Underclassmen fuel latest No. 1 UAlbany men’s lacrosse win

Freshmen, sophomores star in win against Stony Brook
Sophomore Mitch Laffin scored two goals in Saturday's win.
Sophomore Mitch Laffin scored two goals in Saturday's win.

ALBANY — The University at Albany men’s lacrosse program left Saturday’s 13-7 win against Stony Brook, achieved without injured star seniors Connor Fields and Justin Reh, feeling pretty good about its future.

That was for a few reasons.

Most importantly, No. 1 UAlbany head coach Scott Marr projected after that win that Fields (knee) and Reh (upper body) should be back for next weekend’s game at UMBC.

The victory meant the Great Danes had finished March with their undefeated record intact, a 10-0 mark that leaves UAlbany off to its best start since the 2007 season, when it started 11-0.

And, looking way ahead, Saturday’s win was produced in a way that suggests the type of success the Great Danes have had this season isn’t about to go away in upcoming seasons.

That is because as much as this year’s Great Danes are an experienced veteran group, there is a bevy of talented players in Marr’s program waiting in the wings for their chance to shine.

“We have a lot of talented guys in this group that aren’t playing on the field every single game,” UAlbany senior Kyle McClancy said. “We like to say that our best competition all week is going to be in scout.”

“We’re going against the best in practice, day in and day out,” UAlbany freshman Tehoka Nanticoke said.

With Fields and Reh out, some of those second-string guys got their chance Saturday to show off what they can do in live game action — and they delivered.

Besides three goals from McClancy and an assist from senior Josh Egan, the rest of the Great Danes’ points — the other 10 goals and nine assists — were contributed from freshmen, sophomores and juniors.

Of those 19 non-senior points, 16 of them came from freshmen and sophomores.

“They came in and played with good confidence,” Marr said of his underclassmen.

For sure, some of those younger players already have made major contributions this season — and each of the Great Danes’ youngest two classes already have a bonafide star.

Nanticoke has lived up to his immense hype during his freshman season, as the nation’s No. 1 recruit has produced 28 goals and 22 assists, leaving him second on the team in total points behind Fields. He scored two goals and had three assists in Saturday’s win,

Then, there is TD Ierlan, a sophomore putting together one of the greatest seasons in NCAA history for a faceoff specialist. Ierlan, who went 24 of 24 on faceoffs and collected 21 ground balls against Stony Brook, is leading the nation in faceoff winning percentage (83.8 percent) and ground balls per game (14.4).

“He is a competitor to the core,” Marr said of Ierlan. “He’s absolutely a beast.”

Everyone, though, knew about Ierlan and Nanticoke before Saturday’s performances. What stood out was the way sophomores Davis Diamond (one goal, three assists) and Mitch Laffin (two goals) stepped into the team’s starting attack line, how sophomore Ron John made an immediate impact with a goal in a limited appearance, and the way players such as junior Jack Burgmaster (one goal, one assist) and sophomore Jakob Patterson (one goal) stepped into larger roles.

“It gives us so much confidence knowing we can score 13 goals without two of our starting attackmen,” Marr said.

In particular, Marr praised John for forcing his way onto the field. While injuries to Fields and Reh created opportunities for some players to play extra minutes, Marr said John’s last few weeks of practice had made it that the coach needed to find a spot for the sophomore midfielder.

“We had to find a way to get him on the field and give him an opportunity,” Marr said.

If Fields and Reh return next weekend as expected, UAlbany will shift back to being a team dominated by its upperclassmen. How the future stars for the Great Danes played Saturday, though, left Marr more confident in the depth of his roster as the program moves forward.

“They’ll be ready to play if their number is called again,” Marr said.

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

Categories: -Sports-, College Sports

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