UAlbany men’s lacrosse can’t wait for quarterfinals

Great Danes are 0-4 in national quarterfinals
UAlbany celebrates after Saturday's 18-9 win against Richmond.
UAlbany celebrates after Saturday's 18-9 win against Richmond.

ALBANY — A year ago, right after the University at Albany men’s lacrosse team topped then-defending national champion North Carolina in the first round of the NCAA tournament, Great Danes head coach Scott Marr savored the moment.

“To date,” Marr said after that rain-soaked win, “it’s the greatest accomplishment we’ve had. I mean, we just beat the defending national champions. They just won the ACC tournament. That’s as good as it gets right there.”

There was nothing along those lines said after this year’s 18-9 win in the first round against Richmond.

Yes, this year’s opponent was from a different tier of Division I men’s lacrosse.

But that wasn’t why.

This season, with this loaded UAlbany team, has always been about the Great Danes making it to the sport’s championship weekend and nothing to do with the opponents in their way.

“It’s about us right now,” UAlbany senior Troy Reh said after scoring a career-high three goals against Richmond.

Second-seeded UAlbany, now 15-2 on the year, has played in four previous quarterfinals.

Its record: 0-4.

But this year is supposed to end differently for the Great Danes, who spent more than a month ranked No. 1 in the country and looked in Saturday’s win like they can expect to have a healthy senior Connor Fields for next Saturday’s game in Hempstead.

“It’s a great opportunity for us to have a huge advantage with the fans,” UAlbany head coach Scott Marr said of the Great Danes getting to stay in New York.

Those fans, for the second consecutive year, turned out in force for the Great Danes’ home tournament game. An announced crowd of 4,800 watched Saturday’s blowout win at Tom & Mary Casey Stadium, more than double the combined 2,383 fans that attended Saturday’s first pair of first round games at No. 3 Yale and No. 4 Duke.

“I feel like our fans are always there for us,” UAlbany freshman Tehoka Nanticoke said.

While the Great Danes can likely count on tremendous fan support next weekend, they will most rely on their tremendous senior class. That group of 11 players is likely to finish its career as the most-accomplished class in program history. The senior class’ four-year record stands at 58-11, and needs one more win to break the tie with UAlbany’s 2017 class as the winningest in program history. This year’s seniors are the first to lead UAlbany to a No. 1 national ranking, while the Great Danes’ No. 2 seed for the national tournament is their highest ever.

“Statistically, yes,” Marr said in response to a question about if this year’s senior class is the best of his 18-season tenure with UAlbany. “It’s hard to categorize and say which one’s better than the other. I think they’ve all given us everything they have. I hate to compare a 2007 senior class to a 2018 senior class because they’re similar kids and they all just want Albany to win and they all give it . . . their best effort every time they stepped out on the field.”

UAlbany finds out Sunday its opponent for next weekend. It will be either No. 7 Notre Dame, a program with which UAlbany has a painful postseason history, or Denver.

“We have to remain focused,” Fields said.

But, at this point, the Great Danes don’t care about which team they play. Next weekend is about them, and about what their 2018 season has been about achieving all along.

“I think we can play with anyone in the country,” Reh said, “so we’re not really worried about who we’re playing.”

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

Categories: College Sports, Sports

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