by PETE JANNY, Asst. Sports Editor
The Manhattan College women’s lacrosse team has put together a fruitful 2019 campaign to date. Through 14 games, Manhattan has compiled a 5-1 MAAC record to go along with an overall record of 10-4.
Manhattan’s early season success is a big reason why the team is sitting pretty right now. The team showed signs of just how good they could be when they jumped out to a 5-1 start against non-conference competition. All five of those wins came as part of a five-game winning streak in which the team knocked off La Salle, LIU Brooklyn, Lafayette, Central Connecticut State, and Sacred Heart. During that hot stretch, the team amassed a total of 47 goals, while only letting up 26 against.
The tail end of Manhattan’s non-conference schedule was a bit of bump in the road in what was otherwise a prosperous start to the season. Manhattan’s final two games before the start of the MAAC season resulted in losses to Drexel and Wagner by scores of 13-7 and 10-5, respectively. Luckily, the team re-discovered their excellent form just in time for the MAAC opener on March 22nd in which the team out-dueled Canisius 15-10 at Gaelic Park.
Manhattan used the momentum from their win over Canisius to pick up narrow victories over Marist and Siena in the team’s next two games. With a 3-0 record in conference play, Manhattan had emerged as early contenders in the chase for MAAC supremacy.
The nadir of Manhattan’s season came on April 3rd when the team lost at Fairfield by a score of 14-6. The outcome represented Manhattan’s first conference loss of the season as well as their most lopsided loss. With Fairfield currently anchoring first place in the standings, the defeat prevented Manhattan from closing the gap on the dangerous Stags.
Manhattan’s attention then turned to rival Iona (1-12, 0-4 MAAC) when the Gaels came to visit Gaelic Park last Wednesday for a mid-season clash.
An inauspicious start from Manhattan allowed Iona to jump out to a 2-0 lead by the time the opening seven minutes had elapsed. Iona’s Danielle Keenan put her team on the board first when she found the back of the net at the 26:12 mark. The Gaels struck again a little under four minutes later when Libby Miller’s shot beat senior goalie Nikki Prestiano at 22:54.
The next fifteen minutes of play featured five unanswered goals from Manhattan to morph a two-goal deficit into a three-goal advantage.
Senior Molly Fitzpatrick initiated the scoring rampage when her shot at the 20:25 mark snuck in to cut the deficit to one at 2-1. Four minutes later, Manhattan’s aggressive play yielded two quick goals with a Talia Price finish at 16:59 and an Alaina Burgess strike at 16:19 to gain control of a 3-2 lead. Both scores were made possible by assists from Emily Sanford and Cassidy Burns, respectively.
The scoring display was not done yet though.
Burgess and Burns flashed impressive chemistry again when the latter found the former for another goal that stretched Manhattan’s lead to 4-2 at the 11:47 mark of the first half. The scoring run culminated three minutes later on a one-time goal from Murphy that pushed Manhattan’s advantage to 5-2.
Iona refused to let the Manhattan lead grow from there.
Iona’s Caton Brisbin ended the Gaels’ scoring drought with a free-position goal to get to within two at 5-3 with a little over five minutes left. Manhattan would retaliate less than a minute later when Sanford fed Lipponer for a score that gave Manhattan their sixth and final goal of the first half.
The Gaels would get the last laugh in the half when they quickly notched two more goals in the final minute of play to enter the break only one back of Manhattan at 6-5.
The home team threatened to run away with the game when they opened the second half with three straight unassisted goals from the likes of Burgess, Liponer, and Burns.
Leah Marshall temporarily stopped the bleeding for the Gaels when her strike found the back of the net off of a feed from Christine Gironda to make the score 9-6 at the 18 minute mark.
Meanwhile, the Manhattan offensive attack remained destructive. The Jaspers seized their largest lead of the afternoon at 11-6 after Fitzpatrick and Burns both claimed their second goals of the game at 15:56 and 15:01, respectively.
Burns and Lipponer were just too much for the Gaels to handle in this one.
The Manhattan neophytes capped off their special performances with late game goals that gave each player a hat trick. Aside from their scoring prowess, Lipponer added one assist with Burns contributing two. Burgess also contributed a hat-trick to help fuel the Manhattan attack.
The final scoreline line read 14-8, marking Manhattan’s fourth conference victory of the season in five tries. This was also the third time the 2019 senior class had beaten the Gaels.
“It’s always a tough battle when we play them,” said Prestiano during a postgame interview with Go Jaspers. “We always look forward to playing them.”
Aside from the victory, the program celebrated two impressive milestones.
Prestiano etched her place in the record books by registering her 500th career save in net for the Jaspers on a day in which she posted seven saves.
“It’s honestly just an amazing feeling,” said Prestiano during a postgame interview with Go Jaspers. “I never thought coming in that I would be leaving with at least five hundred saves. Every single year I just got better and better.”
Burns was the other Jasper to make history against the Gaels. Her second assist on the afternoon gave her 19 on the season, handing her the rights to the all-time record for most assists in a season by a freshman in program history. The previous record-holder was Rory Maguire ’02, who amassed 18 assists back in 1999.
Manhattan looked to make it two in a row when the Quinnipiac Bobcats (5-10, 2-5 MAAC) arrived in Riverdale on Saturday for a senior day match-up.
Prior to the start of the game, the program honored Prestiano, Fitzpatrick, Emma Kaishian, Jordyn DiConstanzo, Caitlin Murphy, Jillian Calandra, Nicole Quivelli and Talia Price for everything they have meant to the program over the last four years.
The Jaspers battled for the full 60 minutes of action on their way to pulling out a narrow 11-9 win to send the senior class out in style in what was their last ever home game at Gaelic Park.
Manhattan never trailed in the game, yet only saw their lead grow to as high as four in what was a thrilling battle.
Manhattan got off to a hot start to go up 2-0 on goals from Fitzpatrick and Burgess in the first four minutes of play. The goals represented Fitzpatrick’s eighteenth of the season and Burgess’s fifth.
The Bobcats didn’t waste any time after Manhattan’s goals as the visitors quickly tied things up at two apiece by the 24:30 mark.
The Jaspers would regain the lead when Cassidy Burns scored her seventh goal of the season at the 21:54 mark. That lead would grow to two when Lipponer found the back of the net at 17:18.
The lead stayed in the hands of Manhattan thanks in large part to Fitzpatrick’s heroics. The senior attacker was nothing short of spectacular, proceeding to score two more goals in the half at 14:13 and 3:19 that helped keep Quinnipiac at bay.
After Quinnipiac’s Allison Kuhn converted on her shot at the 1:47 mark, Manhattan quickly stole the momentum back less than a minute later when Murphy eluded defenders with a spin move to give her enough space to score.
When the first half buzzer had finally sounded, Manhattan owned an 8-5 lead.
Coming out of the break, Fitzpatrick was on the move again. Her first shot resulted in her fourth goal of the day to push the lead to 9-5.
From there, things took an unexpected turn for the worse for Manhattan.
Quinnipiac would unleash a 3-0 scoring run over the next five minutes to cut Manhattan’s lead to one at 9-8.
The stage was now set for an entertaining race to the finish. The next seventeen minutes of action had the look of a dogfight with neither team able to find the back of the net over that span.
Fighting to preserve their lead, the Jaspers finally ended a twenty-two minute scoring drought with a goal by Burgess at 5:58 to extend their lead to 10-8.
The Bobcats were not ready to pack their bags just yet though.
The visitors moved to within one at 10-9 on a goal from Szawlowski just under the five minute mark in regulation.
Up stepped Fitzpatrick once again.
Her finish at 3:21 upped her goal total to five on the afternoon and helped close the door shut on Quinnipiac’s hopes.
Fitzpatrick’s five-goal performance was complimented by a three-goal effort from Burgess. Murphy also had a nice day, contributing a goal and two assists for Manhattan. As for Quinnipiac, their nine-goal attack was fueled by hat tricks from Kuhn and Szawlowski.
After the win, the team received news that they have officially qualified for the MAAC tournament. This will be Manhattan’s first appearance in the MAAC tournament after a ten-year hiatus.
Manhattan still has two road games remaining on their regular season schedule with the first coming against Monmouth on Wednesday, April 17th and the second coming three days later against Niagara on April 20th.