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Inside Siena's 'Absolutely Nuts' Last-Minute Win Over Manhattan

April 18, 2024
Patrick Stevens
Stockton Photo / Siena Athletics

Moving on to the next game is one of the most basic of coaching maxims.

It’s understandable, though, why people are still coming up to Siena coach Liam Gleason to talk about the Saints’ last outing.

Down three in the final minute Saturday against Manhattan, Siena rattled off four goals in a 45-second span to stun the Jaspers 11-10 in one of the more remarkable comebacks of this or any other season.

“It’s certainly still being talked about in the area,” Gleason said. “I’ve been coaching for 16 seasons. I’ve been on the other end of epic losses, like Albany versus Notre Dame in 2014, but even that, we didn’t give up four goals in 45 seconds. This is just one of those ones.”

The Saints (6-7, 4-4 MAAC) entered the weekend with five one-goal losses, as good a hint as any of how close they were to being near the top of the league instead of scrapping just to make the conference tournament in the regular season’s final two weeks.

Siena was down 10-7 when Manhattan called timeout with 1:38 remaining. The Saints came out of the dead ball with a double team and forced a turnover, then cleared and used their first timeout with 1:08 to go to get their offensive personnel on the field.

In the huddle, Gleason said he and his assistants tried to project composure and confidence, even if the situation appeared daunting.

“You might be like, ‘Whew, this is going to be a tough task,’ which I certainly did — I think it’s impossible not to let something like that slip into your brain,” Gleason said. “At the same time, it’s like, ‘Well, we’re going to do every little bit we can and fight until the end, and whatever happens, happens.’ Ninety-eight percent of the time, it’s going to go the other way, but this time it didn’t. It was absolutely nuts.”

It started with Travis Fry charging from behind the cage to score with 47.1 seconds left. The chances of a rally remained alive when Dylan Pape claimed the faceoff from the Jaspers’ Jaziel Rivera — who was a solid 9 of 16 up until that point — and Gleason once again used a timeout.

An excellent Fry dodge out of the timeout brought Siena within 10-9 with 33.9 seconds to go. Then Pape won another faceoff, and Patrick Radomski got himself free to tie it with 24 seconds remaining.

The deficit erased, Siena remained aggressive.

“We put two offensive guys out on the wing, and we’re like, ‘We’re probably going to go to overtime, but we’ll see what happens,’” Gleason said.

Pape secured possession yet again, and Siena suddenly had something it hadn’t enjoyed in the closing stretch: The luxury of time. Fry almost casually took his time setting up the final play, before making a short pass to Caden Olmstead for a 15-yard sidearm dart with 2.6 seconds remaining.

Pape fittingly won the final faceoff as time expired to seal the victory.

“You plan as a coach and you know how much time is left and what you’re supposed to do by the book to give yourself the best opportunity,” Gleason said. “You know everything has to go pretty much just right for it all to happen, and it pretty much did.”

It might even be a season-saving rally. Siena would have needed help this weekend just to earn a place in the MAAC tournament. Instead, the Saints have full control of matters and can earn the chance to play another week if they win at Mount St. Mary’s (1-13, 1-7) on Saturday.

But more than that, Gleason and his team have something to fall back on if they face a dicey situation in the future.

“To get one, especially the way we did, now it’s something we have in our back pocket,” Gleason said. “If we’re in a game where we’re down, there’s no way the guys aren’t going to believe that we can come back with what we just did.  … It’s a nice one to have as a coach. I’ve got something besides words. I’ve got proof.”