By: Justin Lafleur
Major League Lacrosse doesn’t just provide an opportunity to play “the fastest game on two feet” beyond college. There’s more to the league than just the game. The MLL has made a difference in the community and is a great ambassador of the sport.
The league also provides educational opportunities, like the recently-announced partnership with Northeastern University. In the case of Boston Cannons attackman Will Manny, Major League Lacrosse helped him secure a full-time position at Bank of America.
Manny is a success story for his work on and off the field. Lacrosse has led him to a great city where he gets to play a sport he loves while working in his career field of interest.
“I was contacted by Charlotte before the MLL Collegiate Draft,” he said. “The GMs and coaches called to see if I had a job yet. I talked to General Manager Wade Leaphart. He sent my resume out, but after I was selected by the Cannons, the Hounds sent it to Boston for me. I had two more interviews with Bank of America and got the job.”
Manny enjoyed one of his most impressive games as a pro against Charlotte on July 6. He finished with two goals and three assists and most importantly, led Boston to a thrilling overtime victory over the Hounds in front of a national audience on ESPN2.
Entering the home stretch of the regular season, Boston and Charlotte are neck-and-neck for the fourth and final postseason berth. With two games remaining, the Hounds hold a one-game lead for fourth place, but the Cannons own the head-to-head tiebreaker. It should be a thrilling race to the end.
“I’m so thankful for Charlotte’s help in securing the position,” said Manny. “I’ve said it to the commissioner (David Gross) and thanked the organization when we played down there. I’m very appreciative of their help.”
Manny was a Resource Economics major at UMass and graduated this past May. After a tough start to 2013, he has certainly turned things around. An injury derailed him, but he’s looking like the Tewaaraton Award finalist that he was in 2012.
The Massapequa, N.Y. native finished his junior campaign with 77 points behind 44 goals and 33 assists, leading the Minutemen to an undefeated record through the CAA Tournament. UMass climbed all the way to #1 in the national polls.
However, Manny injured his thumb in the 2013 season opener against Army and missed over a month. His UMass teammates picked up a big win over North Carolina and the season looked bright.
After alternating wins and losses, the Minutemen beat two-time Patriot League Champion Lehigh in Will’s second game back. His impact was felt immediately, scoring three of his team’s six goals for his first hat trick of the season. However, after beating Hartford, the Minutemen dropped three straight CAA contests. With two games remaining and an 0-4 conference record, they weren’t done yet.
That’s when the season (for both Will and UMass) began to turn around.
“There were so many doubters, people saying we had no chance at the CAAs,” said Manny. “At UMass, we honestly don’t care about that stuff. If you’re in the top four in your conference and make the tournament, you just need to win two games and you’re in the NCAA Tournament. Things like that makes you smile as a player.”
Despite ultimately falling short of a second straight NCAA Tournament berth, UMass made things interesting. In the final two weekends of the season, the Minutemen defeated Hofstra in thrilling fashion (9-8) before dominating Delaware (16-8) to finish at 2-4 and earn the tiebreaker for the final CAA Tournament spot. UMass led Penn State at the half in the CAA Semifinals, but the host Nittany Lions bounced back for a 10-7 win to end the Minutemen’s season.
“Obviously, we fell a little short, but it was great. My four years at UMass were phenomenal.”
Today, Will is starring for the Boston Cannons. The small, shifty attackman has seen significant playing time from the get-go, and has produced. He’s jumped right into the starting lineup with some of the game’s greats, like Ryan Boyle at attack and Paul Rabil at midfield.
“The first couple weeks were a little different, but now they have a little more confidence in me and I have more confidence in myself carrying the ball and using my speed and quickness,” said Manny. “Utilizing what I can bring to the table is important and over the past few games, I’ve been able to do that.
“These guys know how to feed the ball. They know how to do everything. If you’re in the right spot at the right time and it’s your chance, you have to finish.”
Just two months into his professional career, Manny plays beyond his years.
“As a rookie, Will plays like a veteran,” said Cannons midfielder and former #1 draft pick Pat Heim. “He really steps up and plays hard. I like him a lot.”
One thing going for Manny is his speed and quickness. The game moves quicker than in college, and Manny’s speed has made the transition easier.
“With the 60-second shot clock, it’s very fast paced,” said Heim. “You have to grab the ball and go. That’s the first challenge as a rookie; you’re adjusting to a different game. Not to mention you’re coming into a team with some veteran leaders who are used to playing with each other.”
“The defenses are a lot different,” said Manny. “They don’t like to slide, so you have to take a defender one-on-one. I’m working on my dodging a lot more and taking it hard to the goal.”
Manny has made a difference in all aspects. He is selfless for the betterment of the team.
“Will is a very good creator,” said Heim. “He’s got a great vision in his mind of how the play develops. As an attackman, your job is to find the open guy, but I feel like he goes about it a different way.”
He may not be the tallest or the biggest, but Manny has one of the biggest wills to win. He does whatever is necessary.
“Will is tough for a little guy,” said Heim. “He has no problem going by the net, taking a hit and drawing a penalty. That’s a team player right there. You’re sacrificing yourself to get us a penalty.”
After the Cannons fell to 1-5 on the season, Manny helped spark the club to four straight wins, capped off by the 17-16 overtime thriller over those Charlotte Hounds. Manny had all five of his points before the third quarter was three minutes old.
That gave Boston the season series (2-0) and the all-important tiebreaker heading into the final two regular season games. After two straight losses, the Cannons find themselves one game behind the Hounds, but that tiebreaker could prove crucial in advancing to Championship Weekend.
One of the ingredients of success for the Cannons was smiling and having fun. That’s what lacrosse is all about.
“The chemistry on this team is coming together really well,” said Manny. “Everyone is having a blast at practice. We get through practice easily because it’s clean and we get done what needs to be done. On the field, you can see smiles all over the field. That’s the way I look at it. When we’re having fun and we play simple lacrosse, we can beat anybody.”
The Cannons hope to be smiling following their game on Saturday, Aug. 10 against Rochester.
Each of Boston’s final two regular season games are home. Two wins and a Charlotte loss would punch a ticket to MLL Championship Weekend at PPL Park.
No matter what happens, Manny is working full-time in a city he loves while playing a sport he loves. He has many reasons to smile.