ALBANY — It’s almost like there’s a competition to see who’s having more fun, between the players in the game and the players on the sideline.
The UAlbany men’s lacrosse team is known for its dazzling offensive skill in the field of play, but the Great Danes’ bench doesn’t stand idly by, either, boisterously supporting their teammates seemingly non-stop.
Head coach Scott Marr is urging them to take that up another notch this season, since there won’t be any fans at 8,500-seat Casey Stadium.
Then again, there won’t be any Casey Stadium, either, at least not for the men’s lacrosse team, which is scheduled to play six home games at adjacent John Fallon Field. That was UAlbany lacrosse’s home field from 2005, until the team became popular enough to warrant a move to Casey Stadium.
Asked why the Great Danes were playing at Fallon instead of Casey, Marr said: “Too many sports playing at one time, I guess.”
Three fall sports, football and men’s and women’s soccer, have games scheduled at Casey Stadium this spring.
No matter where they play, whatever noise and energy they get from beyond the lines of the field will have to be self-generated.
“We’ve talked about that early on in the season, that we are going to be our fans, our guys on the sideline,” Marr said on Wednesday. “When we travel, it’s going to be even less. There’s only going to be 40, 35 guys or so that travel, so we’re going to have to support each other, cheer for each other and be enthusiastic.
“But we have to dial in to what our goal is and what we want to accomplish in practice so that when we get in games, we’re just focused on our jobs. Not necessarily worried about the crowd. Obviously, it’s a great help to us when we do play in Casey and have 3,000, 4,000 fans. But we’re just going to have to deal with it, and stay with each other and support each other the best we can.”
The Great Danes are scheduled to open on the road on Sunday, Feb. 21, at Lehigh, but that could change. Marr would prefer to push that back to the following weekend to get another week of practice, if it can be arranged.
UAlbany’s home opener at Fallon is Tuesday, March 9, against UMass.
Marr was able to find one bright side to playing at an empty Fallon Field, in that the artificial turf has been replaced recently. The Great Danes won the America East championship there twice to reach the NCAA Tournament before Casey Stadium was built.
“It was always a good field to us when we did play there, and we’re certainly disappointed that we’re not playing in our stadium,” he said. “But hopefully, it’s just a one-year-deal.”
The prospect of playing in front of no fans is also disappointing to the players, naturally.
“I grew up playing, in my years in high school, we didn’t have too many fans in Canada, before I went to IMG [Academy],” Tehoka Nanticoke said. “In all these fall tournaments, there’s never packed stadiums, so I think we need our team to fall in and buy in to where we came from, where we started playing the game we love.
“What started in those tournaments was [only] parents in the stands. So I think if we can get the guys into that mindset … I love the fans, I love the chants, I love everything. But at the same time, we have to dig deep and fall back into what we grew up with.
“Our fans give us a lot of energy when we make a big play, and you can hear the big roar in the background, so that’s something we’re going to be missing as a team,” Jakob Patterson said. “On the sidelines, we’re going to have to step up and be loud. We’re going to have to be super-happy, jumping up and down and try to replicate that energy on the field, because the fans are a crucial part to this game, especially at Casey Stadium.
“We haven’t played on Fallon much the last couple years and we’re getting used to it, and we just got new turf, I think, last fall. So it’s pretty nice and we’re trying to get used to it. It is a different visual from that field and Casey Stadium.”