ALBANY — The excitement hasn’t worn off yet for the UAlbany men’s lacrosse team. It likely won’t.
The Great Danes are getting the reigning national champions to come to their home stadium this Saturday with a chance to advance to the NCAA tournament quarterfinals.
“Sometimes,” UAlbany head coach Scott Marr said Tuesday, “I just gotta pinch myself that this is really happening.”
It is — and a large crowd is expected to watch the event at Tom & Mary Casey Stadium, which takes place at 7:30 p.m. and will be broadcast on ESPNU. As of late Tuesday afternoon, UAlbany had sold more than 5,000 tickets for its first-round game against North Carolina, more tickets than any other game in the lacrosse program’s history.
A capacity crowd for men’s lacrosse at Casey Stadium is 6,500.
“We’re gonna love hosting it here,” UAlbany senior midfielder Adam Osika said. “We feed off that energy and this place is going to be rocking.”
UAlbany is 14-2 on the season and received the No. 8 seed Sunday for the NCAA tournament after winning its fourth America East title in five years this past weekend at Casey Stadium — a place where the Great Danes have only lost once this season, by a single goal to top-seeded Maryland.
“Our guys are at another level when we’re playing in there,” Marr said last week after UAlbany’s semifinal win in its conference tournament.
A sold-out crowd seems likely for the game, but North Carolina will have its fair share of supporters in the crowd. Tar Heels senior attackman Luke Goldstock, a Niskayuna High School graduate, is one of the team’s stars.
“For Luke, this is just fantastic,” North Carolina head coach Joe Breschi said. “This worked out great.”
Breschi said he’s heard about the impressive ticket sales for the game. His team, no stranger to big games and atmospheres, is excited to play in front of a packed crowd.
“What an awesome environment it’s going to be for us to have the chance to go up and play in,” Breschi said.
Marr said his Great Danes have refocused well this week after earning their home game. He expects his squad to be ready come Saturday.
“It’s gonna be amazing,” Marr said. “I can’t wait.”
UAlbany senior midfielder Bennett Drake has a past connection with a pair of Tar Heels coming to Casey Stadium — including the team’s top scorer, junior attackman Chris Cloutier.
Drake — a native of Oshawa, Ontario — played on an elite travel squad with Cloutier in his early high school years, and has played with North Carolina freshman midfielder Tanner Cook during the past couple summers. Both Cloutier and Cook are also from Ontario.
“It’s a very tight [lacrosse] community back home,” Drake said.
Drake, UAlbany’s third-leading scorer this season, said Tuesday that the left shoulder he injured last week in the America East semifinals against Stony Brook is not a concern. Drake suffered a subluxation of his left shoulder, but did play in this past Saturday’s conference championship game. After that win against Binghamton, Drake had his injured arm in a sling, but said that was “just precautionary.”
“It’s got a full range of motion, so it’s good to go,” Drake said.
The midfielder said he’ll play this weekend and is looking forward to going up against some friends from home.
“It’s gonna be fun to see them out on the same field again,” Drake said. “It’ll be fun for sure.”
This & that
UAlbany moved up to No. 4 in both national polls this week, the highest the Great Danes have been since the 2007 season. That year, UAlbany was ranked as high as No. 2. . . . North Carolina is ranked ninth in the media poll and No. 10 in the coaches poll. . . . Individually, UAlbany junior attackman Connor Fields finished the regular season first in the country in points per game at 6.75, while freshman faceoff specialist TD Ierlan is tops in ground balls per game at 11.44. . . . As a team, UAlbany enters the postseason ranked first in scoring (15.81), scoring margin (plus-7.00), man-down defense (86.6 percent) and winning percentage (87.5 percent).