ALBANY — He didn’t want to talk about it Monday.
But, yes, University at Albany sophomore TD Ierlan was capable of looking at this year’s NCAA men’s lacrosse tournament bracket and seeing the possible road ahead of the second-seeded Great Danes.
Which, when it comes to Ierlan, means he understood the matchup that so many have talked about wanting to see this May — Denver vs. UAlbany, with best-in-the-country faceoff specialists Ierlan and senior Trevor Baptiste going at it — is a possibility in the quarterfinals.
“But our main focus right now is Richmond,” Ierlan said.
The Spiders, at 11-5 and with an RPI of 29, are second-seeded UAlbany’s opponent 5 p.m. Saturday at Tom & Mary Casey Stadium.
UAlbany’s first round opponent is no pushover . . . but it is kind of hard to ignore the ample storylines potentially ahead of the Great Danes.
For starters, against Richmond, the small world of lacrosse makes it so that there are several connections between players and coaches from each side. Notably, UAlbany senior Connor Fields — who said last weekend he expects to play this upcoming weekend — was high school teammates with Richmond senior Layne Collins, who is tied as the Spiders’ seventh-leading scorer on the season.
After a matchup with Richmond, though, is when things really get fun involving the Great Danes. With a first round win, UAlbany would play the winner of No. 7 Notre Dame vs. Denver.
The Great Danes have previous experience with Notre Dame — and it is of the heartbreaking variety. UAlbany lost in 2014 and 2015 to Notre Dame in the quarterfinals, with the 2014 defeat being an especially tough one for the Great Danes. In that 2014 game, UAlbany led 12-7 early in the fourth quarter before losing 14-13 in overtime.
In a potential meeting with Denver, Baptiste vs. Ierlan is a matchup that would dominate the national lacrosse scene’s attention for the full week leading up to the game. Baptiste is generally considered the greatest faceoff specialist in the history of college lacrosse, while Ierlan — the nation’s leader in faceoff winning percentage this season — is on pace to break Baptiste’s records.
In the semifinals? UAlbany, if it gets to that point, would face one of four teams: No. 3 Yale, No. 6 Loyola, UMass or Virginia. From those four teams, Yale is the team which would generate the most buzz as an opponent for the Great Danes. The Bulldogs beat UAlbany 14-6 a few weeks ago.
If UAlbany finds a way through its first three rounds, there are three potential championship matchups involving UAlbany and seeded teams from the other side of the bracket that would have wide appeal.
Against No. 8 Syracuse, UAlbany would get to play its in-state rival, with whom it competes the hardest for recruits, where it most wants the chance to play the Orange: outdoors.
Against No. 1 Maryland, the Great Danes would rekindle a rivalry with the school Scott Marr left his job as an assistant coach to become UAlbany’s head coach. Those teams have played memorable games in recent years, too, including earlier this year when the Great Danes used a 5-0 run to win 11-10 in College Park in a matchup of the two top-ranked teams in the country.
And against No. 5 Johns Hopkins?
Well, that one is easy to sell to a wide audience. Johns Hopkins is where Marr played — and where his son Kyle Marr currently stars.
“I’m just happy our only chance to meet is in the final. That would be a dream come true if we both were in the final,” Scott Marr said. “If it comes to that and we play each other, that would be a great thing for our family.”
Kyle Marr is tied as the second-leading scorer this season for Johns Hopkins. His father said he is proud of what his son has accomplished in his own playing career, even if the success of son and dad puts both in an awkward position down the road.
“But, at the same time, he chose to go to Hopkins and take his path — and I’m on my path with my guys,” Scott Marr said. “I want to win it for my guys.”
Scott Marr, though, is quick to point out there is little point in engaging about hypothetical matchups. His team needs to eliminate Richmond — and its focus cannot be anywhere else.
The Great Danes are buying into that, too. Ierlan, asked a follow-up question about potentially facing Baptiste in the quarterfinals, smiled as he used his answer to redirect attention back to UAlbany’s matchup with Richmond.
“Oh, man,” Ierlan said. “You’re killing me.”
Reach Michael Kelly at [email protected] or @ByMichaelKelly on Twitter.
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