ALBANY — It took some convincing — but not a lot — from those close to him for Camden Hay to arrive at UAlbany.
It took less than a quarter for him to arrive as a college player.
Last Saturday, the 6-foot-2, 205-pound freshman attack from Victor cut straight to the goalmouth, caught a nifty feed from Jakob Patterson and coolly flipped the ball behind his back and into the top left corner past Colgate goalie Sean Collins.
It gave the Great Danes a 4-2 lead late in the first quarter, and when Hay returned the favor with an assist on a Patterson goal to start the second quarter, Hay had piled up points on all five of UAlbany goals.
He might have been doing the same for Syracuse University this season, considering a verbal commitment Hay made to the Orange in the summer heading into his freshman year at Victor.
But UAlbany ultimately looked like a more comfortable fit, since Hay’s brother, junior defenseman Tanner Hay, is on the roster, and their cousin John Maloney is a former Great Dane now serving on head coach Scott Marr’s staff as the defensive coordinator. Camden Hay announced that he was switching from Syracuse to UAlbany in the summer of 2019, before his senior year at Victor.
“I committed to Syracuse my seventh or eighth grade year, which is very crazy,” Camden Hay said. “The rules changed, so you can’t do that now, but then I switched to Albany because my cousin’s the defensive coach and he played here, so I’ve been coming to Albany lacrosse games since I was 13, 12 years old.
“And Coach Marr is great, and Tanner plays here, so it was a bunch of family ties. It just felt right being here. It felt like home.”
“I definitely had some pull,” Tanner Hay said with a laugh, “but at the end of the day, he’s happy, I’m happy, everybody around him’s happy that he’s here. I truthfully thought this was just a better fit for him.”
Camden Hay finished with two goals and four assists in his college debut, a 15-9 UAlbany victory.
His senior year at Victor, which had won four Class B state championships in the previous five years, was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Hay’s blazing start and the way he meshed with the UAlbany attack right away suggested that the time off had no negative impact on his game.
This week at Hartford, he and Patterson will regain the services of preseason All-America honorable mention Tehoka Nanticoke to the ranks of the starting attack, as Nanticoke and 10 other Great Danes missed the Colgate game because of COVID protocols.
There is little doubt that Hay will complement the attack even further with Nanticoke back.
“They can all feed, they can all shoot, they can all dodge with the ball in their sticks, so it’s a tough matchup,” Marr said. “I’m not sure there’s three defensemen on any team that we’re going to play that will be able to cover all three of them.”
“The size and strength were there, and he has great stick work and is a very smart player, too, who always knows where to be,” Patterson said. “So it’s always easy to play with players like that, because you can feed off them and they feed off you. All of us have a connection on where people want to dodge, where they want to shoot. I can’t wait to play with Camden for the next couple months here.”
“They just make it so easy to play with,” Hay said. “Obviously, Hoags [Nanticoke] draws so much attention. Jakob draws so much attention. And me being the third guy now at the attack, I’m not the 1, Hoags is. I’m not the 2, Jakob is.
“So I’m the third guy, I’m drawing the third pole, so it’s nice for me to play off those guys. It’s so easy, they draw so much attention that I just have to work off ball and do what I can with the ball when it’s in my stick.”
Hay said UAlbany appealed to him not just because of the family connection, but because of the Great Danes’ style of play.
He didn’t wait long to take advantage of that, with the behind-the-back goal.
“[I liked] the way that they play,” he said. “It’s a fast-paced team, I love playing fast and it’s fun and creative. Like, the goal I had in our first game, it’s not every program that you can do that stuff, especially as a freshman. I got to come in and got some freedom, and they just let you play lacrosse.”
Besides the Hay brothers, two former Victor players on the roster, freshman Joey Pezzimenti and faceoff specialist Regan Endres, are on the UAlbany roster.
Camden Hay has found himself matched up against post-graduate defenseman Steven Kunz in practice.
“I’ve had the tough assignment of guarding him in practice; he definitely doesn’t play like a freshman,” Kunz said. “He’s a big physical guy, but he’s the nicest guy around. He’s definitely coming at you, he’ll attack you, he’s able to get in and use his body really, really well, and he shoots lights out.
“He’s very smart with the ball. As soon as he gets it in his stick, he knows where to look and what passes to make, and when he’s ready to shoot, he knows where he can bury the ball. He’s just a great, great contribution to our offense, we love having him around and hopefully he and I can keep having those battles in practice and he can keep showing up on game day like he did.”
“It’s not a matchup I enjoy,” Tanner Hay said. “That goes way back, to out in the backyard.”
“He’s a big, strong, physical kid,” Marr said. “I was very impressed with how he played, but we knew coming in that he had the ability, really, to be a good feeder. He had four assists. He’s got his eyes up all the time, his head’s up, he’s always ready to pass, and if he doesn’t have that, he’s got the ability to go to the goal and be an inside guy or whatever it is to be a finisher.
“The thing with Camden and Jakob and Tehoka is they don’t shy away from physical play. And Camden has that really, really good ability to feel pressure, which shoulder is being pressured, and he’s able to roll and use both hands, that type of stuff.”
Although Camden Hay changed his mind about attending Syracuse, he will get a chance to play in the Carrier Dome this season.
The Great Danes are scheduled to face the Orange there on April 8.
That should be fun.