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Q&A with Niskayuna and JHU Alum Mark Bryan

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Mark Bryan getting it done at JHU

Mark Bryan’s lacrosse career began two years before he started high school, when his older brother Jeff, an All-American Attackman at Niskayuna and later a 2x All-American at West Point, and Niskayuna Coach Mike Vorgang convinced him to give up baseball to give lax a try.  The rest was history, as Mark went on to play four years of Varsity Lacrosse at Niskayuna, represented the Adirondack region in three Empire State Games. and played four years at Johns Hopkins University where he won a championship in 2007.

Mark recently took the time to talk to Capital District Lax about the Niskayuna Lacrosse Alumni presence in the Lake Placid Summit Classic.

How many years have you personally played at Lake Placid, and with what teams over the years?

MB: This will be my thirteenth consecutive year making the trip to play in Lake Placid, which is by far the finest tournament the sport has to offer. My first appearance was in 2005 when I was asked to play with the Mohawk

MLC 2005: Mark Bryan, Derek Howells, Jordan DiNola, Jeff Bryan, Brian Ford, Seth DiNola

Lacrosse Club right after I had graduated from Niskayuna High School. Playing for the MLC was such an honor, as I was able to learn so much both on and off the field. These teams consisted of the best players but more importantly the best people the Capital Region had to offer. I would never be able to name everyone but being able to take the field with legends like John Keller, Jason Gifford, Kevin Leveille and of course my High School coach, Mike Vorgang, was truly something special that I will always cherish. Since then we have started a Niskayuna Alumni team and this will be my first year eligible to play with the Black and Blue Jay’s, which is a Johns Hopkins team in the Master’s Division.

How many years have the Margaritaville Mohawks been playing in Lake Placid, and how did the team get its start?

MB: After playing with the MLC for a number of years the team took on a new look as the core moved up into the Masters Division to play for Raymour & Flanigan at that time. This opened up a door for us to try something new. We had always talked about putting together a team where the majority consisted of Niskayuna Alumni and this was our chance. Every year we’ve taken on a new name in order to stay fresh. In past years we have been known as the Ultimate Warriors, Ralph’s, Power Strangers, Mohawks, 26 Win, The Athletes formerly known as 26 Win, and this year will be the Margaritaville Mohawks. The Mohawk Lacrosse Club plays a pivotal role for anyone who grows up playing in the Capital Region and they’ve continued to support us over the years with other help coming from the Albany Power, Mercury Screen Printing, as well as Facts and Measures, which are great sponsors.

Tell us a little about the team’s roster composition?

MB: With Frank Adamo leading the way, Danny McKinney, Steve D’Amario and myself have been able to create some great teams over the past seven years. We are consistently made up of about 90% Niskayuna Alumni with outside help coming from a few players in the Capital Region, as well as college teammates of ours. We try to keep the same roster in tact but with so many great players coming out of the Niskayuna program we want to make sure the younger guys get their opportunity to be a part of this tradition. As some of us are getting older we’re starting to take a backseat and allowing the youngblood to lead the way on the field. I’ve loved seeing these younger guys come up over the years because we were able to coach a lot of them in the Albany Power program while we were still in college and to now play beside them is an amazing experience.

We’ve built a successful team and I believe the main reason for that is respect. This is something that we all learned from past years of playing with the MLC or just being around the original members of those teams. We respect one another both on and off the field and it shows up when it’s time to play. We don’t deal with egos or bad attitudes…we are all friends and each and every member of the team understands their place and what they bring to the team each and every year.

How has the team done in Lake Placid in past years?

26 Win

MB: We’ve done pretty well over the past six years but not as well as we’d like. We won back-to-back championships in our Division a few years ago but have come up short the past two years. We’ve lost some firepower this year with Luke Goldstock playing for the Boston Cannons in the MLL, but still have a great core and are expecting big things.

Other than Lake Placid, does the team play in other events together?

MB: There has been talk about playing in other tournaments together, but it has been so hard logistically. We are spread across the country and everyone has so much going on, we’ve decided to put all of our focus on Lake Placid. It’s the one weekend every year that we all clear our schedules and get ready for.

Will the team be able to get any team practices in before Lake Placid?

MB: We’d love to be able to get together prior to our first game but there just isn’t time for it. One of the best parts of our team is that we’ve been playing together for so long and come from the same system where things tend to click pretty quickly once we are back together.

Any plans for the team to spend time together off the field in Lake Placid?

MB: The best part of the Lake Placid Lacrosse tournament is the time we spend together off the field. George Leveille has created such a wonderful experience that is unbeatable in my opinion. Even when you aren’t playing, you’re still at the fields catching up with guys you haven’t seen in years. There are no better friendships than the ones we’ve all made playing Lacrosse and this tournament is and always will be the essence of that.

What is the role of a team like this in maintaining the traditions of Niskayuna Lacrosse?

MB: Tradition is what Niskayuna Lacrosse is all about. Coach Vorgang started the program when he was 23 years old and has never looked back. The reason we created this team wasn’t just for us to have a good time. It was to have another way to represent our hometown, the players and coaches who came before us as well as the players who are still coming up through the system. We play for everyone who has ever put on the Silver jersey and for the Coaches who gave us all so much over the years. #26WIN

Niskayuna Alumni Game

What memories stand out to you the most from your years of playing at Lake Placid?

MB: There have been so many amazing memories over the years that it’s hard to only name a few. I will always remember making my first trip up to Placid when I was 13 or 14 years old to watch the Mohawk Lacrosse Club take on Graph-Tex in the Finals and was just amazed over the skill, passion and tenacity of that game. John Keller was in an all-time 1v1 battle the entire game down on the left wing and Tom Giglio pulled off a mind-blowing moonwalk along the packed sideline that got the entire crowd on their feet. After that game I knew it was something special and couldn’t wait to take part in it. Over the years we’ve had so many great times, won a few championships but most importantly it’s the one weekend every year I most look forward to because of the people I’m with and the “zesty” stories that are told.

The Margaritaville Mohawks begin 2017 Lake Placid tourney play against Coldbrook on Friday August 4th at 1:30 PM on Field 7.  For complete Margaritaville Mohawks schedule info visit: SCHEDULE

Follow Niskayuna Lacrosse on Twitter at: 26_Win

Gary Govel
Gary has been involved in lacrosse in the Capital District for over 35 years as a player, youth coach, program administrator, parent, and fan. Gary launched in November 2015 to report on lacrosse news and information of interest to the region, and to share his passion for the game. In addition to operating this site and associated social media, Gary is also a contributor to Inside Lacrosse.