Taking a post-grad year after high school is not uncommon for many lacrosse players.
But that doesn’t make Zach Mermelstein’s story a conventional one.
In fact, it’s anything but.
“I’m proud of Zach,” Pelham coach Mike Solazzo said. “I think it’s pretty cool because not many kids from the Hudson Valley that I know have signed with The Hill ever.”
The Hill Academy’s lacrosse director is one of the game’s most respected figures, former Georgetown University star Brodie Merrill, who was a two-time Tewaaraton Award finalist. Former University at Albany star Merrick Thomson is The Hill’s head coach.
The 5-foot-8, 160-pound righty attackman, an All-Section 1 selection last season, is an athletic dodger with good stick skills and a high lacrosse IQ, as displayed on his highlight reel.
Now, here are Zach’s thoughts on his decision to attend The Hill Academy.
What were the main factors in your decision?
There were many factors. Taking a post-graduate year will not only open many doors for me as a lacrosse player, but it will also put me in a setting where I can excel in the classroom.
One of the key attractions to The Hill Academy has to be the coaching staff, which is headlined by Merrick Thomson and Brodie Merrill. Another key factor to making my decision was how unique The Hill Academy is. Small class sizes, and a very demanding lacrosse schedule make it unlike any other school.
What other schools were you considering and what schools did you visit?
The Hill Academy was the only school that I visited. I knew right away that this was where I wanted to be because the coaching staff, and the players made me feel right at home.
What are your strengths as a player and how would you describe your style of play?
My strengths would be on the offensive end of the field, as a dodger who can dodge from all parts of the field. I would describe myself as an athletic player who likes to play between the lines, as well as a player who is smart with the ball.
What areas of your game have you been working to improve on?
Besides working to get bigger, faster and stronger, I have been working on improving my finishing abilities closer to the cage and my lacrosse IQ. Shooting on the run with both hands and shooting from the outside is something that I have always practiced and will continue to practice.
Recently, I have started to do situational shooting drills, which focus on finishing in small places.
Who have been some of the biggest influences on you during your development as a player?
During my development as a player there have been many coaches who have influenced me. Mike Solazzo, Roy Colsey, Vin D’Andraia, Steve Magarelli, James Rogers and Rob Anderson have all shaped me into the player and person that I am today.
Coach Solazzo has hands down been the biggest influence on my development as a player. He has taught me so much over the past four years, and I could not thank him enough.
What travel team did you play on and what were some of the big showcase events you participated in last summer?
Last summer, I played for Roy Colsey’s Team Superstar 2013 Blue Elite team. We attended the Lehigh Laxfest, Maverik Big Time Shootout, UMass Midsummer Classic, Yale Bulldog Bash and Hot Beds.
I also attended Moonlight Lacrosse Section 1 Showcase. This past summer ,I also played in the Empire State Cup Games with Hudson Valley, and we were coached by coach Lew Janavey and coach Brian Dalton
What are your thoughts on how Pelham looks for the upcoming season and what will the strengths of the team be and what players do you think will step up?
I feel that we can achieve our goals and move deep into the playoffs.
Every year we are never talked about as one of the top teams in the section, and are usually overshadowed, but this year we will definitely turn some heads.
The strength of our team is definitely our defensive unit. Even though we graduated many important seniors, we will still be successful.
Sean Murphy, an athletic sophomore defenseman, will fill the shoes of one of those seniors who graduated last year. Matt Landis, who was named an All-American after last season took the best offensive player on the other team and single-handedly shut them down. It will be hard to replace a player like him, but Sean is capable of doing just that.
Another player who will step up this season is junior midfielder Andrew Dzenis. Last season, Andrew had a small role on offense, as he saw more time as a defensive midfielder, but this year he will step up on the offensive end and make a difference for our team.
I would have to say our X factor is fellow senior midfielder Pat Condy. He is a multi-sport athlete who is capable of putting up big numbers and having a major impact for us this year.
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