ALBANY — The start has been incredible.
Now comes the challenging part for the University at Albany men’s lacrosse team.
The Great Danes have to find ways to get better after finishing off the first half of their regular season with another blowout win.
“Being undefeated is where you want to be,” UAlbany sophomore TD Ierlan said after Tuesday’s 19-11 win against Canisius, “but we definitely have a ways to go.”
UAlbany head coach Scott Marr has insisted throughout No. 1 UAlbany’s 7-0 start that the Great Danes have plenty of areas in which to improve — and that message isn’t lost on his players, a group that handled questions about its rise to the top of national polls in late February with answers about how all that matters is the team’s rank at the end of May.
UAlbany senior Connor Fields said that mentality remains for the Great Danes, even after a first seven games in which they have won by an average margin of nine goals per game.
“We can’t just look back and think since we’re undefeated and we won that many games that we’re just going to keep winning,” Fields said. “We know we have to put in the work each and every day.”
To this halfway point of the team’s regular season, that work has left the Great Danes with the country’s best resume as the NCAA tournament nears.
UAlbany is unanimously atop both national polls and ranks first in the RPI. Its roster includes the nation’s individual leaders in points per game (Fields), faceoff winning percentage (Ierlan) and goals-against average (redshirt senior JD Colarusso). As a team, UAlbany is the last remaining undefeated team and its offense is scoring more goals (16.3) than any other team in the country.
“But we’re not going to get complacent,” said Fields, whose team will look to improve upon its best-in-more-than-a-decade season’s start when it plays Saturday at UMass Lowell. In 2007, UAlbany started 11-0.
And, despite all the gaudy statistics and rankings, there are specific areas where this UAlbany team can improve.
The Great Danes’ man-up offense has recently been better, but still isn’t producing goals at an elite level. Slow starts have been an issue on a few occassions, something the Great Danes have masked with jaw-dropping runs. Finding consistent play from reserves remains a concern.
“We’re only as good as our last guy,” Marr said. “So we have to make sure we’re improving everybody.”
At times, that’s likely difficult to keep in mind for a team having so much success and able to rely on a small selection of individuals to produce so much. Ierlan, though, echoed Fields’ claim that there is no complacency when the Great Danes hit the turf to practice.
“Everyone’s just really excited every day to go out and get better,” Ierlan said. “We’re in a good spot right now.”
Remaining before the America East tournament, UAlbany has five conference games plus non-conference matchups against Harvard and Yale. Within those seven games, only one — at Yale — is likely to come against a team in the RPI top 10.
But staying focused, Marr said, won’t be an issue for UAlbany because of the squad’s veteran-laden roster.
“My senior leadership has been tremendous,” Marr said.
No. 1 @UAlbanyMLax uses 16-0 run to top @GriffsMLax. #NCAALAX https://t.co/sYRBxeAZ8Y pic.twitter.com/f5GjdZaGmf
— Daily Gazette Sports (@dgazettesports) March 20, 2018
Those seniors have kept UAlbany’s focus looking forward. For as much as the Great Danes have accomplished in their first seven games, there is a lot left for them to seize if they keep improving.
And that’s their plan.
“We definitely still have our best lacrosse to go,” Ierlan said.
Reach Michael Kelly at [email protected] or @ByMichaelKelly on Twitter.
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