Quint Kessenich: Seniors are crucial during conference, NCAA tournaments in May

Seniors are the lifeblood of a team. Their performance, maturity and behavior set the tone for the squad. In May, their leadership on and off the field pushes a team toward a championship.

Today we salute seniors who have left a mark. Some of the names are more recognizable than others, but they've made a difference just the same:


Nick Manis, Maryland: Matt Rambo, Colin Heacock, Tim Muller and Isaiah Davis-Allen headline the Terps' senior class. Short stick defensive midfielder Nick Manis (Severn) flies under the radar.

"Nick has been our unsung hero," coach John Tillman said. "He's a fifth-year guy who provides leadership, energy and perspective. His dad played lacrosse here so he embraces the tradition and what it means to be a Terp. With the injury to defender Mac Pons, he picked up a pole to help buffer the loss and now is back to his natural midfield position."


Manis is one reason why the Terps are the team to beat.

"Nick's been invaluable in so many ways," Tillman said.

Tyler Mayes, Towson: Towson's senior class of 11 players were recruited while the Tigers were trying to restore the roar.

"They believed in our blue collar philosophy, because that's who they are," said coach Shawn Nadelen. "No real 'big-time' recruits according to the outside world, mainly just Maryland high school recruits. They believed in each other, our program and the work ethic necessary to put our program in position for success."

Mayes, a long stick midfield defender, exemplifies those traits.

"He's listed at 5-8 and 160 pounds and isn't going to impress anyone with his size," Nadelen said. "It's his heart and work ethic that you can't deny."

Austin Kreinz, Penn: The Quakers face Yale today in the Ivy League semifinals.

"Austin is a tri-captain and as tough and as selfless as they come," Penn coach Mike Murphy said. "He agreed to play defense last year and has become fantastic on and off the ball. He comes from a great family, works extremely hard, and has become an excellent captain. He would do anything for Penn Lacrosse."

Tom Voelkel, Hofstra: "Tom Voelkel has been our special senior," said coach Seth Tierney. "He's a captain that has fought through injuries and has done a terrific job keeping our team focused, organized, and prepared. He's shown the rest of the team what hard work and discipline mean."

Jake Withers, Ohio State: A faceoff specialist, Withers is the Buckeyes' bell-cow, controlling games with faceoff wins. "He's a pit bull on the field," coach Nick Myers said. "Jake is as competitive of a player as we've had at Ohio State.

"He wasn't a high-profile recruit and has worked extremely hard to become the player he is today. As a captain, he's a guy that everyone on the team relates to and feels comfortable speaking with."

Michael Sutton, Penn State: "Michael has made contributions as a midfielder for us while providing a leadership role to other offensive players," coach Jeff Tambroni said. "Off the field he's responsible for organizing members of our team to play wheelchair basketball against the Penn State ability athletes once a week. Michael is the ring leader."


The Nittany Lions have had a breakthrough season.

"This spring Michael completed an internship with a physical therapist at a Penn State medical facility," said Tambroni. "He's a kinesiology major who wants to be a physical therapist. He's constantly around the lacrosse office and has a terrific relationship with not only our players but our staff."

Max Planning, Denver: Big name players like Connor Cannizzaro, Trevor Baptiste and Christian Burgdorf have overshadowed Planning at Denver.

"Max has played a key, yet unheralded role on our second midfield for three years," coach Bill Tierney said. "He understands assistant coach Matt Brown's offense, he does what he is supposed to do, and rarely makes mistakes. Max has been our spiritual 'Captain Without the C' on his jersey.

"Our younger players count on him for guidance, stability, and energy when things are tough."

Reeves Klipstein, Army: The Cadets play Notre Dame on Saturday. "Reeves has been a huge part of our success over the last four years," coach Joe Alberici said. "His relentless effort on the field, in the film room, and in the weight room has not only enabled him to be a three-year starter on defense but has elevated the play of those around him.

"His passion is only exceeded by investment in his teammates. His consistent communication and mentoring on and off the field has helped so many meet the challenges at the Academy."

Austin Pifani, North Carolina: North Carolina has 10 seniors who won the NCAA title last spring. It's a stellar group including Stephen Kelly, Brett Bedard, Tate Jozokos, Luke Goldstock and Michael Tagliaferri. Defender Pifani has been a defensive mainstay in Chapel Hill for four years. The journalism major has logged community service hours and the two-time captain is a finalist for the Lowe's Senior Class Award.

"Austin is blue collar, tough as they come," coach Joe Breschi said. "He battles through injuries to be on the field. He should be a four-time All American and has led the defense since his freshman year. He's the heart and soul of our team."

Nick Eufrasio, Marquette: Marquette has made a quick rise into national contention. Eufrasio's voice has been irreplaceable as a coach on the field.

"Nick was our only returning defensive starter," coach Joe Amplo said. "He came to me before the year and said he would accept any role necessary to help the team win. He was willing to give up the No. 1 and No. 2 cover positions to newcomers and run our defense as the No. 3 guy."

On Sunday night, teams around the country will gather to watch the NCAA Tournament Selection Show (9 p.m., ESPNU).

Quint Kessenich covers college sports for ESPN and writes for The Baltimore Sun every week during lacrosse season.

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