ALBANY — If Saturday was any indication, UAlbany men’s lacrosse’s star offensive duo of Tehoka Nanticoke and Jakob Patterson are back in sync and ready to induce nightmares for opposing defenses.
Through UAlbany’s first two games, the Nanticoke-Patterson connection had combined just once for a goal assisted by the other half of the pair. In Saturday’s 15-14 win over Harvard at Tom & Mary Casey Stadium, that pairing combined to create five goals on its own, with Nanticoke assisting Patterson twice and Patterson setting up Nanticoke for three goals — including the game-winner with 3:02 left in the fourth quarter.
It’s good news for the Great Danes (2-1) as they get set to play their first road game of the season Tuesday at 3 p.m. against a UMass (3-2) team coming off an upset win Saturday over then-No. 1 Yale.
“Jakob and Tehoka, that’s their job,” UAlbany coach Scott Marr said after Saturday’s win. “That’s what we’ve expected of them.”
Nanticoke equaled career-highs with five goals and eight total points in Saturday’s win, a performance that earned him America East Offensive Player of the Week honors on Monday. Since being limited to a pair of assists in UAlbany’s season-opening loss to Cornell, Nanticoke has produced nine goals and five assists in back-to-back wins over Drexel and Harvard.
Patterson’s three goals and four assists against Harvard were both season-highs, and the best sign yet that the senior has bounced back from a knee injury suffered during UAlbany’s fall ball season. That injury kept Patterson out of UAlbany’s preseason scrimmages and limited his participation in practice, but the senior got more time in practice in the week leading up to the Harvard game and it showed in his conditioning on the field.
“Jakob’s really starting to feel like Jakob again,” Marr said.
“Jakob was just moving much better,” he added. “He got a couple days in at practice. When you don’t practice — and at the beginning of the season, he wasn’t practice and [was] just playing in games — it’s hard to just step into a game and play.”
Even with the missed time, Patterson said reestablishing his connection with Nanticoke hasn’t been difficult.
“That just comes with chemistry,” Patterson said, “playing with each other for the last two, three years.”
Add in the emergence of sophomore attackman Corey Yunker (eight goals, six assists), and the UAlbany offense has hit a rhythm that’s allowed the team to pull off back-to-back one-goal wins.
“No matter what the score is,” Nanticoke said, “we’re always going to compete until the last minute.”
SETTLING THE UNSETTLED
While Marr praised his defense’s efforts in settled situations against Harvard — “Six-on-six, I felt like they couldn’t score on us,” he said — the coach was much less happy with the way the Great Danes defended Harvard’s transition opportunities.
Harvard constantly exploited UAlbany’s struggles in transition, with unsettled goals helping the Crimson come back to tie the game after being down by as many as five in the first half.
Transition defense has been a sticking point for UAlbany in each of the last two games as Marr said the team is still adjusting to a new substitution pattern that’s been implemented over the past couple of weeks.
“We’ve really got to work on our substitutions,” Marr said. “That’s something we’ve been concerned about, the fact that we’re taking guys off the field so much as opposed to our two-way guys, who would just get back in the hole and play defense. It’s a lot to get used to for our guys, and we’ve only been doing it for two weeks now.”
Reach Adam Shinder at [email protected] or @Adam_Shinder on Twitter.