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Keystone men's lacrosse.

Keystone Snaps 64-Game Losing Streak

February 27, 2024
Justin Feil
Double Eagle Media / Keystone Athletics

Tyler McManus had never scored more than six goals in an entire season. He had 11 career goals for Keystone College through his first three seasons with the Giants.

On Saturday, the fifth-year midfielder scored a career-high seven goals to help Keystone snap a 64-game losing streak with a 23-7 win over SUNY Cobleskill.

“It was pretty crazy to me,” McManus said. “I wasn’t really a goal scorer. I pulled something out and scored seven goals in one game, which is unbelievable.”

The win was less of a surprise.

“I was pretty confident,” McManus said. “We looked pretty good during practice. I feel like we’re a family now. It’s definitely changed throughout the years. We’ve progressed and gotten better.” 

The Giants had not won a game since March 29, 2017, when they topped Medaille College (N.Y.) 10-6. McManus, an East Meadow, N.Y., product, transferred as a freshman from Mitchell College and walked head-on into the losing streak.

Last April, the Giants suffered a 9-8 loss to Cairn in their closest game. McManus had two shots in the final two minutes, but neither connected. In 2022, they didn’t get within eight goals of any opponent, and 2021 ended with a 31-0 loss to Stockton University (N.J.).

“It’s been a long time coming for him,” Keystone coach Brett Capps said. “He went through four years of pain and agony.”

Freshmen brothers Cam and Abe Wallace had five goals apiece. Abe and Wilson Ingalls supplied four assists each, Ryan Smith had three points on two goals and an assist, while Joe Manfredo had three points on a goal and two assists. Cody Dembski won 13 of 20 faceoffs and Chris Armas won 10 of 11. Edwin Himmel-Maines made nine saves before Nollan Hoffert played the final five minutes between the pipes.

“It was amazing,” Capps said. “I want to say we were in a little bit of shock, but we were hoping for that. We were really glad for the outcome.”

It’s the third year at the helm for Capps, who came from Wake Forest’s MCLA club team. He remembers the mess he walked into in 2022.

“I had four guys on the team,” Capps said. “I actually had to ask the entire soccer team to play in order to keep the program afloat, which gave me time to get a game plan set in stone to recruit and figure out how I was going to do things.”

It was hard to trust players that couldn’t catch or score, but things started to turn with Capps’ first recruiting class last year. The team was still thin, though, and injuries cost Keystone that elusive win, but there were positive improvements. Dembski finished seventh in Division III with a 68.7-percent faceoff rate, and he was third in ground balls per game. And Smith was dynamic as an offensive middie.

“Guys saw them and wanted to play with players like that,” Capps said. “That’s how we were able to bring in the recruiting class we did this year. By bringing in guys that wanted to play with them, that’s how we ended up where we’re at now.”

Keystone brought in 13 freshmen this year, six from Canada. They combined with a group that was hungry to win and now had skills, too, a far cry from only two years prior.

“It was a lot harder for the kids that actually knew lacrosse because we had to teach the other kids how to play so we could actually have a team,” McManus said. “Now since we have lacrosse players, it’s a lot different than previous years.”

One of those recruited 2022 soccer players, Noel Gonzalez, remains. “He’s stuck around, and he’s loving it,” Capps said.

Capps didn’t hide from the losing streak. He talked about rebuilding and revamping the program. Players embraced the target.

“That’s the way we’re taking on the season,” Capps said. “Not as a Cinderella story by any means. We are taking it as a group of guys that want teams to think that we’re going to be an easy W because we want to give them as much pressure as we can.”

Keystone flipped the script immediately Saturday. The Giants jumped out to a 4-1 lead after the first quarter, and their lead swelled to 12-4 by halftime. Getting results to affirm what Capps had been preaching was uplifting.

“I already knew this was going to be the year,” Capps said. “I’ve been saying it to myself. I’ve known it. I’ve felt it. But seeing is believing. Having it actually happen for the guys, having it actually happen for me, it just confirmed this is happening. And it’s going to continue to happen, in my opinion.”

Now, almost unbelievably, he is worried about being overconfident after one win. The Giants host Albert Magnus on Wednesday, and the keys are the same as they were for the opener.

“To not lose ourselves and to not get big heads,” Capps said. “To go back to exactly what we did for Cobleskill, and that’s stay humble and keep it in our mindset that we’re the underdog and they’re going to tear us to shreds and we just need to go in there prove them wrong.”

It worked to snap a long losing streak and give the Keystone players a reward for their faith and hard work. It’s been a long grind for some of the Giants, but it’s looking up this year.

“It’s going to feel good going out like this,” McManus said. “It’s not the last one. There’s definitely more to come.”