Settling in lacrosse country


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Moving all over America, Chris McManus kept waiting for the chance to play lacrosse. After all, his father was an honorable mention all-America defender at Army in 1977. For McManus, his chance finally came in Prince William County.

McManus has lived in Georgia, Kentucky and Colorado — hardly lacrosse hotbeds. Prior to his ninth-grade year, the family moved to Hylton’s school district. McManus played a year for the Bulldogs before sliding over to newly-opened Forest Park the next year. His father, Steven, now serves as the defensive coach for the Bruins’ varsity lacrosse team and works as chief financial officer of the U.S. Soldiers’ Home in Washington, D.C.

“One of my earliest memories is seeing my dad play in a reunion game at West Point 10 years after he finished playing there,” said McManus, a senior midfielder/attackman. “Because of him, I’ve really been able to develop as a player. We go out in the backyard and throw the ball all the time. It’s always been all about the fundamentals.”

McManus and his father have attended college games at Johns Hopkins, Maryland and Towson. After a 24-goal, 17-assist junior season at Forest Park, the 5-foot-8, 145-pound McManus isn’t quite at that elite level, but he has been recruited by several lower-tier Division I schools. He looked at St. Joseph’s, Providence, Vermont and Holy Cross but is leaning toward playing at Indiana, which fields a United States Lacrosse Intercollegiate Associates team. The USLIA, as McManus described it, is a level between club lacrosse and Division I lacrosse.

“Every school in the USLIA is potentially a Division I team down the line,” McManus said. “I like that Indiana’s a bigger school than some of the other places I was looking. I’m still going to visit James Madison, but at this point Indiana is my top choice.”

This year, McManus has been sidelined because of a severe contusion to his lower back. The injury happened in a practice soon after Forest Park, now 1-4 (1-2 inside the county), lost in overtime in its season opener to Osbourn Park.

“It was a freak accident, just a light hit in practice,” said McManus, who was named most valuable player in Prince William’s indoor winter league this past offseason. “It was my best friend (defenseman Rowdy Rudd) I ran into, and even he has no idea what happened.”

After leaving the practice field in an ambulance, McManus was hospitalized for about six hours. For two days, he had to use a walker for transportation.

“My teammates have been calling me ‘Grandpa’ ever since,” McManus said, with a shrug.

The grandfatherly tag comes just three years after McManus was the only freshman on Hylton’s varsity team. Then, his teammates threatened to shave his head if he went the whole season without scoring a goal. McManus avoided the rookie hazing by scoring a goal in a late regular-season game against Osbourn Park and then another one against the Yellow Jackets in a playoff game.

Forest Park went 0-11 in his first year there, but improved to 4-8 last season. This spring, the Bruins beat Gar-Field by three goals without McManus in the lineup. With him, they have a pair of one-goal losses to Osbourn Park (a team that beat the Bruins 29-0 in 2001) and Woodbridge by a goal in their most recent game.

McManus has four goals and two assists with 22 shots this season. On a two-game road trip to North Carolina for spring break, he couldn’t play so he was left with the duty of filming the games. Now he’s back in the lineup as a first-line attacker or first-line midfielder.

“Chris is very important to our team because he’s kind of a quiet leader who does his job,” Forest Park coach Dan Forgas said. “But not having him for a few games might help us in the big picture because we were able to beat Gar-Field and we know what we can do.”