ALBANY — For nearly all of the team’s fall-ball season, UAlbany men’s lacrosse senior Jakob Patterson was sidelined with a knee injury.
That provided him with plenty of opportunity to watch his teammates in action.
He liked what he saw.
“As a team,” Patterson said Sunday, “we improved a lot in the fall.”
Now, the goal is for that to continue as the Great Danes get to work building toward a 2020 season they intend to use as a bounce-back campaign after a 2019 campaign the program mostly wants to forget. Despite some uncooperative weather, UAlbany was able to start its preseason Saturday and continued it Sunday at Tom & Mary Casey Stadium, where head coach Scott Marr’s team will play its first three games this season.
“We’re just trying to get a feel for things right now,” Patterson said. “Working on all the little things. Clearing, shooting, passing, catching. All the fundamentals of the game we need to perform at a high level.”
While UAlbany struggled through a 5-9 campaign last year, Patterson quietly put together the latest high-quality season for a Great Danes attackman. Named the America East Offensive Player of the Year for his efforts, Patterson registered 25 goals and 32 assists for UAlbany, plus had 21 ground balls.
Patterson suffered a meniscus injury a couple weeks into UAlbany’s fall-ball season, an ailment that required a procedure on his left knee to fix. For the last month, Patterson said he’s been back to 100%.
“I haven’t had any limitations or anything,” Patterson said.
Keeping it that way for Patterson — and UAlbany’s other top players — is critical for the Great Danes as they start preparing for its season-opening game against Cornell on Feb. 15.
“We have to have our main guys on the field,” Marr said. “We have to stay healthy in that regard.”
After graduating a large senior class following the program’s run to the 2018 national semifinals, UAlbany needed to rely heavily in 2019 on many players with little meaningful experience.
This year, that changes. While the Great Danes lost several key seniors from last season’s roster due to graduation, the majority of last season’s top contributors are back for 2020.
“Now, they all played last year,” Marr said. “They know what it’s like to play the competition that we play, and we had a much better fall this [season] than we did the past [season].”
“So, now it’s all about getting more chemistry and performing at a high level,” Patterson said.
And motivation, Marr said, is easy to find after the program experienced its first losing season in 2019 since it finished 5-11 in 2012.
“I think, honestly, we got a little bit of a chip on our shoulder — an attitude,” Marr said.
‘HE’S BEEN GOOD’
After starring as a freshman, Tehoka Nanticoke’s sophomore season was filled with ups and downs. He registered 25 goals and 13 assists, but his campaign also saw him miss a game because of an eligibility issue and later not play in one because of a coach’s decision.
Marr was happy with how Nanticoke played last fall after missing the program’s fall-ball sessions the prior year, and the coach said the junior’s encouraging approach and effort had continued into the early days of the program’s formal preseason.
“He’s doing very well. He’s been a really good leader,” Marr said. “He’s been good with our young guys.”
And it’s possible one or two of those “young guys” could play key roles in UAlbany’s offense. Marr mentioned three players as having clear roles in this year’s offense — Nanticoke and Patterson at attack, plus junior Kyle Casey as the team’s top offensive midfielder — but said several players will compete to be the team’s third starting attackman, a group that includes sophomore Corey Yunker.