(Photo Courtesy of Manhattan Athletics)
At the time the 2020 season was cut short in mid-March, the Manhattan Jaspers were sitting at 3-3, coming off an 8-7 win over NJIT, and seemed to be starting to put all the pieces of the puzzle together.
“We would have liked to have a couple more wins, but I liked the way things were trending for us,” said Manhattan head coach Drew Kelleher in an interview “I really liked the way we fought in those losses. We played Navy well, Bryant is always tough with Coach Pressler there but the guys fought hard, and I liked the effort against Hartford.”
Manhattan hasn’t made the MAAC tournament since 2010, but Coach Kelleher thought 2020 could have been the end of that drought, but they were ultimately robbed of that chance with the season being cut short.
“It was really devastating when the season ended. We felt we were absolutely heading in the right direction and had the chance to make the MAAC Tournament for the first time in a long time.” Kelleher said.
While the Jaspers won’t get the opportunity to end their postseason drought this year, they have to feel optimistic about their chances to get it done in 2021. The Jaspers have announced the return of five seniors, which is currently the most of any team in the country.
“We gave all of our seniors the opportunity to come back for an extra year, and half of them chose to do so,” Kelleher said.
“Candidly, I’m not sure if we are going to be on campus in the fall. So having those guys back with experience is really beneficial…The continuity piece is huge and it should give us a pretty big competitive advantage.”
While the Jaspers welcome back seniors that have been impact players on both sides of the ball, the defensive end of the field appears to be where the biggest boost will be. The Jaspers had the 10th best scoring defense and the 19th best man-down defense in DI through those six games this past season.
And they will welcome back three key pieces of that defensive unit in starting defenseman Kelson Borisenko, Defenseman/LSM Rob Johnson, and SSDM CJ Scharf.
Borisenko, who has been a starter for the Jaspers for the past two seasons, recorded nine ground balls and caused four turnovers in five games this past season. Johnson scooped up 23 ground balls, recorded five caused turnovers, and dished out an assist. He ranked eighth in the MAAC in ground balls per game with 3.83. Scharf, who can also be an offensive threat, recorded seven ground balls and caused one turnover this past season.
In addition to those three returners, Manhattan will also have multiple key underclassmen back next season on defense, including starting goalie Brendan Krebs.
The Jaspers also will get back some firepower on offense with senior attackmen Brandon Grinnell and Trevor Pelletier returning for an extra year.
Grinnell, who is a starter and has been an impact player since his freshman season, was fourth on the team in points last season with nine (7G/2A). Pelletier tallied seven points (5G/2A) and started in two games this past season.
Similarly to the defense, the Jaspers will also return some key underclassmen on offense in 2021, including leading scorer Kyle Gucwa, among others.
“From a statistical standpoint, we were one of the best defenses in the country this past season…And we return three really productive pieces on the offensive side who are also great leaders. We think it is a really big win for us.” Kelleher said.