Mt. Lebanon boys lacrosse featured on ESPN’s ‘Senior Night’ segment

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Thursday, April 2, 2020 | 12:06 PM


The Mt. Lebanon boys lacrosse team has yet to play an official game this spring but received recognition on national television Wednesday night.

ESPN’s SportsCenter featured the Blue Devils’ 13 seniors as part of Scott Van Pelt’s nightly “Senior Night” series that is recognizing senior high school and college athletes who have been kept off the field because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Mt. Lebanon’s portion of the segment highlighted “Manzo’s boots,” which are awarded to the team’s MVP after each game.

“It was great (to be featured),” said Mt. Lebanon coach Mike Ermer, whose team was 14-8 last season, finishing as WPIAL runner-up and a PIAA quarterfinalist. “I’d prefer to be handing the boots out in person, but it’s a consolation. It also gives the guys a little light at the end of the tunnel. It’s a pretty bleak time right now.”

There’s quite a story behind the boots, which belonged to longtime Mt. Lebanon youth lacrosse coach Mike Manzo.

Manzo was a partner in the Downtown law firm of Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney and legal counsel to the WPIAL. He died in his sleep May 30, 2011 at age 62.

According to Ermer, Manzo would leave work around 5:30 or 6 p.m. each day, stop home to see his wife and children, then head to the muddy lacrosse fields where he would coach the youth teams while wearing an old pair of duck boots.

Then, he would head home for dinner before going back to work at the office.

He was a man known for dedication to his family, his work and lacrosse.

While at a lacrosse coaching convention in Baltimore in 2014, the Mt. Lebanon coaches were learning about motivational tactics, using items like a sledgehammer or hard hat to instill the ideals of hard work to players.

That same day, they encountered longtime Cornell University coach Richie Moran, one of the most successful college lacrosse coaches in history. When they shared that they were from Mt. Lebanon, he immediately asked about Manzo.

He remembered Manzo from a game he coached against Princeton, where Manzo was a midfielder in the late 1960s.

Triggered by Moran’s recollection, Ermer and the other coaches thought Manzo’s story would be perfect motivation for the Blue Devils players. Assistant coach Chris Hooton reached out to his family, and Manzo’s widow, Kathy, found his old duck boots and offered them to the team.

Ever since, Mt. Lebanon players have been striving to replicate Manzo’s work ethic, dedication and passion each game.

“It means a lot to the program and the boys,” Ermer said.

This year’s Mt. Lebanon seniors include Carter Davidson, Anderson Bareford, Chase Franklin, Simon Mortimer, Ryan Pochek, Reese Austin, Jack Sullivan, Jack Broadhurst, Tucker Welsh, Malik Snyder-McGee, John Sramac, Riley Sohyda and Blake Nelson.

Bill Hartlep is the sports editor of the Tribune-Review. You can contact Bill at bhartlep@tribweb.com or via Twitter @TribHSInsider.

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