia said. "We have the talent to hit the ground running right away. That's a huge weight lifted."
He added that getting the team to play together and building team chemistry would be the major focus in year one with Erie.
Down the road in Broomfield, another team is working towards making its varsity debut. The Holy Family Tigers have gone about it a different way, starting up a program and playing a JV schedule to develop players over the past couple seasons. The team is ready to take the step up to varsity competition this spring.
Kyle Doner was an assistant coach for Holy Family when the program first began at the JV level. His time with the team paved the way for him as an easy choice to take over the program in 2019.
"I worked my way up," Doner said. "I had the option to do the assistant job for two years, and when his job switch opened the door, the (head coaching) job fell on my lap. This is a good team that is stacked up for a good season."
His team is a bit smaller in numbers and only features students from Holy Family High School, though he hopes to see the school get some athletes from other areas in the near future. Practices remained focused on the fundamentals and making the right plays, as well as watching film to correct the mistakes they find.
The team will field a toughness that Doner feels will be a strength.
"We're gritty and we're scrappers," Doner said. "We will beat you on the midline. We are strong on ground balls. We're just a scrappy group of guys."
Doner has been stressing how different the season will be at the varsity level this year. They will get their first look at the new competition on March 11 in Littleton.
"The first game is a real step up," Doner said. "I'm excited to see what they can bring."
The addition of both Erie and Holy Family will mark one of the major headlines for spring sports in the area this year.
From Warriors to Knights
The girls lacrosse team that played at Centaurus High School over the past few seasons will have a new home at Fairview in 2019. Leading the team on its move is Kelsey Sheridan, who takes over as the new head coach.
"We have a lot of returners who started last year, so the experience is there for us to build off of," Sheridan said. "We have a tough schedule, but the team is super excited and ready for the challenge."
The team is coming off an 8-8 season that included an appearance in the state tournament.
Two more new teams will also begin in Holy Family and Dawson on the girls side. Holy Family is listed as an independent varsity team while Dawson will play JV for the next two years. Neither team will be eligible for the postseason, but both are hoping to form the foundation for successful campaigns with a new team.
Jordan Terhaar has seen an interest in the sport at Holy Family and will use this first season as a learning year for her team and herself as a first-year head coach.
"Many of them are excited to start this fast-paced game and have encouraged many other girls to commit to playing as well," Terhaar said. "We have stacked our schedule with six to eight games and a few scrimmages. We will be focusing on the fundamentals of the game and learning about each player's strengths as they come together as a team on the field."
Leading Dawson will be Blake Fisher, who also says her school is seeing an interest in girls lacrosse for their first season.
"Our team is packed with student athletes who are going to make their mark," Fisher said. "Some girls have been playing lacrosse for years while some are trying it for their first time. Regardless of their level of experience, all the girls are passionate about athletics and are committed to this program."