For the entire offseason, the Manhattan College men’s soccer team has thought about their loss to Iona in the semifinals of the MAAC Tournament. On Aug. 24, the page flips to the 2023 season with a road matchup at Holy Cross.
The showdown with the Crusaders is one of six non-conference matchups for the Jaspers this season, and a rematch of Manhattan’s 2-0 season-opening win of 2022 at Gaelic Park.
“Beautiful facility,” Manhattan head coach Jorden Scott said of Linda Johnson Smith Soccer Stadium in Worcester, Massachusetts. “They play a nice brand and it should be really competitive.”
Scott, now in his eleventh year at the helm, will see his team pitted against an almost identical non-conference slate from a season ago.
“We have some really intense teams that are going to replicate what we see in our MAAC schedule and what’s important,” said Scott, whose team reprises their battle roles against more teams like George Washington and La Salle who the Jaspers played last year.
The only new opponent is UConn, and the only one out is Fairleigh Dickinson. The Jaspers will travel to Connecticut to face the Huskies on Sept. 11 at 6 p.m. The last meeting between the two schools ended in a 2-0 loss for Manhattan in Hartford.
“Now that we are a little more settled with our team coming out of the pandemic, I always like to sprinkle in a game where we set the bar really high,” Scott said of scheduling UConn. “Our boys are excited for that one in particular.
The 2022 record against non-conference foes was two wins, two ties, and three losses. Besides Holy Cross, the other victory was a 2-0 home win over Fairleigh Dickinson.
“We are really focused on our team approach and ensuring we get off to a quicker start than we did last year,” Scott said.
The Jaspers are set to renew match-ups with local rivals Fordham and Columbia, who beat and tied Manhattan, respectively, last season. The 3-1 loss at Fordham snapped a three-game winning streak for the Jaspers over their crosstown rivals. The return date at Gaelic Park is slated for Sept. 19.
The MAAC will run through Quinnipiac once again after the Bobcats won the conference title and lost a 3-2 double-overtime heartbreaker to University of Vermont in the first round of the NCAA tournament. Still, it’s no pushover that the Jaspers secured two first place votes in the MAAC preseason poll on their way to a third-place spot, but still are in full pursuit of Quinnipiac and “the benchmark they set,” Scott said.
“The MAAC is a competitive conference every year,” Scott said. “There is no easy game.”
This offseason for Manhattan soccer allowed them to hammer away with their data tracking system provided by Catapult’s PlayerTek technology. Their focus is load periodization, a training and recovery method that allows the staff to better understand the limits of an individual player’s physical exertion based on data. The results have been stellar, with no soft tissue injuries among field players during internal training sessions, Scott said.
“No matter what you do in college sports in season, it’s crisis management,” Scott said. “If you lose a key guy, the season may go right down the pan.”
Second place is Iona, who clipped Manhattan in a 1-0 game in last season’s semifinals. The Jaspers will round out their 10-game MAAC schedule, which begins at home on Sept. 16 versus Canisius, by playing host to Iona on Nov. 1.
“We went to Iona full of confidence and thought we were in a great moment,” Scott said of last season’s 1-0 season-ending loss to the rival Gaels. “We came up with a tough decision against us.”
Junior Gunnar Studenhofft and sophomores Henry Hamilton and Nassim Akki were named to the Preseason All-MAAC Team. Hamilton led the team with six goals in 2022 and Studenhofft followed with five.