Women's Lacrosse World Games Featured Dominican Coach

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For Dominican University of California women’s lacrosse coach Joseph Manna, being selected as an assistant coach for the Haudenosaunee Nationals (formerly Iroquois Nationals) team in the World Championships and World Games was more than a dream come true. It was a privilege.

“A lot of young coaches dream about coaching Team USA or Team Canada. Mine was always a little different,” said Manna, who helped coached the Haudenosaunee women against more than 30 countries in the World Championships in Maryland June 29 through July 9 before coaching them last week in the World Games Sixes in Alabama, with an eye on possibly competing in the Summer Olympiad in Los Angeles in 2028.

“I always wanted to coach at an international event, at a world games event. My background in coaching has included helping Team Israel grow, helping Team Colombia grow. I’ve always had a foot in the door of coaching in the international game so for me it’s all coming full circle. I never thought this was even a possibility, there could not be a higher honor in the game of lacrosse then to share the sideline with this group of women.”

The origins of lacrosse date back to 1100 A.D. when it was played by the Haudenosaunee, or Iroquois people, in what now is upstate New York and areas in Canada bordering the state. Manna is no stranger to this lacrosse scene.

 “I just thought as a kid right out of college what better way to spend my summers living in upstate New York and the Adirondacks and playing box lacrosse,” said Manna, who joined a CAN-AM semi- professional league comprised of teams from different Haudenosaunee reservations including the Allegany Arrows. “I was playing with and against some of the best indoor lacrosse players in the world.”

Though Manna also went to Israel to participate in a lacrosse internship and traveled to Colombia to learn more about international competition in the sport, his formative time with lacrosse was spent in Allegany during the summers of 2016 and 2017. His playing and coaching ability and his thirst for lacrosse and the international game was being noticed by people around him. He applied to be a member of the Haudenosaunee Women’s National Lacrosse Team coaching staff about the same time he applied to become the first head coach for the new women’s lacrosse program at Dominican.

“I think the familiarity with me really helped me get a leg up,” he said.

Manna was interviewed for the assistant coaching position by the director of Haudenosaunee women’s lacrosse operations and its committee.

“I think ultimately Coach Manna fits in his role because of his unique past experiences and his ability to adapt. He has a calming sideline presence when needed, is supportive to our head coach, fellow assistant coach, and the players,” said Shaniece Mohawk, General Manager of Haudenosaunee Nationals Women’s Lacrosse.

“As a technically new program under the Haudenosaunee Nationals, building a foundation with qualified coaches and staff that our women athletes can trust and be comfortable and confident with was a huge part of the selection process. As for the game itself, we all know Coach Manna’s full field knowledge, and he has taken the new discipline – the sixes format, that will be played at the World Games – and uses his experience as a field coach and player, and as a box lacrosse player to help the women understand the format and strategy and encourage creativity.”

Manna has been working with Liz Beville, the Haudenosaunee nationals head coach who led them to the gold medal at the inaugural Pan-American Lacrosse Association (PALA) Sixes Cup last year in Florida.

“Coach Manna's passion for this game is one of his best attributes,” said Beville, head coach at Le Moyne College. “He is the first one to pick up a ball and to start passing or shooting at any of our training events. He is also willing and eager to learn which has been an asset to me as a head coach because he has taken initiative to study the international rules and to interact with players to gain a different viewpoint or perspective.”

Manna’s responsibilities as Beville’s assistant coach with the Haudenosaunee Women’s National Lacrosse Team has been to work with the goalies and the defense. He has been involved with player evaluations, roster decisions, and training camp schedules. Last summer he was at the first national team tryout at Onondaga Community College in Syracuse, NY where more than 70 Haudenosaunee women’s players showed up ranging from high school age to veterans who have not played in 10 years. Most of them are from the Syracuse, Buffalo and Six Nations area.

At the same Manna has been building his program in Dominican Athletics. He has a roster of 24 women’s players ready to begin their first organized scheduled practice on Kennelly Field on August 23 to prepare for their inaugural season in Spring 2023. In addition, Manna says he already has seven verbal commits from student-athletes for the 2024 season.

“I love when our recruits and current players take interest in the international game, I think it shows them lacrosse doesn’t have to end when they graduate.” Manna said.

For the World Championships at Johnny Unitas Stadium, the Haudenosaunee National Team, seeded 12th, advanced to the quarterfinals with an upset win over No. 5 seeded Scotland on July 5. The Haudenosaunees lost to fourth-seeded Australia on July 6 to snap a four-match winning streak then lost to Japan on July 8 in the championship consolation bracket. Despite a valiant rally, they lost 12-11 to the Czech Republic in the seventh-place game on July 9.

Had the Haudenosaunee team beaten Australia, it would have faced the top-seeded United States team in the semifinals. That would have been a big obstacle for the Haudenosaunee, as Australia lost to the USA, the eventual champion, by a score of 17-2.

“Team USA is picking out of a pool of tens of thousands of players and we‘re picking out of a pool of 70 Women” Manna explains.

The World Championships from July 12-16 were the more traditional style game of lacrosse being played today in college. The World Games, however, had fewer players on the field and extra incentive on the horizon. Only eight countries were invited and teams competed six players aside. The World Games is the model Olympic organizers are eyeing for participation in the Summer Olympics in 2028 as it is faster and more free-flowing.

“The team handball version of lacrosse, It’s Fast, Fun and Allows Players to showcase skill and creativity,” said Manna, whose team played Israel, Great Britain, and Canada in Group B play before defeating the Czech Republic in the seventh-place game on July 15.

For Manna, the son of a father who played football for Princeton University, his work is an opportunity to learn a culture that applies to team building, structure, and a philosophy. It’s an honor for him.

“I couldn't agree more with Joseph when he talks about what an honor it is to share the sideline with the Haudenosaunee women,” Coach Beville said. “Every training camp, I have been amazed at the level of respect our athletes have displayed on the field. There is no complaining – just pure joy and appreciation for the opportunity to play the game we all love so much.”

Manna shares that love, whether it’s with the Dominican Penguins or the Haudenosaunee Nationals.

“Aside from his coaching abilities, it didn’t take long for our staff and pool of women to gain respect for him,” Mohawk said. “He has lived on a reservation and played lacrosse there, so he came into our program knowing the culture - the literal roots of the game, and lifestyle of our people today, as well as how they coexist. His respect for the game and passion for lacrosse and coaching is strong. He earned his way to this position.”

Photo above of (from left) Dominican women's lacrosse head coach and Haudenosaunee Nationals assistant coach Joseph Manna, Haudenosaunee Nationals head coach Liz Beville, and Haudenosaunee Nationals assistant coach Naomi Walser.

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