LEWISBURG, Pa. – Very few teams in Division I lacrosse are hotter than Bucknell right now. The 20th-ranked Bison tote a five-game winning streak with them to Annapolis, Maryland, where they will meet No. 10/11 Loyola in the Patriot League Tournament semifinals on Friday night. The source of that power surge might just be a late-season roster acquisition, a young man who has provided the team with plenty of spirit on the sideline.
On Apr. 3, one day after a huge road victory over Army West Point that kicked off this current winning streak, Bucknell signed 12-year-old Luke Mirolli of nearby Coal Township to a “National Letter of Intent.” Paired up through Team IMPACT, Luke suffers from a rare breathing disorder and requires the use of a ventilator. Upon his signing, he was given uniform No. 47, a Bison helmet, and a locker in the Bucknell varsity locker room.
Since Luke joined the squad, the Bison are undefeated, winning by an average of 6.5 goals per game. Luke and his family have been on the team bench for each of the recent home games, and head coach Frank Fedorjaka says that his presence has clearly been felt.“Getting to know Luke and his family has meant so much to our team,” said Fedorjaka. “They are wonderful people, and the work that Team IMPACT does to pair up children who are suffering though health problems with college sports teams has been amazing. Even though he is not able to speak, we know that Luke is cheering us on in spirit.”
Fedorjaka also noted that the Bison student-athletes jumped at the chance to welcome Luke onto the team.
“They initially asked for six players to help with the initial signing day, and we immediately had 23 guys volunteer,” said Fedorjaka. “I actually had to cut it off at one point. For many of them, it has been an eye-opening experience getting to know Luke. It is a privilege to be healthy and be able to run around and play Division I lacrosse. Working with children who might not get that chance really gives our guys some valuable perspective on life.”
“Besides being undefeated with Luke as a part of our team, he has also brought our team closer,” said senior co-captain Alex Spring. “Having Luke as a part of our team has made everyone appreciate how lucky we all are and given us a bigger-picture perspective.”
“It has been awesome having Luke as a part of our team,” said sophomore Matt Gilray. “Everyone on the team loves having him and his family around us and on our sideline. Having him around makes us appreciate how lucky we are. We're so grateful to have him around, and he seems to be a good-luck charm because ever since he's signed to be a part of the team we haven't lost. The team gets a lot of energy and gets excited when he's around and he loves the excitement.”“Having Luke has been a great experience for our team,” added senior co-captain Zach Henkhaus. “Guys like Matt Gilray, Nick Steinfeld, and a lot of other leaders on the team have really stepped up to make Luke a part of our family. For my teammates, I know it motivates all the guys to play our best and take in every moment lacrosse has to offer. We are very fortunate to have a lucky charm like Luke.”
Team IMPACT is a national organization, based in Boston, whose mission is to improve the quality of life for children facing life-threatening and chronic illnesses through the power of team. Team IMPACT children are drafted on to college athletic teams, local to where they live and, in effect, become official members of the team from Draft Day through to graduation. Established in 2011, Team IMPACT has already matched over 900 children with collegiate teams at over 400 institutions in 45 states, improving the quality of life of hundreds of courageous children and touching the lives of over 25,000 student athletes.
No. 47 will not show up in the boxscore on Friday, but Luke will certainly have an impact on the game.