At the beginning of the 2011 season, Massachusetts men’s lacrosse team coach Greg Cannella set some goals for attackman Will Manny.
He wanted Manny to assume a leadership role and carry the weight of the Minutemen on his shoulders as they progressed through their second season in the Colonial Athletic Conference.
With three games remaining before a potential postseason, Cannella explained that Manny has indeed met those initial expectations.
“I think in terms of leadership [he has met the expectations],” said Cannella. “It’s hard for young players, and he’s still a young player as a sophomore, it’s hard for those guys to take on a leadership role on their own.”
Though Cannella admitted that Manny has had to work with players like Anthony Biscardi and Ryan Hantverk to help with leading the team, he has seen a consistent effort from Manny on all ends of the field.
“Willy’s been fairly consistent,” said Cannella. “It kind of feels like he has to put the team on his shoulders and he does it. He’s done a good job of managing his game [and] he’s taken advantage of his opportunities that he’s gotten. That’s so important to guys, kind of letting the game to come to them.”
Manny is a natural on the lacrosse field as he has earned a point in all of the UMass (7-3, 2-1 CAA) game his season, which is the current longest streak on the team. This is despite the fact that Manny went through struggles early in the season, according to Cannella.
Though the sophomore opened up the season with an impressive performance against then-No.12 Army (one goal, two assists), it was the following game against Hartford that saw Manny achieve career-high numbers.
Manny notched four goals in the second half (a career-high) in the Feb. 19 encounter, as well as an assist to give a career-high five points in the contest. Additionally, one of the goals was a game-winner.
More career-high numbers followed against then-No.20 Brown and Albany, as he earned three assists in both games to tie his career-high in assists for an individual game. Early this month against Saint Joseph’s, Manny tied his career-high five points again as he notched another four goals and an assist. This brought his total assist count to 16 between March 5 and April 2 (a five-game span).
In the overtime thriller against Towson last Saturday, Manny managed his second-consecutive game with four goals.
Though Cannella said that the game comes naturally to Manny, he also explained that last year’s CAA Rookie of the Year has been putting in the extra effort.
“I’ve seen him work hard, I’ve seen him care, I’ve seen him go out extra and shoot, I’ve seen him change his shots up, I’ve seen him do what you expect your really good players to do,” said Cannella.As the season progresses forward, Cannella expects Manny to keep the offense motivated as the Minutemen compete against another top offense in Drexel on Saturday.
“I expect him to do what he does – to work hard, to keep the offensive group motivated, especially the attack group motivated, keep them under control [and] keep them composed,” said Cannella.
With Manny being a focus of Cannella’s, the UMass coaching staff wants Manny to continue to balance out his leadership and the way he plays his game because it’ll help drive the team through the tough schedule ahead.
“[We continue] to ask him not to do too much and that includes in the leadership role,” said Cannella. “You’ve got to take care of your game as well as you lead the team. That’s the hardest thing for guys as college players is to be able to lead the right way and go out and play the right way.
“Some guys will focus more on their play and not enough on leadership, and some guys will go all leadership and their play struggles,” he added. “I think he’s finding that really good balance at this point.”
Herb Scribner can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.