The darkhorse in the MAAC this season is Iona College. The Gaels, in their first two seasons, have shown signs of brilliance. Two years ago, Ryan Carter, then a freshman, burst onto the MAAC scene to win the scoring title as well as the league’s Offensive MVP.
Last year, coach Frank Bretti knew that it would take more than just Carter to be successful. And with the addition of Mark Hallam and Ryan Manitowich, the Gaels rode a slow start and a sixth-place finish in the MAAC standings to a Cinderalla playoff that included wins over Canisius and Quinnipiac before falling in the championship game to host UConn.
— Iona head coach Frank Bretti
This year, Bretti continues to focus on improvement. The Gaels have landed more high-talent recruits that, with the complement and guidance of the past two recruiting classes, Bretti hopes can give him a balanced attack from top to bottom.
All of this has not gone unnoticed throughout the league as the coaches in the MAAC picked the Gaels third in the preseason poll. Not bad for a team which was a resounding last-place pick in the preseason just two years ago.
That translates into a term the Gaels haven’t been too familiar with: expectations. The Gaels have never been picked in the upper half of the league, and that fact alone will make it much more difficult to take teams by surprise, something Iona has been known to do the past couple of years.
Bretti, though, isn’t shaken by the expectations.
“I think [our being picked third] may be a sign of good things to come,” said Bretti. “In all honesty, you can throw the polls out as soon as we hit the ice, but as the league evolves, the knowledge of these polls increases.”
As far as his freshman class, Bretti is confident that these players will continue to help the program grow in what he calls a “building process.”
“Regardless of what we accomplished in getting to the finals last year, you might think we don’t need that many players because we didn’t graduate many,” said Bretti, who holds a 34-55-6 record in three years with the Gaels. “But I haven’t lost sight of where we want to go with our program, and that is part of my recruiting.”
As far as being the team that everyone wants to beat night in and night out, Bretti feels his players need to simplify the way they think to be successful.
“I think we just need to keep things real simple,” Bretti said. “We’re going to go about our day-to-day philosophies of how we operate and how we do our business. They really haven’t changed much from last year.
“The fact that we were in last year’s championship game might be a motivating factor in someone else’s game plan, but for us, we’re not going to really change anything.”
And based on last year’s success, there may not be much that needs to be changed.