Player of the Season: Matteo Mangiardi ’17 (Taft)

There was never really any doubt, was there? Taft captain Matteo Mangiardi ‘17 is the player of the season for his outstanding achievement in leading the Rhinos into the playoff picture.

With his fifth hat trick of the season in Taft’s 6-2 win over Hopkins, Mangiardi equaled Taft’s single-season goalscoring record at 29. Not only that, he’s accomplished the feat playing as an attacking midfielder. In a No. 10 role, playing beneath the striker, Mangiardi’s vision and touch is immediately evident as he pulls the strings in Taft’s high-flying offense.

“We’ve encouraged him to be more of a distributor so that he can run the show a little bit more,” said head coach Ozzie Parente.

The Rhinos have tallied a hefty 61 goals this season (second only to Berkshire), which means that Mangiardi has accounted for an ridiculous 47.5% of their offensive firepower while notching 8 assists along the way which bumps his offensive involvement to 60.6%.

And it bears repeating that Mangiardi isn’t generating those kind of numbers as a striker. He’s a complete player, according to Parente.

“What’s also great about having him a little further back in the field is that he can make these really, really dynamic runs. He’s good on the ball, he’s good going 1-on-1 obviously, he finishes well, but I think the most underrated part of his game is that he’s very clever and has a great sense of when and where to make runs. It’s really hard to keep track of him. Other teams know to look out for him, but they can’t seem to find him. So having him make that kind of run from the midfield, it’s difficult for the defenders to adjust. We’ve had a lot of success with him in that kind of role this year.”

Mangiardi came to Taft last season as a sophomore and was an easy admission in the eyes of Parente and head hockey coach, Dan Murphy.

“He was at Cardigan Mountain School in New Hampshire. He was doing the whole prep school search, and I had seen a little clip of him playing and was pretty impressed. I knew he was a hockey guy too, so both the hockey coach [Dan Murphy] and I thought he would be a great fit for us, because we really want two and three-sport athletes. Taft’s a pretty big school but we compete against Andover and Choate, who are much bigger. So we really need our athletes to do both. So [Dan] and I said look, here’s a kid who can compete in two sports at the varsity level as a 10-grader, and so I think that kind of assurance from both coaches to play two sports is what he really wanted. So I think he just got a really good vibe from that.”

Like many boarding-school faculty, Parente knows Mangiardi outside of the athletic arena as well.

He’s a great kid. He’s confident but definitely not cocky, and I think that’s why the kids respond so well to him. He gets a lot of glory for scoring goals, but he’s very supportive of the roles that everyone else plays on the team. He recognizes the contributions from our outside backs, our goalkeepers, from the defensive central midfielder who’s winning a bunch of balls, that kind of thing. I think that support that he shows, people don’t think that scoring all those goals has gone to his head. They know that’s his role on the team, and other guys have different roles.”

September 23, 2015--Taft_Boys' Varsity Soccer. Boys' Varsity Soccer v Westminster (Photo by Robert Falcetti/Taft)

Mangiardi in action against Westminster (Photo by Robert Falcetti/Taft)

Now, with one game left in the season, Mangiardi sits perched at 29 goals on par with Taft’s single-season record.

“I think he’s aware of [the record],” said Parente. “But to be honest, we have not talked about that at all. I’ve never heard him mention it to teammates, but I think he’d be lying if he said he had no idea. But he’s never asked me about it.”

“He’s a really smart kid. He’s diligent. He’s an intense kid too. He want to win everything. He wants to get a 100 on everything, but not to the detriment of his teammates. He’s a pretty special kid.”

With a massive rivalry game against Hotchkiss looming on Saturday and potential playoff hopes on the line, Mangiardi will put on the captain’s band once again to try and lead the Rhinos to their eighth successive victory.

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