ALBANY — His junior goalie provided a veteran-like answer about approaching his first collegiate start as if Saturday’s 4 p.m. game at Syracuse is just like any other game.
University at Albany men’s lacrosse head coach Scott Marr knows Nate Siekierski has to be feeling some pressure.
“It’s not like any other game,” a smiling Marr said Friday after his team’s final preseason practice at Tom & Mary Casey Stadium. “It’s his first start in his career — in college, Division I, playing at the dome.”
As the primary backup to JD Colarusso — last year’s USILA Most Outstanding Goalie — in his first two seasons at UAlbany, Siekierski received significant minutes in a pair of high-profile games. In 2017, Siekierski played more than half of UAlbany’s season-ending loss to Maryland in the NCAA tournament quarterfinals. Then, in 2018, Siekierski played a large chunk of the Great Danes’ loss to Yale in the NCAA tournament semifinals, a game in which Siekierski stopped seven of the 12 shots he faced.
So Siekierski has handled some pressure situations before in his college career. From those instances, he’s learned how to discard any jitters he may feel ahead of the Great Danes’ opener.
“It’s nerve-wracking,” Siekierski said, “but, at the same time, nerves aren’t going to do anything for you.”
In front of Siekierski is a revamped defense, but it is one that Marr has voiced confidence in throughout the offseason and preseason because of the added size and athleticism the group has for this season. UAlbany senior Matt Perla, a starting defenseman, said the Great Danes have the “utmost confidence” in Siekierski ahead of his first start.
“It’s our job to make sure he’s seeing good shots,” Perla said. “We know he’s going to make saves he needs to, and get the ball.”
One of the top reasons Siekierski brings confidence into the 2019 season is what he learned from working with Colarusso. Siekierski said he has kept up his communication with Colarusso ahead of this year’s opener, and still looks to his former mentor for advice.
“It was awesome learning from him,” Siekierski said.
Siekierski emerged from a competition with sophomores Will Ramos and Jason Yoquinto to become the starting goalie, a battle he entered as the favorite. Earlier this preseason, Marr said Siekierski had surprised the coaching staff before the 2018 season with how much he had pushed Colarusso.
“He’s definitely proven himself,” Marr said. “He and JD had a tough race, even last year.”
In his first two seasons at UAlbany, Siekierski made 13 appearances, allowed 33 goals and made 30 saves. The junior from Colorado said he’s “more excited than nervous” to get started in his new role for the Great Danes, and Marr said he expects Siekierski to be sharp right away.
“This is a big deal, but, at the same time, he’s played in plenty of games and he’s been playing the sport his whole life,” Marr said. “Once the game starts, it’ll be like any other game.”
Marr added: “This is his time.”