The Manhattan College men’s soccer team has emerged as the team to beat in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference. The Jaspers have won their first five conference games and currently sit a half game back of Iona for the top spot in the standings.
The Jaspers only setback of the campaign so far came at Niagara over the weekend — a 1-0 defeat. Manhattan, with 15 points, lead third-place Siena by a half game. The two teams will meet at Gaelic Park on Oct. 28.
The added stakes of the conference season seem to have triggered something in a Manhattan team who went winless in six non-conference games. But Manhattan head coach Jorden Scott scheduled tough opponents from outside the conference to ready them for the stretch they find themselves in now.
“We have to keep pushing and holding each other accountable and hopefully the wins will keep coming,” Scott said.
The differencemaker in recent games has been Gunnar Studenhofft. He had all three Manhattan goals at Marist on Sept. 30, and contributed another one in the 2-0 win at home against Rider Oct. 7. The speedy center forward has already equaled his goal total of 5 from a season ago. But from Scott’s view, Studenhofft can be proud of his focus level for the way it has allowed him to thrive against league opponents.
The best way to disrupt Studenhofft and his lightning quick speed is to play physically against him. After learning this lesson earlier in the season, Studenhofft has responded by playing free and smart, according to Scott.
“Those little things show he’s learning and focused,” Scott said of the center. “It’s good for both him and the team.”
Studenhofft may be the focus of opposing gameplans, but several Jaspers have stepped up in light of six players going down with knee-related injuries which have either been season-ending or have sidelined players for long stretches.
“We took on a tough [non-conference] schedule thinking we would have everyone available,” Scott said. “The truth is we never did.”
Nassim Akki, who was the 2022 MAAC Defender of the Year, is back from injury anchoring the back-line. He has played in all four conference games in which the Jaspers defense has only allowed three goals. In total, Manhattan owns a goal differential of plus 8 against league foes.
Henry Hamilton and Sebastiano Musa have delivered important goals in their own right and sit with three on the season. The attack doesn’t end there, with Tony Yeboah and Ensa Sanneh also scoring threats.
“They all bring a different dynamic,” Scott says of the attacking crew.
Manhattan figures to be a tough out moving forward as the program pursues their first ever MAAC Championship.