Thursday, April 11, 2013

Captain's Corner With Nick Mariano

By Zach Smart

Nick Mariano grew up tossing the lacrosse ball along the banks of the Hudson River in Ossining. Since he was a second grader, Mariano traveled with his Brine lacrosse stick as often as fat wallet-toting hedge fund gurus in Greenwich, CT travel with their American Express Card. 

By the time the Mariano family moved from Ossining to lacrosse-crazed Yorktown, Nick traveled with his innate love for the game.

Since he was a bone-thin second grader, playing against the third, fourth, and fifth graders in the Ossining Youth League, Mariano’s game was always a level ahead of his class.

What began initially as a glorified, sacred hobby rapidly evolved into the young gunslinger's livelihood.

Mariano was the kid traipsing the sideline at Sacred Heart University lacrosse games (Mariano’s older brother, Tom Mariano, has been the Pioneers’ head coach since Nick was taking baby steps). He was the youngest coach at the Charlie Murphy tournament. He was the spindly freshman earning burn on a veteran-laden Yorktown varsity team. Mariano was instrumental in running drills and giving lacrosse lessons, even if his students were only a few years younger than him. Nicky Lax was once the little guy dodging, sniping, sliding and taking brutal hits against the older clique. Lacrosse has consumed him.

No longer is anything little about Mariano. Now a seasoned senior, Mariano’s a big captain on a Yorktown team that demands big leadership from its senior class. As the  featured scorer for Yorktown, Mariano’s a big go-to-guy shouldering big expectations to bag goals at will.

Mariano, who plays primarily off the ball, thrives with stealthy moves and open looks. He’s shredded up a once-leafy frame and will look to play a more physical brand of lacrosse this season. Now the focal point of a diversified offense--and he'll absorb plenty of rough hits with defenses around the section keying on him--Mariano's added bulk is only necessary.

Since-graduated Conor Gately and Frankie Fusco left a considerable void in the emotional leadership department. Mariano and fellow seniors are eager to fill in every little nook and cranny.

Yorktown lost several playmakers to graduation, though the Huskers' freshly-minted roster does not include many unfamiliar names or question marks.

Being crafty with the lax stick in Yorktown is akin to being military-minded in Sparta. There is a perennial mystique about a program playing a national schedule every year. Having won championships at a pace that even Bill Russell would envy, Yorktown traditionally harvests a fresh crop of Division-I talent.

Mariano gave his verbal pledge to UMass well before this season. The defensive unit is backboned by John Hopkins-committ Trevor Koelsch.

We spoke with Mariano about a variety of subjects, getting this seasoned scorer’s inside perspective.

On Yorktown’s Loss To Alabany-based Shenendehowa

Plain and simple, we just did not play well. We’re capable of a much better performance than that. We watched film today and it was disgusting. We really didn’t execute, we didn’t move the ball particularly well on offense and the defense sometimes didn’t get the inside enough. It was the little mistakes that killed us. We’ve got to make up for it.

On Taking A Major Leadership Role

I’ve learned from some of the best to do it. Frankie Fusco was probably one of the best emotional leaders the program has had. Conor Gately was right there with him as far as being vocal, leading by example and being a major motivator. Prior to that, we had Justin Mabus and Ty Schuldt. They weren’t as vocal as Conor and Frankie but they worked hard and made sure nobody was ever settling and that every step was committed to winning and winning a championship. So, we’ve had a lot of great leaders who’ve done a great deal for the program and its great to follow those steps.

On The Team’s New Look

We lost a lot from last year, no question. I mean, we had two of the best players in the section in Frankie Fusco and Connor Gately. Though nobody is going to really replace them, we have kids that have filled their roles as sophomores and juniors, its great how they stepped in right from the start. We’re not looking for someone to come in and score 50 goals, but if he can come through and dig through everyone he’s going to earn his respect. Definitely Austin, trevor, luke, we have some kids that don’t really talk a lot but they are always the first kids, we have kids that come out, and just have fun

On The Schedule

Definitely, the Murphy Cup is going to be one of the biggest games of the regular season. It’s always intense. It’s always a game that shuts down the town. Playing those top-tier teams in Connecticut and Long Island always gets us revved up, because we want to play the best teams we can possibly play. We’re not going to duck and hide from anyone, that will never be the case. Those games prepare us for what we’re looking to do during the playoffs. We always look forward to playing against Chaminade and St. Anthony’s.

On His College Decision

I wanted to go to a place that was like family, where I can graduate from my family here at Yorktown and step into a similar environment. They welcomed me with open arms and that was where I felt the most comfortable. UMass is the right place for me. My brother knows coach (Greg) Cannella very well, he told me everything about him. (Assistant coach) Doc Schneider has been awesome as well. It made the decision a lot easier.