WORCESTER TWP. >> Mike Tulskie’s omnipresent smile doesn’t dim when you try to dissect his importance to the Springfield’s boys lacrosse team.
A season ago, as the Cougars marched to a PIAA title, the arguable MVP of the state tournament was Mike Gerzabek, who fired home 11 goals in four games, including a first-half finals hat trick in a 4-3 edging of La Salle.
With Gerzabek matriculating to Cabrini, in stepped Tulskie, transferring back to his home district from Cardinal O’Hara. And the junior has occupied the niche with near equivalent efficiency.
Tulskie scored four times Tuesday night in the Cougars’ 12-0 whitewashing of Lansdale Catholic in the PIAA Class 2A semifinals, setting up a rematch of the District 1 final with West Chester Henderson Saturday (W.C. East, 2 p.m.). He did that damage by staying within himself on the left wing and staying true to one expectation: When the shot is there, let it fly.
“Coach (Tom) Lemieux always says that everyone’s got a role,” Tulskie said. “My role is to just to do my job and score some goals. Everyone’s got their job, and I’m just doing mine.”
The difference in stature between Gerzabek and Tulskie is stark. The diminutive, long-haired Gerzabek was a three-sport star who emerged as a vocal senior leader last season. Tulskie, with his close-cropped haircut, is all arms and legs, a lanky and quiet newcomer who defers to the Cougars’ ample stock of veteran knowhow.
But they are united by their sniper job description, which neither takes as being as derogatory as it may sound: On the lacrosse field, they have one job to do, and they do it very, very well.
The numbers back that up: Last year, through the state semifinals and before that championship hat trick, Gerzabek scored 64 goals to go with 11 assists. Tulskie this year? He’s at 64 and 12. And Tulskie has a penchant for the heroic: His goal in the third quarter of the District 1 final made the difference in a 4-3 win over Henderson, a final score that has served Springfield well in recent years.
“He’s really doing a great job down there in the left spot,” said Kyle Long, the string-puller of Springfield’s attack. “Mike Gerz was a pretty big player for us last year, especially in the playoffs, and it’s tough to replace that, big shoes to fill. I think Tulskie is doing a great job down there, finishing. Obviously his stats, those numbers don’t lie about that.”
More truthful stats: Tulskie has scored at least 54 goals in each of his three seasons. He’s got 178 career goals and 219 points, both gargantuan numbers, whatever your perceived exchange rate of Catholic League goals vs. Central League markers may be. And all for an attackman who remains uncommitted into the summer before his senior year.
(It would’ve been six goals Tuesday if not for a pair of reverberating post-rattlers, and Tulskie is surely near the Southeastern Pa. lead in that mythical category this season).
Tulskie is a cog in a machine that dates back further than just one year and one championship. When Springfield won the District 1 title in 2015, Lucas Spence animated the offense, coaxing the best from a supporting cast that executed its roles. For the last two years, Long has been the consummate playmaker. The University of Maryland commit has tallied 105 assists this year and consistently puts teammates in position to thrive. Finishers like Tulskie and Joey DeBernardi (37 goals, including two Wednesday night) have obliged.
“That’s our attack,” Long said. “Joey and him, they do a great job finishing the ball. And I trust both of them with every pass I throw, and I know they’re going to catch and finish most of them, and that’s why we’ve been successful this year on offense.”
Though three years — and, briefly, the public/parochial divide — separate Gerzabek and Tulskie, each is familiar with the other’s work via the tight-knit community of Springfield lacrosse. Long sees subtle differences in their games; Tulskie is perhaps a better passer, Gerzabek more adept at taking defenders off the dodge with his low center of gravity and deceptively quick feet.
But they’re united in certain elements, like a howitzer of a shot and their expert translation of those skills into team accomplishments.
“I love Gerz,” Tulskie said. “If I could play like him, good things are going to happen. If I can play anything like that, then we’d be in good shape.”
The numbers say that he is, and the bracket indicates they are.