Two local rivals join forces in SWR as assistant coaches
Top-tier competitors will bring their experience to St. Joseph's
By Desirée Keegan
Village Beacon Record
St. Joseph's College's head women's lacrosse coach Bob Vlahakis, a former Shoreham-Wading River head coach of the girls lacrosse team, has hired two local alumni as assistant coaches for the 2014 season.
Brie Claire Drost, a former player of Vlahakis' while he coached the Wildcats, graduated in 2008 and anchored the team's defense in two winning New York State Championship title matches. She earned multiple All-County and All-Division awards, and went on to play at LIU-Post, where she played midfield and defense.
In college, she played under head coach Megan McNamara, a former four-time national champion herself while playing at the University of Maryland. Drost won back-to-back NCAA Division II National Championships while also being a captain of her team. She earned All-American honors from USA College Lacrosse in 2011 and, off the field, she earned her Bachelor of Science degree in childhood education.
"Ever since I was in high school, I started coaching summer camps," Drost said. "I loved coaching, so I figured why not try the college level. It's such a great experience and I'm learning so much."
For Drost, it's a smooth transition because she is familiar with Vlahakis' coaching style, so he thought it was a natural fit.
She also said her big-game experience in playing in state and national championships helps to bring an experience to the team that not a lot of other former players can bring.
"It's very interesting," Drost said of working with her former coach. "As a player, we never knew what he was thinking and why he would have us do certain things, because his coaching style is so different. But now that I'm on the other side, it revealed all of the secrets to the method of his madness. It all makes sense now, why we were so successful."
Vlahakis said Drost knows his expectations, and while Julianne Bernatzky, the other new hire, will be mainly be a goalkeeper coach, Drost will be controlling the field.
"She was always a player I could depend on in situations," Vlahakis said of Drost. "She sacrificed for the team and had found success everywhere that she's been. I run a special kind of a defense a certain way, so she's my first assistant coach who came in with that knowledge on how to get the best from everybody."
Bernatzky, a Mount Sinai graduate, is on a different side of things.
Graduating high school in 2009, her lacrosse team had a long-standing rivalry with Shoreham-Wading River.
As a goalkeeper for the team, she moved on to be the goalie at SUNY Geneseo. She led the team to its highest ranking ever (No. 9) in LaxPower magazine.
While playing goalie, she became a team captain and led Geneseo to its first NCAA appearance. Bernatzky was named the team MVP in 2012 and was on the All-Academic Team for three straight seasons. She graduated cum laude and received her New York State Initial Certification in adolescence education (7-12) for mathematics.
Vlahakis said the former goalkeeper had good references, so he's entrusting her with the position.
"We have a new freshman goalie who came in this year and I knew she was going to need to be mentored both on and off the field, so that's Julie's main responsibility," he said.
For Bernatzky, it's interesting for her to be coaching alongside old adversaries.
"I personally am so thankful to be working with Bob and Brie Claire because I know I'm going to be learning so much about the game," she said. "He coaches very differently than what I'm used to playing for, so I'm hoping to get different perspectives on defense and plays and coaching in general, so that I can take some of what I've learned and build on it when I hopefully become a head coach somewhere down the road."
Drost said she hopes she can get the Golden Eagles ready for the next level as a team, because she believes they have the talent to take them there. She also hopes that from this experience she can learn what college coaches are looking for, because she too hopes to coach at the high school level and would like to know how to prepare her future players to fit that mold.
Drost and Bernatzky hope that the girls can take away from their experience this season the same things that they have — learning about the sport while also learning life lessons from it, and gaining lifelong friends and memories in the process.
"My hope is to guide the goalie and obviously help her learn in any way possible, but to also focus more on the experience and the relationship, to make it a fun environment and be there for the girls if they ever need anything off the field or on the field," Bernatzky said.
"I'm hoping to in any way possible have even some slight impact that helps these girls grow and helps them build on their program."