UAlbany men’s lacrosse vs. Denver: 5 things to know

Great Danes ready for NCAA quarterfinals
UAlbany plays Denver in the NCAA tournament quarterfinals on Saturday.
UAlbany plays Denver in the NCAA tournament quarterfinals on Saturday.

ALBANY — How did the University at Albany men’s lacrosse team end practice Friday, just a day before taking on Denver in the NCAA tournament quarterfinals?

With a conditioning drill — music blasting, as usual — that, in part, involved players jumping over teammates laying on the ground.

So, yeah, UAlbany is feeling pretty loose as it heads into the biggest game of its season to date.

“That’s just Albany lacrosse,” UAlbany senior Kyle McClancy said of the light-hearted end to Friday’s workout.

“That’s what our team is about,” UAlbany freshman Tehoka Nanticoke said.

No. 2 UAlbany (15-2) takes on unseeded Denver (13-3) 2:30 p.m. Saturday at James M. Shuart Stadium in Hempstead with an opportunity to clinch its spot in next Saturday’s national semifinals at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass.

To a man, the Great Danes said Friday they don’t feel the pressure of expectations heading into their matchup with Denver.

“We’re going to leave it all out there,” UAlbany senior Connor Fields said.

UAlbany head coach Scott Marr is confident in that, too.

“This team has been resilient all year,” Marr said.

That was a point he made to his players, too, during their final team huddle before leaving for Long Island.

“You’ve never doubted each other. We’re not going to start now,” Marr told his players. “I love you, guys.”

Here are five things to know about UAlbany’s matchup with Denver.

Facing off

Oh, right.

There is a matchup of faceoff specialists that has some excitement around it.

Denver senior Trevor Baptiste is widely considered the greatest at the position in NCAA history.

UAlbany sophomore TD Ierlan is producing the sport’s greatest individual season ever.

So what happens when they clash?

Don’t bother asking their coaches.

“It’s not a 1-on-1 game,” Marr said.

Denver head coach Bill Tierney joked the matchup’s hype is more “great for TV filler” than anything else.

“Everybody is making a big thing out of TD and Trevor, and what’s going to happen and all that stuff — and it is interesting,” Tierney said. “But, at the end of the day, they’re the two best in the game and the matchup is going to produce some faceoff wins on both sides.”

Good to go

For the first time in a long time, there seems to be no concern about Fields’ ability to play at a high level for the Great Danes.

The star senior, who has battled a right knee injury for the past two months, practiced Tuesday through Friday this week. Marr said Fields looked “awesome” throughout the week, and Fields dodged and cut — hard — throughout Friday’s open practice session.

“I’m almost 100 percent now,” Fields said. “I feel the best I have since the injury.”

This season, Fields is averaging 5.8 points per game, but that number is severely diminished because of games he played at far less than 100 percent. In the 10 games this season that Fields never left the Great Danes’ lineup because of issues with his right knee, Fields has averaged 7.3 points per game.

Regardless of how healthy Fields is or isn’t, Tierney said Denver’s defense will need to devote plenty of attention to him.

“What I know is that if he is at 50 percent, he’s better than 90 percent of the attackmen in the country,” Tierney said. “He is what he is.”

Heading home

UAlbany senior Justin Reh, a Long Island native, said he is expecting approximately 30 of his family members and friends in attendance to watch the Great Danes play Denver.

And how many will be there in support of fellow UAlbany senior Troy Reh, his twin brother?

“Zero,” Justin Reh said with a laugh.

The advantage UAlbany should have in terms of crowd support will be sizable in Hempstead. The team has its share Long Island natives, plus Hempstead is an easy enough of a drive for UAlbany’s passionate following to make.

“The stadium is going to be electric,” said McClancy, another Great Dane from Long Island. “No doubt about it.”

Looking to break through

All-time, UAlbany is 0-4 in NCAA men’s lacrosse quarterfinals.

That 0-4 mark, Marr said, does not weigh on this year’s Great Danes.

“This,” Marr said, “is our journey.”

Not done yet

For UAlbany, will a win against Denver — and the trip to championship weekend it guarantees — deem the program’s 2018 season a success on its own?

In short: No.

“I think that our goal coming into this season was to be the last team standing,” McClancy said. “So this is the next step toward getting to that goal.”

Fields agreed with that assessment.

“Our goal,” Fields said, “is to win a national championship.”

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

Categories: College Sports, Sports

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