ALBANY — The UAlbany men’s lacrosse team has “a left-handed JD” among its goalie ranks this season.
That could bode very well for the team, if Liam Donnelly can duplicate some of the stellar play of former Great Dane JD Colarusso, a USILA and Inside Lacrosse All-American first-team selection in 2018.
The “left-handed JD” designation was bestowed upon Donnelly by Colarusso’s father, Joe, who coached Donnelly at the club level in Yorktown. So although Donnelly began his college career at Rutgers and spent the last two seasons at Utah, UAlbany head coach (and Yorktown native) Scott Marr is familiar with his game and expects him to be prominent in the goaltending mix this season.
Donnelly is using his final post-graduate year of eligibility playing much closer to home with UAlbany, which starts its season this weekend against Colgate.
“We knew quite a bit about him,” Marr said. “Actually, JD Colarusso’s dad, Joe, had coached Liam in club ball in the summers and did individual work with him, probably all the way from . . . seventh grade to his senior year in high school.
“I don’t know what our goalie situation was back then [when Donnelly was coming out of high school]. We just got really good recommendations from Joe, and I really trust Joe with goalies. He was a goalie himself, and he coached JD, obviously, his whole life. We were really confident in Liam’s ability, coming from Joe and hearing what he had to say.”
“I’ve known Liam my whole life,” said UAlbany senior Kyle Casey, another Yorktown alumnus. “I grew up playing with him, and he’s always been one of the top goalies I’ve seen and one of the better goalies I’ve played with. You can watch him play and see he’s great at saving the ball and getting the ball up to our guys. He’s fun to watch, and you guys will see it, too.”
For now, Donnelly’s primary competition at goalie as UAlbany heads into its season opener on Saturday against Colgate is coming from Will Ramos, a senior who brings a similar style to the position. They also both have an experience edge over the Great Danes’ other goalies, sophomore Tommy Heller and freshman Jack VanValkenburgh.
Donnelly was a starter and captain for a Utah team that went 3-3 in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season and 5-10 in 2019. Prior to that, he played for former Siena head coach Brian Brecht at Rutgers.
“I loved it there [at Rutgers]. Coach Brecht was a great coach,” Donnelly said. “I was given a redshirt year my freshman year, so at the end of my sophomore year I figured I’d see what I can do, so I got a chance to play at Utah. I loved every program I played for, and I’m just grateful to have this opportunity.”
“We also watched him play at Utah, and if it wasn’t for Liam, Utah would’ve lost most of their games by about 10, 12 goals,” Marrr said. “He’s certainly very capable. He has really quick hands. His outlets are very similar to JD’s, he’s very quick with it. Joe kind of always jokes that Liam’s a left-handed JD.”
The bulk of Ramos’ playing experience came during the 2019 America East semifinal, when then-starter Nate Siekierski was injured.
Ramos played the entire game, a 13-9 loss to Vermont, and stopped 10 shots.
“Every day is a good battle, with me, Liam, Tommy Heller and even Jack, the freshman,” Ramos said. “We go after it every single day. It’s definitely close and it’s definitely competitive.
“I would like to say I’ve improved a lot since my sophomore year. It was good to get my toes in the water, and getting a game under my belt. Hopefully there’s more.”
“Liam makes plays out of the goal. As does Will,” Marr said. “It’s going to be a tough decision if we go with just one. But I do feel comfortable that we have two super goalies ready to play.
“Will is very similar to Brett Queener in his ability to come out of the goal and get our transition going. They both give us the opportunity to 10-man ride, which I really like. They’re both quick enough to get out, cover an attack man for a little bit and play a little bit of a zone on the back end, then get back in the goal quickly.
“There are times when I’ve gone with a two-goalie system before. Kind of going back and forth on that. Will and Liam both bring really good athleticism, really good energy to the defense.”