Manley headed to Rio with USA Field Hockey Team

By on July 6, 2016
Syracuse senior midfielder Alyssa Manley (5) against North Carolina at the 2015 Division 1 field hockey championship in Ann Arbor, Michigan on November 22, 2015.

Lititz’s Alyssa Manley, seen above playing midfield for Syracuse University and below during her high school days at Warwick, was named last week to the U.S. Field Hockey Team’s 16-player roster for the Olympics. Photos courtesy of Syracuse Athletics/Lititz Record file photo.

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The email came last Wednesday delivering Alyssa Manley her biggest career thrill.

The 2012 Warwick grad had been selected to the U.S. Women’s National Field Hockey Team’s 16-player roster for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.

Just after noon on Friday, word of USA head coach Craig Parnham’s selections was officially released to the public.

“It was a very surreal feeling seeing my name on that list,” Manley said, “just kinda knowing that the hard work I’ve put in has paid off and I get to continue to compete with these girls that are amazing at what we do. So it was very, very exciting. It was emotional.”

The Lititz community is sharing that excitement. As of Tuesday night, the Lititz Record’s Facebook post about Manley’s selection had garnered nearly 400 likes and 66 shares.

“That’s awesome,” Manley said. “I’ve gotten a lot of text messages and phone calls so far, so I definitely have gotten the feel for all the support that I have, which is really nice.”

Not only is Manley the first player from a storied Warwick field hockey program which has three PIAA State championships, but she is believed to be the first athlete, period, from Lititz to earn the title of Olympian.

“It’s definitely really cool to be able to represent everything that coach (Bob) Derr has done for so many people over the years,” Manley said. “Definitely very honored (to be the first Lititz Olympian). I’ve loved growing up here, so to be able to represent our small town is amazing and I’m very honored about it.”

As the U.S. Women attempt to win their first Olympic medal since taking bronze at the 1984 Games, Manley will be one of two Lancaster Countians – including Penn Manor product Jill Witmer – to don the red, white and blue.

Coming off their recent third-place Champions Trophy finish in their dress rehearsal in London, England, the squad is confident about its chances of bringing home hardware from Rio de Janeiro. They are currently ranked fifth on the International Hockey Federation’s World Ranking system.

“I definitely think we do (like our chances),” Manley remarked. “We’re such a resilient team that no matter how the game is going, we know we’re always going to play the full 60 minutes, and if another team is going to beat us, they’re going to have to work harder than we do and we work really hard when we play.”

The past year in particular has involved a lot of hard work for Manley. The former Warwick star’s efforts while training with the U.S squad earned her a spot in the Pan American Games in Toronto last July. There, Team USA qualified for the Rio Games en route to winning gold with a 2-1 win over Argentina in the finals.

It was at that time when Manley allowed herself to think that the Olympics might be a possibility.

“It wasn’t really until I got selected for the Pan Ams that I was like, ‘Oh wow, maybe,’ just because I didn’t really know what my status was on the team,” said Manley, who scored a goal in the team’s 3-0 semi-finals shutout of Canada. “Technically, I wasn’t a member of the team yet. I was just training with them, and then at some point during the end of May, I had kinda made my way as a permanent member of the team.”

Not long after receiving her gold medal at the Pan Am Games, Manley was on her way back to Syracuse University to complete her final season with the Orange. She returned to central New York with mixed feelings, but then helped the Orange win their first NCAA Division-One championship, defeating UNC 4-2 in the national championship game in November.

“(Team USA) kept training, that was definitely in the back of my mind, where I was so focused on finishing my final season at Syracuse and coming out with a positive outcome to that year,” said Manley, who finished with 4 goals, 7 assists and 15 total points as a senior for the NCAA champs. “But knowing that they were back here in Lancaster training as hard as they had when I left was always on my mind. It was kinda bittersweet. I wanted to be at Syracuse training, but I also wanted to be at training, so I was a little torn.”

In January, Manley did, in fact, return to training with the U.S. women, and she remains just one semester shy of earning her college degree.

And what she has brought to Team USA are the same qualities that helped carry Warwick to the PIAA State finals in 2011 against Hempfield, where they took the silver medal after suffering a 2-1 loss to the Lady Knights.

As Derr explains, Manley was superfroshed in her ninth-grade season with the Lady Warriors and then opened the eyes of the coaches in the pre-season prior to her sophomore year with her knowledge of the game and transition skills. That enabled the talented 5-foot-2 star to take over as the Lady Warriors’ QB playing at center mid.

“I’m looking at the assistant coaches because we were looking at other people too that were more mature, juniors and seniors, but she was just able to transition from one circle to the other and get there so fast,” Derr recalled. “And the thing is, she’s no speed demon. She’s not going to win the 100-meter dash in the State Track Meet. But her endurance was just fabulous. And she could read plays really well. She could see what’s going to be available, where she needed to be and where she needed to put the ball, and she did that so well.”

Told of Derr’s comments, Manley said chuckling, “Yeah, I would definitely say that’s true. My speed isn’t necessarily as quick as people, but I definitely work on keeping my fitness high so that, even if they’re faster than me, I can hopefully outrun them in the end.”

With her busy schedule, Manley hasn’t had much of a chance to really reflect on all that’s happened in the past year. That time will no doubt come later.

“Everything’s just kinda kept moving, so with everything that’s come my way, I’ve moved onto the next thing,” she said. “So I haven’t fully had a chance to soak in this whole year yet, but hopefully we come home with a medal and I’m able to do that at the end of August.”

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