2013 Manhattan Menís Lacrosse Season Preview
Manitta's experienced coaching staff consists of Matt Nealis, who played and coached under Manitta, helping to lead the nation in man-down defense percentage at the Division II level in 2011, along with John Lade, a former All-American defenseman at Syracuse. Fellow Syracuse alum Spencer Wright and Sal Marinello will also add Division I coaching experience to the sidelines.
"John and Matt are coming from pretty successful programs and they know what's coming," noted Manitta. "I'm getting a lot of feedback from them right now and the change in attitude is going to make a world of difference. John playing on the US National team is really motivating the guys."
In their first season in Riverdale, the Manhattan coaching staff will also encounter a new set of rules in the collegiate game that include the addition of a "shot clock" which will increase the pace of play. "I think that the new rules in college lacrosse will benefit this team," says Manitta. "You need kids who are athletic and have a high lacrosse IQ and I think we have that."
The 2013 Jaspers will feature a core group of veterans that returns seven starters from last year, along with the addition of 11 newcomers that will look to compete for the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) title and reach the league playoffs for the first time since 2010.
Up front Manhattan brings back three of its top five scorers from last season, including senior Brian McGrath, who led the squad in goals (18) and points (29) last year.
"Brian will be the quarterback of this offense," Manitta says. "He has to make good decisions with the ball, and he's done a good job adjusting to the change in system."
The Jaspers will also look for contributions from veteran players like Ryan Payton, Paul Moreau, and Tyler Eidel, who will step onto the field for the first time as a sophomore after missing his freshman season with an injury. Moreau will lead the squad as one of its four captains for the 2013 season.
"I think right now we are just trying to tweak our attack a little," noted the first year head coach. "We are trying to let guys create opportunities on their own and not look to the coaches. We want them to be fundamentally sound and the rest will take care of itself."
Levi Radbourne, a crafty inside player, will look to contribute as a sophomore for the Jaspers while multiple freshmen are expected to put pressure on the veterans in the attack. Mike DiPascali, Stephen Farrell and John Dugan are among those expected to compete for playing time.
With the new rule changes in Division I lacrosse, the Jaspers will rely heavily on the strength of their midfield unit. Experienced players like Marcel Godino, Tyler Jarvis, Brett Madarasz, and Andrew Hurst will only add to the collective ability. Both Godino and Jarvis will be part of the four captains this season for Manhattan.
"Marcel is going to be a handful on both sides of the field," Manitta said. "He does a really good job creating offense. Tyler and Brett played attack a little last year, so that will benefit our decision making while Andrew has great quickness and change of direction."
Sophomore Kevin Cox, who notched 10 points as a rookie, and junior Mike Casson also look to figure into the offensive side of the midfield for Manhattan. "Mike is one of the best pure shooters I've ever coached," said Manitta. "Kevin is another do-it-all midfielder, a real athletic kid who makes smart decisions."
Defensively, the duo of Jon Crean and Alex Grandal will be looked on for their experience to help anchor that area of the midfield while Justin Cornetto will also fill that role. Newcomers such as Mercy transfer Patrick Hodapp and freshman Nick Strano, along with Jimmy Rogers figure to make an immediate impact with the Jaspers.
"Hodapp has really fit in nicely here, and he's one of the reasons why guys are adapting as quickly as they are," explained Manitta, who coached Hodapp at Mercy. "Nick and Jimmy are playing a little bit older that their years and I'm really excited I get a chance to work with them."
At the face-off X, a trio of Jaspers will compete for the role, led by a freshman who has been opening eyes in practice.
"Matt Ruquet is a pretty decent sized kid with some strength and good hands," said Manitta of the rookie from Rocky Point, N.Y. "Despite being a freshman he seems to be the guy for us right now and we're hoping we can get a lot out of him this season."
Players like Crean, who took 39 face-offs for the Jaspers last year, and junior Greg Smith will also be involved in the rotation.
Two starters from the 2012 Jaspers will be at the core of the Manhattan defense this season. Sophomore Max Kerber will lead the close defensemen while junior Sean McMahon has been a top player at long-stick midfielder for the Jaspers.
"Max has a toughness to go along with his size that we like and he's doing a really good job for us right not," Manitta explained. "Sean is definitely the standout right now. He can do a lot. He can carry the ball, and he is great on ground balls and caused turnovers."
Veteran athletes such as captain Evan Potter, Dan McGreevy, Jeff Mohr and William Gerard will be added into the mix at close defense and look to mold a group of young talent. A freshmen long pole, Darien Bica is high on the coaches list to contribute immediately. Sophomores Chad Steinetz, Stefano Costa and Connor Bishop as well as freshman Sam Izzarelli will all compete for minutes this season.
The fiercest competition on the Manhattan roster has been between the pipes as three goalkeepers return from last year's roster. Junior Rich Akapnitis registered 11.5 saves per game and a 54.8% save percentage in 10 games last season. Meanwhile, Michael Wiatrak played in just six games as a true freshman with a 57% save percentage and a 8.85 goals against average.
"Rich has done a very good job of getting himself healthier and he's a lot quicker that he was last season," said Manitta. "Mike outlets the ball really well and has a good command of what's going on. We really like the competition between those two guys."
Sophomore William Murphy will add to the depth at the position and could see minutes this season.
A challenging 15-game slate awaits the Jaspers, featuring matchups against perennial power Princeton as well as the beginning of a new rivalry with Army. The Tigers are ranked #14 in the Preseason USILA Coaches Poll while the Black Knights were receiving votes. Manitta will make his Division I coaching debut on Feb. 10 when the Jaspers travel to Rutgers for a date with the Scarlet Knights.
"Our schedule is challenging from the get go. From start to finish it's a demanding one," said Manitta. "I feel like the non-conference slate compliments our MAAC contests and will have the guys motivated to say the least."
Manhattan will then travel to West Point, N.Y. three days later when they take on Army (Feb. 13). It marks the first time in program history that the Jaspers will take on the Black Knights. They are 4-2 all-time against Service Academy schools, with all six prior meetings coming against Air Force.
The 2013 home slate opens on Feb. 23 with a contest against Lafayette. Manhattan will then go on the road for four straight games, visiting Providence (March 2), Mount St. Mary's (March 9), Princeton (March 12), and Binghamton (March 16). Princeton is the reigning Ivy League champions and advanced to the NCAA Tournament.
After a home contest against Mercer (March 20), the Jaspers will enter Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) play when they host Jacksonville (March 23) before a three game road swing. Manhattan will visit Siena (March 30), non-conference rival Wagner (April 2) and Detroit (April 6).
The Jaspers will play two of their final three games of the regular season at home beginning on April 13 when they host defending conference champion Canisius before traveling to VMI on April 20. In the last regular season contest, Manhattan welcomes in Marist (April 27) to Gaelic Park.
The Golden Griffins will host the 2013 MAAC Men's Lacrosse Tournament May 3-5 at the Demske Sports Complex with the top four teams qualifying.