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Manny's playing key role for upstart UMass

University of Massachusetts attackman Will Manny looks to

University of Massachusetts attackman Will Manny looks to make a pass inside Drexel territory in the second period. (April 14, 2012) Credit: James Escher

For his January break between semesters at the University of Massachusetts, and again during spring break earlier this month, junior attack Will Manny worked on his shot.

For many of his college peers, that meant sharpening their golf swings in sunny environs. For Manny, who was raised in Massapequa and starred at St. Anthony's, it meant firing shots at a wall with a hard-rubber lacrosse ball, frequently without a partner. Different strokes for different folks.

"I would have loved to go to Florida and play golf with my dad," Manny said with a laugh last Saturday, after his Minutemen defeated Drexel, 8-6, at Bethpage High School. "But I cared too much about this team."

So let his classmates hit the links; Manny hit the gym. "I like to push myself, so I worked out with a personal trainer, which I'd never done before," Manny said. "Just knowing that on break, when no one else is watching you and you're by yourself, that you're doing something. Either shooting at the wall or being in the gym for two hours a day. So when the season comes, you're ready to go."

Manny and the Minuteman (11-0) have moved up the men's college lacrosse leaderboard, zipping past traditional powers like Virginia, Duke, Johns Hopkins, Cornell and Syracuse. Entering Saturday's game against Hofstra, which badly needs a victory to qualify for the CAA playoffs, UMass is tied for the No. 1 spot in the country with another upstart, Loyola (Maryland), in the latest coaches' poll. Those are the only two remaining undefeated Division I schools.

"He's had a great year. He's such a hard worker and a great team player," Massachusetts coach Greg Cannella said. "In the past, he may have felt that he had to carry the load, and that's a hard thing to do as a freshman and a sophomore."

Manny has moved up the individual leaderboard as well. He has 55 points (32 goals, 23 assists), which ranks No. 2 in the country in points per game (5) and goals per game (2.91).

But he shrugged off both his own statistics and the team being ranked No. 1 for the first time in school history. "You come to college to play Division I lacrosse on a great team and play in front of great crowds and great venues like this," Manny said after the Battle at Bethpage drew approximately 4,000 fans. " it's just the cherry on top. We're a brotherhood; we trust each other and that's all we talk about. We say it as a team - on to the next one and face the next challenge head on."

That would be the Pride, which defeated UMass, 14-5, last season. "Hofstra beat the crap out of us last year on national TV," he said. "We'll just work harder during the week."

For Manny, working harder is just par for the course.

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