Short stick, big impact for Bedard, Manis

Brett Bedard, a former Severn School standout, is a short stck defenseman for North Carolina, which will meet Loyola on Saturday in the national semifinals.

Brett Bedard was the go-to goal-scorer for the Severn School lacrosse team. Strong, powerful and possessing a cannon crank shot, the standout midfielder always drew the long pole against MIAA A Conference opponents.

Bedard made the Severn varsity as a freshman, received and accepted a scholarship from North Carolina as a sophomore.


So it was a real surprise when Bedard got down to Chapel Hill and was quickly sent over to the defensive end of the field. North Carolina head coach Joe Breschi evaluated the freshman for a few fall practices and decided he would make an ideal defensive midfielder.

"At that point, I was willing to do whatever it took to get on the field," Bedard said. "At this level, you don't ask questions. You accept the role you're given and just try your best to make an impact."


Nick Manis, who was also an offensive midfielder at Severn School, experienced a similar transformation upon arrival at Maryland. However, as an invited walk-on, it wasn't much of a surprise to be asked to handle the unheralded role of short stick defensive midfield.

"Coming in, I had an open mindset. I wanted to do anything to get on the field. The coaches told me that was the best opportunity to play so I embraced it. I've never put my head down and wished I was scoring a bunch of goals," Manis said. "That's the beauty of Maryland lacrosse. Everybody has their role and nobody is too big to accept that role."

Bedard and Manis probably should have taken the position switch as a compliment. In this era of Division I lacrosse, coaches use some of their best athletes as short stick defensive midfielders because it has become such an important position. Being a "shorty" means playing the wing on faceoffs, defending talented offensive midfielders, battling for ground balls and running end-to-end in the clearing game.

"It's really a fun position and I've actually grown to love it," Bedard said. "You're involved in almost every phase of the game and the team relies on you to do a lot."

At Severn, Bedard came off the field whenever his team was on defense because the coaching staff wanted to conserve his energy for offense. Learning the fundamentals of defending with a short stick was the biggest adjustment.

"I'd never played defense in my life so I had a lot to learn about footwork, positioning and how to use your stick," he said. "You also have to understand all the defensive concepts and how you fit into the big picture of the unit."


Manis could have gone to a lower tier Division I program or played at the Division III level and been an offensive midfielder, but wanted to follow in his father's footsteps and become a Terp.


Nick Manis was a standout midfielder for Maryland from 1977-1980 and his namesake grew up going to football, basketball and lacrosse games in College Park.

"When the opportunity arose to play lacrosse here, I just could not turn that down," said Manis, a finalist for the C. Markland Kelly Award as a senior at Severn. "Looking back, I'm so glad I made that decision. I would not trade the experience of the last four years for anything. It's been so awesome to be a part of this great program."

Manis became a key member of the short stick defensive midfield rotation as a sophomore, playing in all 16 games for a squad that reached the NCAA semifinals. The 6-foot, 180-pounder was slated for an expanded role last season, but suffered a broken foot in preseason and had to watch from the sideline as Maryland reached the national championship game.

"Not playing lacrosse for a year is definitely tough. I had to work really hard to get back to performing the way I had before the injury," he said.

Maryland is loaded with talent at every position and there was no guarantee Manis would be able to regain a spot with the defensive midfield unit. The Terrapins may have the nation's best short stick specialist in junior Isaiah Davis-Allen, who figures to become one of the few players at that position to ever be named an All-American.

Returning to the field as a senior after sitting out a full season, Manis said his full focus was on the team and not how he would be utilized.


"If you're worried about playing time, that's just not the right mindset. I came back looking to perform to the best of my ability and do whatever I could to help the team," he said. "You just have to bring a positive attitude and be ready when your name is called."

Manis was banged up earlier this season and missed three games, only recently rounding into the form he displayed as a sophomore. At this point in his career, the Annapolis resident is making the most of every run he gets.

"I really appreciate what Nick has been through and his ability to be resilient and stay positive. He got nicked up again this year and did not feel sorry for himself in the least," Maryland head coach John Tillman said. "Nick has been playing great lacrosse lately and has been great for us down the stretch."

Last Saturday, Manis saw considerable action in the quarterfinal victory over Syracuse at Brown University and was credited with two ground balls along with a couple solo clears.

"Great venue, great crowd and going against a great program in Syracuse. It was just a lot of fun to be out there on the field contributing because last year at this time I was standing on the sidelines in a boot," he said.

Davis-Allen is a reserved sort and said Manis is the vocal and emotional leader of the short stick defensive midfield.


"Nick brings so much energy, so much juice every day. It was so cool last game to see him picking up tough ground balls and playing real tenacious on-ball defense," Davis-Allen said. "Nick is the type of player who really focuses on the fundamentals of the position. His work ethic is top-notch and he's such a great example to the younger players."

Now Manis is hoping to help Maryland end one of the most notorious droughts in college lacrosse. The Terrapins have not captured a national championship since 1975, losing in the semifinals 10 times and falling in the finals eight times since then.

The elder Manis is close with several members of the 1975 team, such as fellow Annapolis resident Eddie Mullen and Wilson Phipps.

"I think there is one goal in mind for this team and that's to finally finish it off and end that 41-year drought that I have to hear my dad and his friends talk about," the younger Manis said. "They have no problem flashing their rings in my face and giving me some grief. That being said, all the alums want Maryland to win another championship just as badly as we do."

Tillman said there is value to having a player on the team with a connection to the greatest era in Maryland lacrosse.

"Nick understands the history of Maryland lacrosse. That is never lost on Nick. If guys aren't doing things the right way, he understands the standard here and holds everyone accountable," the sixth-year head coach said. "It means a lot to him because it's been a big part of his life and his family. He is just very passionate about Maryland lacrosse."



Brett Bedard was diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma when he was 4 years old and underwent six rounds of chemotherapy at Children's Hospital in D.C. It was an agonizing three months for the entire family, although Brett wound up getting great support from the Washington Redskins.

Bedard had a chance meeting with backup quarterback Casey Weldon and that led to an invitation to a Redskins game at FedEx Field. Standing on the sidelines prior to the game, the bald-headed youngster met several players, including kicker Brett Conway.

Conway wound up booting the game-winning field goal and stated on national television that he did it for the young cancer patient he had met pregame. Bedard was subsequently invited to Redskins Park for a practice and was surrounded by the entire team while Hall of Fame cornerback Darrell Green said a prayer on his behalf.

Needless to say, Bedard has been a diehard Redskins fan ever since and has sought to uplift other kids who are going through what he did. He volunteers with and raises funds for the Vs Cancer Foundation and has visited the University of North Carolina Children's Hospital as part of the Carolina Dreams Project.

"Having gone through such a life-changing event at a young age, I think Brett really appreciates what he has," Breschi said. "I also think that whole experience has given Brett an added edge to his game. He is one heck of a competitor, which you would expect from someone who beat cancer. Brett is the type of player you want in the trenches because he's going to give you everything he has on every play."


Bedard agrees he plays with a slight chip on his shoulder and said the determination he displays on the field is related to the Hodgkin's battle. He had to return to Children's Hospital for regular checkups every year until turning 18.

"Cancer was a huge part of my life and always will be. You don't take anything for granted after going through that," he said. "I know I'm lucky to be here and I think about that every day."

North Carolina had its own ghosts to exorcise and the players on this year's team are extremely proud to have ended a drought that was almost as ignominious as Maryland's. With an upset of third-seeded Notre Dame last Sunday, the Tar Heels advanced to the final four for the first time since 1993.

"It was just a huge, huge hurdle for the program," Bedard said. "We were all sick of hearing about it, sick of dealing with it. It really sucks to constantly hear how you haven't been to the final four for so long."

Bedard is also the son of a Maryland lacrosse player. Tom Bedard ran midfield for the Terps from 1985-88, back when there was no specialization and the position was required to work both ends of the field.

Now the father watches from the stands as opposing teams try to pick on his son. It is common for offenses to isolate the short stick defensive midfielders and attempt to exploit that matchup. Bedard has found himself having to cover such dynamic midfielders as Duke's Myles Jones and Denver's Zach Miller. Last week, the 6-foot-2, 200-pounder found himself matched up against Notre Dame attackman Matt Kavanaugh.


"I've had to go against so many different types of players. You have to be versatile and change your style depending on whether you're covering a big, strong guy or a smaller, quicker guy," Bedard said. "Against someone like Myles Jones you really have to use your feet and focus on positioning because you can't try to muscle up against someone that size. I did try to get my body on Zach Miller because he's real slick and you can't give him any space."

Men's Division I lacrosse semifinals

WHERE: Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia

WHEN: Saturday, noon and 2:30 p.m.

WHO: No. 7 Loyola (14-3) vs. North Carolina (10-6), noon

No. 1 Maryland (16-2) vs. No. 5 Brown (16-2), 2:30