Behind the Wolfpack: Serious sophomores step up

By Ryan Lazo, feature columnist, @RMLazo13

Sophomore goalkeeper Mitchell Mack put his hands in the air, shook his head and looked at the ground, dejected after allowing a third goal to University at Buffalo in a season-opening loss.

The first-year starter would allow another three goals in a loss to Niagara one day later, shaking his confidence and leaving him to doubt his abilities.

“The nerves seemed to get the best of me, hurting my communication with the back line,” he said. 

Mack represents the lack of experience the Bonnies faced at the start of this year. Such is life for a team that graduated 14 players from last year’s squad, one that reached the Atlantic 10 Conference playoffs for a second consecutive season.

(To see a picture of Mack and others, click Read More)

[From left to right: Sophomores Brad Vanino, James Reed and Mitchell Mack – Photo courtesy of]

Seventh-year head coach Mel Mahler said he expected some bumps and bruises but hoped his players will be up to the challenge. 

“The key for these players is to learn from the mistakes faster,” he said, “shortening the learning curve and getting in good position for the conference opener.”

Just like Mahler hoped, Mack and the underclassmen learned quickly from their communication issues — and they proved it on the pitch the next two games. 

The Bonnies shut out their next opponent, UNC Asheville, 1-0, with Mack tallying up nine saves and his first career shutout. Sophomore Daniel Iannacito scored his first career goal.

[Daniel Iannacito, No. 13 – Photo by Tony Lee]

Mack extended his shutout streak the next game against Florida Atlantic, 2-0, against a team that defeated the No. 14 team in the nation on Aug. 26. Sophomores Brad Vanino and James Reed scored in the shutout, too. 

“He didn’t make a decision during the UB game,” Mahler said of Mack. “He was afraid to make a mistake, and this weekend, he demonstrated some more decisive decision making.”

Mahler said he expects the Bonnies, picked to finish sixth in the Atlantic 10’s coach’s poll, to be in the postseason every year. Six teams out of the 12 make it to the postseason.

“It’s been a goal of mine since I came here — to establish us as a playoff contender,” he said.

After graduating 19 players the past two seasons, both of which culminated in playoff appearances, the Bonnies may not have time for any more growing pains to accomplish Mahler’s goal.

But if this weekend’s victories are any indication of the future, the Bonnies will if anything become a pain to the rest of the Atlantic 10 Conference.

“We’re facing a variety of opponents, different venues — turf and grass — long bus rides, short bus rides,” he said. “The non-conference games will give us the experience we need to get us ready for the conference schedule.”

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