ALBANY — After the University at Albany men’s lacrosse team’s season-opening win at the Carrier Dome, redshirt senior goalie JD Colarusso went through a variety of reasons why things had gone so well for the Great Danes.
Mostly, though, it came down to one thing.
“Syracuse didn’t really get the ball too much,” Colarusso said.
That was because UAlbany’s defense was aggressive and its offense controlled play — and, really, because sophomore TD Ierlan kept winning one faceoff after another.
Ierlan, who debuted last season with a second-in-the-nation 70.8 percent faceoff success mark, captured 16 of 21 faceoffs against Syracuse.
Then, against Drexel in Saturday’s home opener, Ierlan was even better.
“Everything was clicking,” Ierlan said.
The sophomore captured 21 of 22 faceoffs before exiting an eventual 18-5 win for the Great Danes, who are likely to ascend to No. 1 in the national rankings for the first time in program history this week.
“It’s just unreal,” UAlbany head coach Scott Marr said of Ierlan’s start to the season.
On the season, Ierlan’s won 86.0 percent of his faceoffs. That’s easily tops in the nation.
“He’s just tireless in his work ethic and preparing himself for games,” Marr said.
Tireless, too, in crediting those around him. Ierlan — who earned all-conference and All-American honors last season — makes a regular habit of praising his wings on faceoffs. After Saturday’s win, he referenced the help he received from six different Great Danes, while also acknowledging the day’s strategy had been for Ierlan to do more on his own than usual.
“They gave me space to win it to myself,” said Ierlan, who collected 17 ground balls. “We kind of knew that was going to be the game plan going into [Saturday].”
Through two games, UAlbany has excelled in all facets of the game. But what Ierlan brings is special — and extra special because of what his success means in the context of the Great Danes. UAlbany’s offense is powered by two of the best attackmen in the country in senior Connor Fields and freshman Tehoka Nanticoke, so the Great Danes are nearly unbeatable when they win faceoffs on a consistent basis.
“With an offense as good as ours,” Ierlan said, “I think if we can just keep getting them the ball, it’s really hard [for opposing teams] to get out of that hole.”
Like Drexel, which never really stood a chance against the Great Danes. With Ierlan winning faceoffs and UAlbany attacking in an efficient manner, Drexel trailed 4-0 before it registered its first possession against the Great Danes, who have outscored opponents 33-8 through its first two games.
“We’ve just got to keep rolling,” Ierlan said.