After a little over nine months, the Manhattan College men’s lacrosse team will be back at it again this Saturday, Feb. 3 as they open on the road at Bryant.
The Jaspers also opened their season against Bryant the last two years, falling to the Smithfield, R.I. team by a score of 16-3 in 2016 and by 17-10 in 2017. However, head coach Drew Kelleher has purposely wanted to play them each year he has coached the team so far.
“Bryant is a similar institution that is a program that we want to strive to be like,” said Kelleher. “They’ve been in the NCAA Tournament two of the last three years, played Maryland in the [first] round last year. So we play them to open every year to kind of use it as a gauge.”
Goalie Michael Zingaro looks forward to the upcoming season and knows his teammates feel the same way.
“We’re really excited to get after it,” said Zingaro. “We’ve put in a ton of work since day one of the fall semester. So our boys are itching to get after it in the spring.”
Zingaro will have even more help this season from a coaching standpoint as two new coaches have joined the team. The additions are assistant coach Jack Runkel and volunteer assistant coach James Amandola.
Runkel comes from Yale where he served as an assistant coach the last two seasons. During that time, Yale won the Ivy League Championship twice. Not only does Runkel have experience with winning as a coach, but he also has experience winning as a player as he was the starting goalie for Loyola’s 2012 NCAA Championship season.
This brings invaluable qualities to the team which a goalie like Zingaro feels is a large positive.
“Being a goalie myself, he really brings a great expertise and knowledge to the game,” said Zingaro about Runkel. “All over the field he brings a huge energy that’s almost uncomparable and really drives us forward.”
Amandola is returning to where it all began for him. He graduated from Manhattan in 2002, but not before leaving a mark on the lacrosse team. In 2002 alone he led the team to its only MAAC Championship, was named MAAC Defensive Player of the Year, was named MVP and had the best save percentage in the nation with 67 percent. His success wasn’t limited to the one year either as he was inducted into the Manhattan College Athletic Hall of Fame in 2012.
Attacker Parker Giarratana, who is currently in the midst of leaving an impact on this team himself, praised Amandola on the high level of energy he brings.
“For Coach Amandola, he just brings the energy all day and everyday,” said Giarratana. “Just always positive vibes, always keeping the players positive and I think he’s doing that perfectly.”
Giarratana is only entering his third year with the team, but he has already won MAAC Rookie of the Year in 2016, won MAAC Rookie of the Week five times in 2016 and amassed 83 points during his first two years. Only seven Jaspers have ever eclipsed 100 points in their career and Giarratana is almost there already.
“I think the sky’s the limit for Parker,” said Kelleher. “I think he’s got some really nice pieces around him right now and I think he could be in for another big year.”
While Giarratana has accomplished this all in his first two years, he is not letting it get to his head, but instead is focused on his team first and foremost.
“There’s really no expectations for me personally,” said Giarratana. “I’m here for my team. Whatever I have to do to help my team win and accomplish our goals, that’s what I’m really gonna do.”
The team will have some challenges though. They haven’t finished over .500 in conference play since 2010. They also haven’t finished over .500 overall nor have they won a game in the MAAC Tournament since 2009. However, just like any sports team, a new class of players could change the whole dynamic of a team and that has to be the hope for 2018.
“We think we’ve recruited really well, but they’re basically a seed in the ground and we’ve got to grow them,” said Kelleher.
Two sophomores and 14 freshmen have been added to the team. Giarratana feels a lot of these new players will see some time on the field. One that has especially stood out to him has been Sean MacKinney.
MacKinney played lacrosse for Bridgewater-Raritan High School in New Jersey where he earned four letters, helped his team make it to the 2016 State Championship and helped his team to two Skyland Conference titles.
“He’s just been playing absolutely amazing so I think a bunch of the other freshmen are playing great too,” said Giarratana. “I think that throughout the whole class, it was a very good recruiting class.”
After playing Bryant, the Jaspers will face Wagner, VMI, Lafayette, Bellarmine, Virginia and UMass Lowell before beginning MAAC play on Mar. 17.
“It’s exciting,” said Kelleher. “We have a good balance of some really challenging opponents and some teams we think we can be really competitive with.”