YORKTOWN, N.Y. – Yorktown’s Nick Mariano just wanted to contribute as an incoming freshman for the powerful lacrosse team at the University of Massachusetts. He has, and in a big way.
Mariano has nine goals in UMass’ first three games and earned Player of the Week and co-Rookie of the Week honors from the Colonial Athletic Association.
The freshman attack’s early success has helped UMass spurt to a 3-0 start, including a win over No. 14 Ohio State. Mariano scored the game-winning goal in overtime and had three goals in the contest.
“I wanted to come into the season with an open mind,’’ Mariano said. “I just wanted to go out and play and have fun and just contribute for the team. I prepare myself the right way every week. I go into the game with confidence, and that’s been a big help.”
Mariano came from the powerful program at Yorktown High School, where he was four-year letterwinner under head coach Dave Marr. He helped Yorktown win three sectional titles, and led Section 1 with 63 goals and 48 assists as a senior, earning All-America honors.
His knack for the net has continued at UMass, where he has emerged as the team’s leading scorer. Marino said the biggest adjustment he has made in college has been to respect each possession.
“Possession means everything to the team,’’ Mariano said. “You can’t have poor shots or turnovers. You have to make sure you get the shot on the cage and limit turnovers.”
Mariano had help before he entered UMass from his brothers, Tom and John. Tom is the head coach at Pace University, and John coaches the men’s program at LIU Post. “They definitely gave me a big boost in confidence,’’ Mariano said. “They said go in, work your butt off and try to be a leader from Day 1. Go in with confidence that I can play at that level and play the best that I can.”
It also helped coming from a strong program in Yorktown, where Mariano played against tough competition and had excellent coaching. “It was huge,’’ Mariano said. “We had the best coaches in the country at the high school level. They prepared me for the next level and taught me the right way to play lacrosse.”
UMass is coming off a disappointing 7-8 season last year in which it was bounced in the first round of the CAA Tournament. In 2012, the Minutemen were ranked No. 1 when they lost to Colgate in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
The team is anxious to atone for last year’s disappointment, particularly the seniors who are heading into their last season. Mariano’s scoring presence has rejuvenated the program at the season’s outset.
“Without a doubt, people were upset after last season,’’ Mariano said. “They’ve been working hard. It’s great having leaders who want to do well and we have great captains. This is their last chance. They want to go a long way. I’m going to do my best to help them.”
Fans from Yorktown and Westchester won't have to travel too far to see him play for the Minutemen. UMass visits Fairfield University in Fairfield, Conn., on Tuesday, March 18.