MAHOPAC, N.Y.— Mike Haddeland had been a staple on the Mahopac sidelines for years, whether it be as a co-coach with his brother Dave, or leading the team as their sole head coach for the past few years.
Due to an illness, Haddeland had to step down as coach and former assistant coach Sean Mohammed and Tony Tanzi will take over as co-head coaches this season.
“Mike and I have been in contact for a while,” Mahopac Athletic Director John Augusta said. “He was appointed and he wasn’t able to coach. We waited as long as we could, about a week-and-a-half before we started. He called me and said, ‘I just won’t be able to do it.’ It’s unfortunate — it’s a huge loss for us. He’s been a part of the culture here in lacrosse for a long time either as a player, as an assistant or as a head coach.”
Mohammed, a 1993 Mahopac graduate, was the varsity assistant for the last two years and previously coached the JV for 15 years before that.
“We wanted to give Mike every opportunity (to coach), because he did such a great job and was a mainstay for the program,” Mohammed said. “That was the hustle in the end, to try to find someone to co-coach or assistant coach. The roles really weren’t the important part. It was about trying to find the right person for the job. We put out some word and Tony got his resume in kind of at the wire. I was really happy that he did. He’s an incredible coach and he’s a Mahopac guy. So far it’s working out unbelievable.”
Tanzi is a 2004 Mahopac graduate, played lacrosse in college at Sacred Heart and went on to play professionally for the Boston Cannons in Major League Lacrosse. He previously was the head coach for CT Elite and was an assistant coach at Weston High School in Connecticut. Tanzi was also an All-American as a senior at Mahopac.
Augusta is very confident in both coaches.
“[Tanzi] is very bright and very organized,” Augusta said. “He’s coached at high levels. He’s familiar with the game. He knows Mahopac; he’s young and ready to go. They know Mo, he’s coached many of them at the JV level when they were there coming up. I think we’re in good shape. They work well together and the kids are responding well to the both of them.”
The Indians return 15 seniors and are coming off a season where they reached the Section 1 Class A championship game, falling to rival Mamaroneck 12-11 in overtime, so the expectations are naturally high.
“As long as we keep guys healthy and take care of themselves and take care of each other, the sky’s the limit,” Mohammed said. “They’re all very goal oriented. They all talk about the section and how far they can go. I don’t want to put any kind of limitations on any one of them. I don’t want to just say, ‘Oh yeah, we’re going to win the section.’ It’s not about just winning the section. You play to win and you go to compete every single day and don’t put a limitation on yourself.”
Mahopac will be spearheaded by its midfield with seniors Christian Donahoe and Daniel Foley leading the way.
“At short-stick midfield, they’re just great leaders,” Mohammed said. “Christian Donahoe I’ve described as almost like having a coach on the field. He’s extremely verbal, has a great head for the game and a very high lacrosse IQ. Dan Foley is a tremendous athlete — a big kid. He’s kind of just a do-it-all kind of a kid. He hates to lose and loves to be a part of a team.”
The LIU Post-bound Foley has battled a back injury throughout the year and only was able to play in a handful of football games, while missing the entire basketball season.
“He and I have a conversation every day,” Mohammed said. “I told him the day I found out he was cleared (to play) — his mother works in the middle school with me — and his mother actually called me into her office, she’s a nurse at the middle school, and said, ‘Hey, great news. Daniel’s cleared to play.’ Ever since then it’s been a daily conversation. He will take himself out in practice to give himself rest. He’s actually put himself more on a limited comeback; almost like a progression type of a thing. Every day we talk about it to make sure he’s OK and if he’s comfortable.”
Donahoe said that the transition has been smooth with new coaches taking over shortly before the beginning of the preseason.
“Obviously losing a coach like coach Haddeland is a big loss,” Donahoe admitted. “It’s never going to be perfect when you’re coming in, but coach Tanzi and coach Mo have done a great job transitioning in. The guys really responded well and so far we look pretty good.”
Yale-bound senior Aidan Hynes returns at long stick midfield and will be a big factor on the defensive end of the field.
“He’s very talented and very smart,” Mohammed said. “It’s great to have him there because he controls kids and know where to put kids. It’s very helpful for us as coaches to have an extra voice on the field.”
Junior Andrew Evans will take the face-offs for the Indians this season and he has been impressive in preseason scrimmages according to Mohammed.
“He’s going to be a tremendous asset for us,” Mohammed said.
With 30 athletes on the roster, the Indians have plenty of players vying for midfield spots and Mohammed expects contributions from everywhere. Junior Greg Libertino is expected to be an asset at midfield.
The attack will be led by seniors Tom Murray and Johnnie Ward.
“Two very big righties who know the game and are very competitive,” Mohammed said of the duo. “Very hard shots. Those two are going to make a lot of noise this year.”
Junior Shane Mcdonald is a left-hander on attack who is also expected to contribute and rounds out the trio.
The defensive unit will be a strong point for the Indians with senior Mike Aurisicchio returning in between the pipes.
“He’s unbelievable,” Mohammed said. “He’s a big voice and loves positioning his defense and making sure that guys are where they’re supposed to be.”
Physical LIU Post-bound senior Zac Carlin is a key cog on defense and Mohammed describes him as a “workhorse” who “loves to get ground balls.”
“He plays with a lot of intensity,” Mohammed said. “A very good football and basketball player as well. That’s another thing about the whole group — they’re all multi-sport athletes.”
Senior Chris Howard is a vocal leader on defense in front of Aurisicchio.
“He kind of sparks a lot of talk on defense,” Mohammed said. “He’s in a good spot all the time. Last year he had a season of bad habits, but he definitely cleaned up his game a lot and put a lot of time in during the offseason.”
Junior Andrew Wright will also be a contributor on defense and is a “great stick handler and always in the right spot,” according to Mohammed.
“He’s the type of kid that we can put anywhere, but he’s gravitated toward the long pole the last few years,” Mohammed said.
Mohammed said that the lacrosse IQ of the team will be one of their greatest strengths as a unit.
“The strength is going to be in the talk on the field — their communication,” Mohammed said. “That’s something over my experience, just over the last 18 years of being in this program, I can’t remember when I’ve heard a team talk as much as these guys do. Talking not just on defense, but on offense as well. Just trying to put each other in the right spot at the right time.”
With a slew of talented veterans returning, the Indians have their eyes on a Section 1 Class A crown.
“We have very high expectations,” Donahoe said. “We’re returning a lot of guys from that section final team last year. It’s the same goal as last year, to be playing our best ball in May. Even though the regular season might not go perfectly, we just want to be playing our best ball in May. We do have very high expectations, but we’ve still got a lot of work to do.”