(Photo Courtesy of Manhattan Athletics)
Welcome to the Fall Snapshot series. Throughout the fall I will be taking an early look at all 75 DI men’s college lacrosse teams and giving a snapshot of where each is heading into the 2023 season.
Head Coach: John Oiderna (1st Year, 2022-present)
Manhattan 2022 Record: 8-7 (4-2 MAAC)
Key Departures: Brendan Krebs (G), Blake Lothian (D), Luke Pacher (D)
Key Returners: Kyle Gucwa (A), Liam Walshe (A), Tadhg O’Riordan (SSDM), Christian Clifford (D)
Transfer Additions: N/A
The Manhattan Jaspers are coming off of their best season in 20 years as the Jaspers went 8-7, topped No. 2 seed Marist and then No. 1 seed St. Bonaventure to win the MAAC Tournament, and earned a spot in the NCAA Tournament for the second time in program history.
Following that historic season, the Jaspers enter a new era as Drew Kelleher left to take the UMass Lowell job and John Oiderna was promoted to the position of head coach. Furthermore, Oiderna will be overseeing a Jaspers program that also walks into a new-look MAAC with LIU, Mount St. Mary’s, Sacred Heart, and Wagner joining the league from the NEC. VMI joins from the SoCon. St. Bonaventure and Monmouth have exited the league for the A-10 and CAA.
Entering into this new era of Manhattan and MAAC lacrosse, even with some of the significant losses this team endures, the biggest talking point around this program heading into the 2023 season will be the Jaspers ability to sustain and repeat as champions.
Who Replaces Brendan Krebs?
The biggest personnel question surrounding this Manhattan program heading into the 2023 season is who will assume the role of starting goalie. After five seasons in Riverdale and four years as the starter in between the pipes, Brendan Krebs has exhausted his eligibility. Ranked fourth in career saves in program history with 572, Krebs closed out his career with a 2022 campaign that saw him stop 158 shots with a 51.5% save percentage.
Krebs anchored a Jaspers defense last season that was one of the most productive in college lacrosse as they allowed 9.08 goals per game as the seventh-best scoring defense in DI lacrosse.
In 2023, Manhattan returns three goalies in graduate student Joseph Persico, junior Connor Hapward, and sophomore Bryce Morris. None of them have seen game action with the Jaspers. They will also bring in two freshmen at the position: Ethan Barlag (South Forsyth, Ga.) and Nate Moran (Islip, N.Y.).
Can The Offense Go Faster?
Playing in a defensive-heavy conference, the Jaspers have very much fallen into the same camp as many other MAAC schools with having a strong defense while the offensive isn’t as strong, fast-paced, or productive. Last season, Manhattan had the 64th-ranked scoring offense as they averaged 9.04 goals per game. The Jaspers also ranked 52nd in offensive efficiency and 72nd in pacing, per Lacrosse Reference.
Despite being in the bottom half of most offensive statistics, the Jaspers did have a top-30 man-up unit and showed flashes of fast-paced play on that end of the field. That was especially seen later in the season. Manhattan fell to Marist 13-12 and beat Monmouth 11-4 in its final two regular-season contests before beating Marist 13-12 in the MAAC semifinals. Those three games were the best stretch for the Manhattan offense this past season as they averaged 12 goals per game. Manhattan also saw a combined 13 scores off fast breaks or faceoff wins during those contests.
Manhattan returns each of its top two goal-scorers for a fifth-season in Kyle Gucwa (31G/9A) and Liam Walshe (28G/9A), amongst other contributors on that end. SSDM Tadhg O’Riordan also returns and proved to be a valuable playmaker in transition. With the talent they return, could this unit step up the pace in 2023, whether it be in the six-on-six or in transition?
A Seamless Transition?
The promotion of John Oiderna signified the continuity Manhattan wants to keep with its lacrosse program after watching Kelleher build the program up to what it has been over the past few seasons. Manhattan has gone from doormat to conference champion.
Oiderna spent seven seasons as an assistant at Manhattan, holding the title of defensive coordinator for the last seven seasons and also having the associate head coach label each of the last three seasons. Now he gets to sit in the captain’s chair and steer the ship, and he will be doing so in a MAAC that looks a little bit different.
In the immediate, Manhattan should still be considered a power in the conference despite some big holes to fill. But will the transition from Kelleher to Oiderna be so seamless that we see the Jaspers competing for a MAAC title in 2023? That is a question we’ll have to wait and see the answer to.
Potential Breakout Player
Christian Lyons, Midfield, Senior
The Jaspers lose three players from three of its top eight scorers from last season. Lyons played in all 14 games last season as a reserve and saw two starts at midfield. He had five goals and one assists for six points on the year. With those openings and need for depth production, especially at midfield, Lyons could very well fill that void.
Manhattan brings in 11 players with its 2022 recruiting class. As previously mentioned, the class includes two goalies in Ethan Barlag (South Forsyth, Ga.) and Nate Moran (Islip, N.Y.). The pair could very well be in that goalie competition this fall.