Old St. Anthony's pals share college lacrosse field for first time

Lehigh's Dante Fantoni, left, and UMass' Will Manny

Lehigh's Dante Fantoni, left, and UMass' Will Manny were teammates at St. Anthony's. They'll face each other for the first time in college on March 20, 2013. (Credit: James Escher (Fantoni, 2009; Manny, 2012))

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As he recalls back when they were seniors at St. Anthony's in 2009, Will Manny could make a pass with his eyes closed and find Dante Fantoni who'd just as easily score before a defense had a clue what happened.

"It was the best one-two punch I've seen in a while in high school," Manny said.

Though Fantoni admitted to often replaying reels of high school tape in his mind, those days are over. Fantoni stars for Lehigh while Manny now sets up teammates for goals at UMass. What hasn't ended is the duo's friendship, which on Wednesday evening will take center stage in front of a national audience.

For the first time, Fantoni will play in a game against his best friend since the summer before high school when No. 16 Lehigh (5-3) hosts UMass (3-4) at 6 p.m. The game can be seen on ESPN-U, and Manny said he already knows many in the St. Anthony's community will be watching.

"Dante found out first and I didn't believe him," Manny said. "I spoke to media relations here and they told me it was actually happening and that's when I got really excited. So many kids are going to be watching. I got so many texts from people saying they will be."

The attackmen led St. Anthony's to its first of four straight CHSAA championships. As seniors, Fantoni led the team in goals (48), while Manny finished with 50 assists and 40 goals.

"You can tell on the field after the first year I knew what he was going to do, what move he was going to make and where I should be so he can hit me," Fantoni said.

They said that the two clicked instantly with one another as eighth-graders heading into high school. By sharing similar in interests away from the game and complimenting each other's style of play on the field -- Fantoni being a high-scoring lefty and Manny being a quick-passing righty -- a chemistry was forged.

The similarities have continued as both transitioned to Division I lacrosse in stellar fashion.

Fantoni and Manny both led their teams in scoring as freshmen. After solid sophomore seasons for both, Fantoni was named to the Tewaaraton Award Watch List last season and was the MVP in the Patriot League Championship game against Colgate. He also has the fourth leading consecutive game-scoring streak in the nation, dating back to freshman year. Manny was a Tewaaraton Award Finalist last year and is a nominee for 2013. He was also voted as the 2013 preseason CAA Player of the Year.

Even though their schools are almost 300 miles apart, the two friends remain in touch every week via text message, often sharing scouting reports and sharing high school memories.

Yet Wednesday, they will be opponents in a game that they'll remember for a very long time.

"I just tell my defense that he's their guy, he's a great shooter and he's relentless. Everyone in the country knows how good he is," Manny said. "Obviously I want him to do well, but not Wednesday night for 60 minutes."

Said Fantoni: "I can't wait. It's the ultimate bragging rights game. This one means everything."

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