Budding Promise Finally Yielding Results at Manhattan


Brendan Krebs' .647 save percentage ranks second nationally.

Drew Kelleher saw the budding promise of Manhattan’s rebuilding project coming a year ago, at least until the pandemic wiped out the final two months of the season and left it at 3-3 prior to Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference play.

So while a 3-1 start isn’t a surprise to the sixth-year Jaspers coach, it is something to appreciate.

Manhattan earned a wild 9-8 double-overtime victory against Monmouth last week in a battle of MAAC unbeatens. The Jaspers (3-1, 3-0 MAAC) were poised to finish off the victory in regulation, having gone a man up with an 8-7 lead and 19 seconds remaining. But they allowed a man-down goal, only for Brendan Krebs to make three of his 11 saves in extra time and Jake Nicolosi to score the winner with 18 seconds left in the second overtime.

It’s the first 3-0 start in league play since 2005 for Manhattan, which visits St. Bonaventure on Friday. Perhaps more pointedly, the Jaspers have won as many MAAC games this season as they had combined for from 2015-20.

Kelleher points to a lot of factors in his team’s improvement, but the return of five fifth-year seniors — including starting attackmen Brandon Grinnell and Trevor Pelletier and starting midfielder Luke Hanson — and the addition of long pole Brandon Bank, a graduate transfer from Furman, has proved pivotal.

“The five guys that came back, they were in our first recruiting class when we took over in 2016,” Kelleher said. “The relationships you build with those guys and the commitment you make as a coach to a player and as a player to a program, it’s been fun to have those guys back. They deserve all the success they’re having, and they’re mature enough to know they have to keep putting in the tough work to continue it.”

Three of the Jaspers’ statistical trends stand out. They’re 64th of 65 Division I teams in faceoff percentage at .266, which Kelleher believes is partially a function of facing the top two faceoff men in the MAAC in three of the team’s four games (Manhattan opened with a non-conference game against Monmouth).

Despite the possession imbalance, the Jaspers are fourth in the country in total defense. They allow just 7.5 goals a game, and last year’s move of CJ Scharf (another fifth-year senior) and Tadhg O’Riordan from offense to short stick defensive midfield contributes to that strength.

But Krebs’ work — a .647 save percentage that ranks second nationally — pops off the page as much as anything.

“Brendan Krebs might be the best goalie in the country, and he’s certainly the best goalie in the country that nobody’s talking about,” Kelleher said. “We’ve known that for a while. We’re lucky to have him.”

And at the midpoint of the regular season, Manhattan finds itself in the chase for plenty of first-in-a-while accomplishments. Among the possibilities in play are the program’s first MAAC tournament berth since 2010, first winning season since 2009 and first NCAA tournament appearance since 2002.

Of course, the Jaspers have already come a long way. Less than two years ago, Manhattan opened a facility with a locker room and coaches’ offices adjacent to its home field at Gaelic Park.

“The painful steps that it takes to get there are the ones that are most important,” Kelleher said. “They’re the ones that keep you humble and hungry. It’s been a long journey going from not having a locker room to not having offices to you name it. We’ve battled, and that’s not just me. I have an unbelievable staff, and quite frankly, the seniors committed here without the nice stuff. I wish we’d gotten here yesterday, but better late than never.”

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