NEW YORK - By day, Michael Bollinger is making saves for the Stony Brook men’s lacrosse team. By night, he’s in a position to potentially save lives as a volunteer firefighter.
Bollinger earned second-team all-America East honors as a junior last year after posting a 9-6 record with a 10.97 goals-against average and a 5.09 save percentage.
This offseason, the senior focused on his stick work, improving his overall game and taking his leadership skills to the next level—by trying to be more vocal and helping his teammates to get better.
First-year head coach Anthony Gilardi says whether Bollinger is making a stop or allowing a goal—his demeanor remains the same—something that resonates with his teammates.
“He’s definitely a silent leader,” says Gilardi. “He just has a cool confidence about him.”
Bollinger attributes his ability to remain calm under pressure to the work he does off the field at Holbrook Fire Department Station No. 2 in the town where he grew up.
“You go there and help someone else when it’s the worst day of their life—you try to help them as much as you can,” says Bollinger, drawing a parallel to lacrosse. “They both relate—it’s kind of awesome. It’s a split second thing—you don’t really overthink it you just kind of do it. That’s kind of been my mentality If there’s a ball coming at you I just got to react to it and there’s a call—you just gotta do it.”
The department receives roughly 50 emergency calls a week and Bollinger estimates he answers 15 of them as a first-responder. A call can range from assessing a fire or medical situation to taking someone to the hospital.
He’s also required to undergo monthly training to stay on top of new procedures and equipment operation.
“What he does is very rare in this world of college athletics,” says Gilardi. “I think when you talk about the time commitment of school, being a full-time lacrosse player/starting goalie and the volunteer work on the side—it’s special. I think we need more kids like that.”
Holbrook Fire Department Captain Rob Avitabile says he saw Bollinger grow up as he came up through the ranks as an 11-year-old junior firefighter before becoming a regular volunteer when he was old enough.
“I think watching him so involved in sports at the level that he’s at and he’s still able to juggle what he has to do here—it’s very inspiring to the younger guys,” Avitabile says. “The older guys—we go to his games and cheer him on.”
About a dozen or so volunteer firefighters make it to Bollinger’s games at Kenneth P. LaValle Stadium, in addition to family and friends.
“The game day tailgate is awesome—a lot of guys come from the firehouse, my family is huge too,” Bollinger exclaims. “My family’s big into the firehouse too—coming for parties or holidays— it’s something I really look forward to.”
The support, Bollinger says, has been crucial in balancing it all.
Over the weekend, the 6-foot-2, 205-pound goaltender had a career-high 22 save performance in an overtime win over Brown University, but he was just excited recalling the first time he got to drive a fire truck.
“That’s like a childhood dream. I always wanted to do it. When I was able to do turn 21, the lieutenant said: ‘Let’s go for a ride,’ …and it was probably the best day of my life,” Bollinger laughs.
Schoolwork is Bollinger’s current priority and the senior is set to graduate in May with a bachelor’s degree in business. While he’d jump at the opportunity to play professional lacrosse, a full-time career in civil service remains the constant whether as a police officer or a fireman.
Bollinger added as long as he lives close, he’ll always volunteer at Station House No. 2.