Mancini Makes Strides In Sophomore Season
April 18, 2007
Last season as a freshman, Claire Mancini appeared in only one game. After working extremely hard in the off season, Mancini has bloomed into an everyday player, appearing in 10 of the team's first 12 games.
In her sophomore season, Mancini normally plays attack, but to see more playing time she has adapted to different positions on the field.
"She's a utility person for us," UMass coach Alexis Venechanos said.
This season Mancini has played just about every position except for goalie. There are no stats in the book to show how hard she works in practice and in games. She has been an efficient scorer when given the opportunity, scoring three goals on five shots.
"We talked a lot at the beginning of the season about things you can control," Venechanos said. "She came in great condition, she has strong fundamentals, and that's the foundation of any good lacrosse player. What she lacks in experience, she makes up for with her skills and her hard work. When she's had the opportunity, she's stepping up and putting some goals away."
The one thing lacking in Mancini's game isn't the skills or knowledge of the game, but her confidence. The coaching staff has been telling her to believe that she is the best player on the field, or even the best player in the nation. Venechanos believes that Mancini cannot be stopped if she has her confidence riding high.
"She's one of the hardest workers on the team. Every time we give her an opportunity, she seems to step up," Venechanos said.
Mancini knows what she has to improve her level of play. She is one of the first players off the bench and provides great energy for the team.
"I'm just trying to listen to what the coaches are telling me," Mancini said. "Confidence is a really big thing for me this year; I'm just working on personal things. I'm just trying to work hard [and] do my job."
Mancini achieved career firsts in her second season. She scored her first goal against Vermont in a 13-8 Minutewomen victory. In the only start of her career she made the best of her opportunity against Albany, tallying two assists in another Minutewomen victory, 15-7.
"I've always been an attacker, and this year I've switched over to midfield and playing more defense," Mancini said. "I'm trying to learn defensive strategies. I feel like I'm versatile. I like to run and I feel like I'm pretty good at it. It's something I can do and bring to the team."
She isn't the top point scorer. However, Venechanos believes that every good team needs players that are willing to do the little things and make the team better.
"She's still trying to find herself, but I think what she does a good job of is giving us another possession, moves the ball well," she said. "She does a lot of little stuff that goes unnoticed, but you need players like that on your team to do a little bit of everything."
As a sophomore Mancini is doing anything to get on the field, her main goals are much larger. She likes being a utility player, but she wants to be one of the top players on the team.
"I want to be noticed. I want to be the go-to player, that's my goal," Mancini said.
Before UMass, Mancini did not get a lot of exposure to East Coast play. Playing on the West Coast in Hillsborough, California she felt that she needed to play better competition. She played four years at Foxcroft School in Middleburg, Virginia.
"[Playing on the east coast] helps a lot because I was exposed to better players," she said. "The reason I left [California] was so I could be exposed to higher level of play and other coaches. It was still a disadvantage coming from California, but playing on the east coast before college helped me adjust a lot faster."
The Minutewomen have struggled to score in A-10 play, averaging 8.5 goals per game. Mancini could help the scoring load if she continues to play with confidence at the attack position. Her ability to play multiple positions is why the coaching staff keeps putting her in the game.
Steve Games can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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