Albany

No denying the hype: No. 1 UAlbany men’s lacrosse ready for No. 2 Maryland

Great Danes, Terrapins meet in NCAA tournament rematch
No. 1 UAlbany plays at No. 2 Maryland this weekend.
PHOTOGRAPHER:
No. 1 UAlbany plays at No. 2 Maryland this weekend.

ALBANY — When it comes to Saturday’s noon meeting between the University at Albany men’s lacrosse team and Maryland, pick your own storyline.

It’s No. 1 vs. No. 2.

It’s a rematch of a 2017 NCAA tournament game.

It’s the upstart Great Danes traveling to take on a blueblood program doubling as the reigning national champion.

UAlbany head coach Scott Marr?

He picks all of the above.

Told his players to do the same, too, before their trip to College Park.

“Embrace it, and have fun,” Marr said. “Be loose. Enjoy it.”

That’s No. 1 UAlbany’s style, anyway. No reason to change it now.

“This entire week’s been a blast,” UAlbany freshman Tehoka Nanticoke said Friday.

“We’re just trying to play loose and play Albany lacrosse,” UAlbany senior Connor Fields said.

Last season, UAlbany (4-0) did that the first time it played Maryland (5-0), but didn’t when the teams met up again in the NCAA quarterfinals. The Great Danes had their chances to win at their home Tom & Mary Casey Stadium in last April’s 12-11 defeat against Maryland, but UAlbany struggled mightily in the teams’ May encounter which ended in an 18-9 win for the Terrapins.

“First game, we thought we played a good game. We didn’t come out with the win, obviously, but we felt like we could definitely play with them and definitely beat them,” said Fields, who is leading the nation in scoring at 7.5 points per game. “Second game, it just wasn’t our day. We don’t feel like we played our best game, and we think they played a very good game out there. We know that to beat this team, we need to give them our best shot.”

At different points in the 10 months since that loss, a selection of Great Danes have taken responsibility for why that tournament game went the way it did. For the most part, redshirt senior goalie JD Colarusso and sophomore faceoff specialist TD Ierlan have seemed to rotate taking turns accepting blame for that defeat.

The truth? Maryland was a better overall team last year than UAlbany.

This year? UAlbany’s respectful of the Terrapins — “This is, I think, the best team in the country,” Marr said — but isn’t trying to position itself as an underdog.

That label doesn’t fit these Great Danes.

“Everybody realizes how good they are and what a big challenge this is going to be,” Maryland head coach John Tillman said. “Knowing that, obviously, that’s something we look forward to here is playing against the best teams in the country and certainly Albany is terrific.”

In the past week, UAlbany’s shown why it’s deserving of its first-ever No. 1 ranking. Sunday, the Great Danes ended their game against Cornell on a 4-0 run in the final few minutes to storm back for an 11-9 win. Then, Tuesday, UAlbany never let UMass hang around in a 19-8 blowout.

Marr said he thought UAlbany achieving its first-ever No. 1 ranking affected the Great Danes in that game against Cornell. Heading into UAlbany’s game at Maryland, Marr said his team is more composed and back to being itself.

“It’s so much nicer to be loose instead of being all tense,” Marr said. “So, you know, that’s just our style.”

Maryland is a younger team than it was a year ago. The Terrapins graduated several star players, including Tewaaraton Award winner Matt Rambo, from their attack. While UAlbany largely has its lineup intact from a year ago, senior Kyle McClancy said the Great Danes aren’t treating this year’s game with Maryland as one that can make up for last year’s defeats.

“It’s not really a revenge game for us,” McClancy said. “This is two different teams.”

But the motivation and excitement is there for the Great Danes, who are 0-3 all-time against Maryland. The Great Danes won’t talk about it, but a win against Maryland leaves them in solid position to carry the No. 1 ranking with them for the duration of the regular season.

So while it’s not a season-defining game for the Great Danes, it’s one they won’t deny the hype around.

“You’ve got to love it. You’ve got to embrace it,” Fields said. “You don’t know how many times in your life you’re going to be playing in the No. 1 vs No. 2 matchup.”

“We don’t want to shy away from it,” Marr said. “We just want to enjoy it and have a great time with it.”

Reach Michael Kelly at [email protected] or @ByMichaelKelly on Twitter.

Categories: College Sports, Sports

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