They are best friends, living out their boyhood dreams. Both young men, as well as their fathers, say they would not have realized their dreams if they hadn’t chosen to play for ADVNC Lacrosse.
Ryan Rogers and Zach Russell are 2 high school seniors who grew up together playing lacrosse in the Sacramento suburb of El Dorado Hills. Each chose to start playing on ADVNC Sacramento select teams in the 8th grade. Each decided then, that their goal was to play Division 1 Lacrosse. Ryan has committed to play next season for the University of Utah, and Zach has committed to play next season for the Air Force Academy.
“My son was determined to play Division 1 lacrosse. So we searched to find the best coaches and find who we felt had the most college contacts to achieve that goal. ADVNC did not disappoint,” says Zach’s father, Ed Russell. “My son will play at the Air Force Academy next year. He could not have achieved this goal without ADVNC coaches & teammates. I am extremely thankful and grateful for choosing ADVNC and to them for helping my son achieve his dream.”
Ryan’s dad, Greg Rogers, agrees. “Chris Rotelli (ADVNC Founder & CEO) and Greg Weigel’s (ADVNC Director of Training) connections on the recruiting side were huge. They have always been willing to talk. I call them with questions a lot. I can’t say enough about how much they have helped with the recruiting process.”
The young men have been coached primarily by longtime ADVNC Sacramento coach, Dave Gravlin. The elder Rogers sees the positive impact ADVNC has had on his son’s non-lacrosse development as well. “Coach Gravlin’s approach with the boys from a young age has been great. He’s discipline oriented. He’s taught them life lessons when opportunities arose. His impact on all the boys has been huge.”
Ryan plays attack and Zach is a defenseman. They’ve battled each other in practice since they were kids. “The little things he does to try and get under my skin has made me more level headed. He’s so aggressive, that he makes a lot of others defenders feel soft, by comparison,” Ryan says.
The feeling is mutual. Zach says, “We’ve gone against each other our whole lives and made each other better. I got lucky to have such a good player to practice against.”
Ryan’s dad, Greg Rogers remembers when the 2 boys first started playing lacrosse together. “I told them once when they were young that they should start going head to head against one another in practice. I never had to say it again. They’ve made each other so much better. It’s been really fun to watch.”
While they compete on the practice field, they workout together off the field. A couple of years ago, they decided to take a page out of 49ers legend Jerry Rice’s playbook, and run long, steep hills together to get in better shape. Both say Zach is a better sprinter, and Ryan, a better distance runner. Both skill sets came into play earlier this year, when they were doing a training run together in the hills near their school.
“We were sprinting up a hill, and waved at a lady walking past us. After we passed her, we heard her screaming. We looked back, and she was leaping up and down on one foot, and there was a rattlesnake hanging from her other foot,” says Ryan.
The boys acted quickly. Ryan used his cell phone to call 911. Zach, the better sprinter, raced down the hill to meet the EMT. Ryan stayed with the lady, who was bitten by the rattlesnake and cared for her. He says that at one point, the lady was having a lot of trouble breathing. Zach raced back up the hill with the EMT, and together, they saved the lady from peril. She made a full recovery.
With that harrowing tale behind them, Ryan and Zach are now focused on their last year of playing ADVNC Lacrosse together.
“Playing this last year with guys I’ve been playing with my whole life will really be bittersweet. I really want to cherish the last few games,” says Ryan.
Zach echoes his friend’s thoughts in saying, “My last season with ADVNC will be bittersweet. It’s been a long, fun journey. I am blessed to have been together with these guys for so long. I’ve made so many great relationships, and these guys will be my friends for life. It will be sad to leave them. But, I have achieved the goal I set through playing for ADVNC.”
Both players and their fathers are extremely proud to be members of ADVNC Lacrosse. When they go to tournaments around the country, they feel strongly that ADVNC stands out, on and off the field. Greg Rogers says, “Chris Rotelli has always told us stories about when he was growing up, as a young lacrosse player. About how he would go to the grocery store with his Dad, and would always carry his stick with him. Stories like that where you could see his passion for the game, had a big impact on Ryan.”
But both the Rogers and the Russells stress: the college recruiting assistance that ADVNC provides makes the company so valuable.
“I can’t imagine there’s a club that has better connections to NCAA coaching staffs. Their networks, I feel like any college on the radar, Chris Rotelli or Greg Weigel will have a contact,” says Greg Rogers.
Zach Russell agrees when he says, “Greg and Chris have so many connections. They were always reaching out to college coaches when I couldn’t. They were always there to answer my questions. They were always available.”
Next season, Zach & Ryan will move on to play at Air Force and Utah, respectively. And while the 2 schools have no current plans to play one another, count Ryan as someone who wants the opportunity to play against his best friend, in a Division 1 lacrosse game. Greg Rogers says, “Ryan will be in Coach Holman’s (Utah’s Head Lacrosse Coach) ear about scheduling Air Force. I know that!”