Sunday, March 30, 2014

Mariano's Scoring Engine Propels UMass

At first glance, the nickname “Nicky Lax” might seem a bit much.Yet you look at Mariano’s long lacrosse pedigree and bloodline, it all makes sense.

Raised by an absolute lacrosse junkie father and molded by an NCAA head lacrosse coach brother, lacrosse has consumed Mariano for much of his life.

He began tossing the ball around with his father, Philip Mariano, on the banks of the Hudson River in Ossining.

Mariano swiftly became an ahead-of-his-class scorer on the YAC circuit, rarely playing at age-appropriate levels.

His skill-set and affinity for the game grew. As a rare freshman who made his way to Dave Marr’s varsity in 2010, Mariano’s illustrious four-year career with the Huskers took place.

Whether he turned in a seven-goal eruption, buried myriad clutch shots against vaunted Ridgefield or Long Island foes of national prominence, pelted the cage with a salvo of shots en route to NY State playoffs runs, the kid they call “Nicky Lax” has proven himself worthy of the lofty title.

Now, as a freshman at UMass, Mariano has again found the trigger.

The high-motored attack is leading the Minutemen in scoring, with 22 goals and six assists.

The Yorktown product piled up a hat trick during the squad’s recent 12-6 defeat of Hartford.

“I definitely had a lot more freedom (to get shots off) in high school,” said Mariano, who quickly earned CAA Player and Rookie of The Week Honors this season.

“I try to translate by not just shooting, or trying to get the assist every time I touch the ball. I try to make the extra pass and find my openings when they are given to me.”

As a 2013 All-American, Mariano scored a Section 1-best 63 goals and whipped 48 assists. A senior scoring spree etched Mariano's mark in the pages of program history.

The 6-foot, 180-pound Mariano helped pace the Huskers to three Section 1 championships in four years, with the Huskers sustaining a heavy dose of national visibility along the way.

While he was able to thrive by spotting up and hunting for his shot and dissecting defenses off the dodge, Mariano finds himself featured in a more quick-paced system at UMass.

The speed of the Division-I level, Mariano said, is a major adjustment from high school.

“We try to play as fast as we possibly can and I love to push the ball in transition a lot,” explained Mariano, who popped four goals, including the game-winner in a 12-11 OT upset of Ohio State last month.

“Our offense isn’t predicated off of just one guy, everyone gets involved. When I get my opportunities I just try to make the right decision.”

Helping him make those decisions and helping accelerate his development has been his father and his brothers.

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