December 3, 2011

Duke's Manley 'Full Go' After Major Knee Injury Recovery

by Corey McLaughlin | | Twitter

Michael Manley was Duke's top cover defender when the Blue Devils won the national title in 2010. He sat out last season while recovering from a torn ACL, MCL and meniscus, but is now "full go" after the fall, he said.
© John Strohsacker/

One of the top defenseman in the country didn't play a game last season. Duke's Michael Manley sat out the year while recovering from a torn ACL, MCL and meniscus in his left knee. "The triad," he said, as if he's referred to the three injuries by that name before.

Manley took a redshirt while rehabbing -- at Duke and at home in Penn Yan, N.Y. -- and watched practices and games last season from the sidelines. The injury happened while playing last summer, and he had surgery Sept. 29, 2010, upon returning to Durham. The timing meant he wouldn't play at all as the Blue Devils sought to defend their championship, won the previous May over Notre Dame. That season, Manley played with a partially torn patella tendon.

Sitting out a year was quite a change-up for a player who had started every game he could since arriving as a freshman. He was established as Duke's primary cover defenseman and scooped 101 ground balls in three years. The 6-foot-1, 205-pound Manley figures to be one of the top two defenders selected in January's Major League Lacrosse collegiate draft. (Princeton's Chad Wiedmaier is the other.)

"When you have something taken away from you that you love, it makes you even hungrier to get back," Manley said.

He's back now.

Manley ditched his knee brace the final two weeks of fall ball practice, just when weight lifting was intensifying. His only setback was a pulled hamstring injured in practice leading up to the Blue Devils scrimmage against Team USA on Oct. 9. Because his stride was different running and maneuvering with the brace, Manley said he tweaked his leg. He pulled himself out of the USA scrimmage after five minutes. But after that healed, Manley said he's felt great.

"The last two weeks of fall ball, my knee felt great," he said. "It's one of those things where I have one more go at it. I'm excited to get back out there. I miss playing. I'm excited to run back out there Feb. 11 against Rutgers at Koskinen [Stadium]."

Manley will return to the field to lead a group of defenders that saw a significant amount of playing time in the Blue Devils run to the final four. The physically imposing, 6-foot-4, 210-pound Chris Hipps started 18 games a freshman and returns at close defense along with the smart, athletic Billy Connors. Sophomore Henry Lobb will push Connors at the third spot and sophomore Matt Kunkel "isn't too far behind," Duke coach John Danowski said.

And Duke is loaded at longstick, with versatile senior C.J. Costabile, sophomore Luke Duprey, the former hockey player who played in all 20 games last season, and Brian Dailey, a freshman from Conestoga (Pa.) who looks like he will see time in the spring.

"If great to have Michael back, not just because he's an experienced player, but because of the leadership that be brings," Danowski said. "He enjoys being a leader. The guys do look up to him. That's awesome. And Mike has a lot of experience. If he's got anything, he's got experience. He's played in a lot of big games."

He'd like to play in some more. Rehab is behind Manley, thanks to Duke physical therapist Doug Andrews, trainer Joe Ferraro and the Blue Devils staff. "It doesn't get any better than that," Manley said.

A huge assist also came from Jeff Bray, the head trainer and assistant athletic director Keuka College in Penn Yan and the husband of Manley's trainer in high school. Manley called Bray, a former head trainer for the Illinois State football team, to ask for help rehabbing over winter break last year, as to remain on schedule in the process. Keuka is located nearby Manley's house and Manley worked with Brey for about 60-90 minutes nearly every morning. "Penn Yan is a small town that athletics is a big of. Coming from there, everyone is willing to help you," Manley said.

"The help I've been getting has been incredible," he said. "I'm full back, full go."

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