ALBANY — Months removed from its remarkable spring, the University at Albany men’s lacrosse program has left that season behind as it has started work this fall toward 2019.
Uniform numbers of several senior stars from the 2018 team who led the Great Danes to their first appearance in the national semifinals have been handed out to freshmen. Head coach Scott Marr got around to trimming his hair, both atop his head and on his face. A new crop of juniors and seniors are set to lead.
“It’s going to be a growth year for us,” Marr said Wednesday after his team wrapped up one of its fall workouts.
The 2019 season was always going to be that way for the Great Danes, who went 16-3 last spring and spent more weeks ranked No. 1 than any other program. From that team graduated the program’s winningest class, including stars such as attackman Connor Fields and goalie JD Colarusso.
The unexpected loss for the program came a couple weeks after the season ended at Gillette Stadium. That is when it became known that star faceoff specialist TD Ierlan, fresh off setting NCAA single-season records with 359 faceoff wins and 254 ground balls, was leaving the program. A couple weeks after that, it was confirmed Ierlan — a junior this school year — had transferred to Yale, the program that ended UAlbany’s season on its way to winning the national championship.
When Ierlan left UAlbany in May, Marr didn’t offer much comment publicly about the situation. As the Great Danes have started work toward 2019, Marr said Ierlan’s departure did not need to be addressed with the team.
“Not at all. It is what it is. He decided this wasn’t the place for him and to move on. It’s just like anything else — an injury or a graduation — and you can’t change it, so there’s no sense in harping on it,” Marr said. “But they all know. The kids know he’s not here. Obviously, they know he’s one of the best, if not the best, in the game. It’s disappointing he’s not here . . . after the recruiting process, and how well we did with him and what we did for him in the first two years — but it is what it is. We’ll move on.”
“Now,” Marr said, “we’re looking at who is going to step up.”
While UAlbany lost so much production, particularly on the offensive end of the field, the Great Danes have plenty of options going forward. Sophomore Tehoka Nanticoke and junior Jakob Patterson — the latter mostly played midfielder last season — will lead the starting attack, while the Great Danes also return senior Sean Eccles as their top offensive midfielder. Juniors Davis Diamond and Mitch Laffin are competing for the team’s final starting attack spot, as could talented freshman Teioshontathe McComber.
“And we’re actually really pretty deep at midfield,” Marr said. “We’re just inexperienced.”
Marr is confident in his team’s defensive talent. Seniors Erik Dluhy and Matt Perla return, freshman Tanner Hay is the program’s most-heralded rookie and junior Nate Siekierski has shown potential in the limited action he’s received in goal the last two seasons.
Beyond that, Marr likes his group of second-year players, many of whom didn’t see much action last spring because of UAlbany’s talented senior class.
“But now they’re getting their opportunity to play,” Marr said.
With Ierlan gone, Marr said UAlbany will likely use sophomores Anthony Altimari and Austin Jones in a two-man faceoff rotation.
“We’re looking at using them as a 1-2 punch unless something changes,” Marr said. “They’re both battlers. We’re not going to have that luxury of winning 80 percent [like with Ierlan], but I also don’t think we’re going to be getting it only 30 percent of the time.”
UAlbany will host a scrimmage day in mid-October.
Army, Johns Hopkins and Vermont will head to UAlbany for the scrimmage sessions on Oct. 13. UAlbany will play against Army and Johns Hopkins, with action starting at 11 a.m.
That day’s scrimmages will raise money for the HEADstrong Foundation, a non-profit organization that works toward finding a cure for blood cancer and helping affected families.