UAlbany lacrosse coach Scott Marr used the word “complete” four times in his opening statement, including two back-to-back.
On a crazy, chaotic sports day when things had the potential to get messy and bumpy, the Great Danes started it off at 10 a.m. by putting together as smooth and flawless a performance as you would want on Saturday.
Their 22-9 dismantling of Stony Brook in the America East championship game was so comp … er, total, that UAlbany is feeling extremely good about itself heading into the NCAA tournament.
And they ought to.
Two years ago, the Great Danes lost to Denver in the first round, and last year, they beat No. 1 Loyola, then wasted a five-goal lead against Notre Dame in the second round and lost in overtime.
If this doesn’t become the year when UAlbany makes that next giant leap into the semifinals of the NCAAs, it won’t be because they aren’t playing their best lacrosse at the best time.
“We have a huge opportunity in front of us,” said senior Lyle Thompson, the best player in the country. “This is a championship team. That’s the attitude we have, and we need to open our eyes and see the opportunity we have.”
Stony Brook usually is Thorny Brook for the Great Danes.
UAlbany needed overtime to beat them last year, and in the regular season this year, the teams were tied through three quarters, 13-13, before UAlbany pulled it out, 17-15.
Not so on Saturday.
Thompson gave an emotional, impassioned senior speech at Buca di Beppo during a team dinner on Friday night, and the Great Danes took it to heart, and took it out on Stony Brook.
“It’s family-style, so they bring out big bowls, and it’s a lot of fun,” Marr said with a laugh. “We get it going in there. We’re pretty loud at times, but everybody seems to like it.”
“Seeing Lyle get emotional got everyone ready to play, because if we lose this game, we’re putting our fate in the committee’s hands,” goalie Blaze Riorden said.
That’s the NCAA selection committee that will draw up the 16-team tournament bracket to be announced at 9 tonight on ESPNU.
The Great Danes were looking a little bubbly if they didn’t win on Saturday, and played like it, getting contributions from everybody.
That included the self-anointed OG’s, the Original Gangstas, as the second unit calls itself.
Marr credited assistant coach Eric Wolf for scripting practices to be more efficient and shorter, and also credited the second unit for making the first-teamers better.
That led to two noticeable results against Stony Brook. While the Seawolves relied on the same players throughout the game, Marr was able to send waves of fresh guys out there. Eventually, Stony Brook wore down.
The second team produced, too, including one goal that got Marr and the bench especially jacked up.
Not only did it give the Great Danes a 17-9 lead with 9:29 left — game over, really — but it came off the stick of one of the OG’s, Jake Cullen.
UAlbany passed it around the perimeter, and Cullen cut away from his defender to get enough space for the goal.
After Marr high-fived each of his assistants, he gave Cullen a double fist pump as he came off the field.
“That’s something we’ve been working with him all year about moving his feet,” Marr said. “He really made a great play to get to the top side of his defender and then bury the shot.
“He’s a sophomore, he’s been in and out of the lineup, and when he comes through with a play like that, and everybody knows that that’s what we’ve been talking about with him throughout the course of the year, it just fired everybody up.”
So the goalie is playing well, the defense is reliable, replacement faceoff man Cason Liles (20-for-33) has picked up the slack and, well, Lyle Thompson has infused the team not only with statistics, but a certain fire and swagger.
“All those things add up,” he said. “At the end of the day, you should have a win.”
“It’s hard to say who the catalyst of everything was,” Marr said. “Everybody did their part.”
“We always preach it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish” Riorden said. “We want to start playing our best lacrosse right now, and I think we did that today.”