SCHENECTADY — Dan Donahue had one day between the end of his quarantine due to COVID-19 protocols and stepping between the pipes Saturday to make his first start in goal for the Union men’s lacrosse team in the Dutchmen’s Liberty League opener against St. Lawrence.
No shot was more important for Donahue than the first one the freshman faced Saturday. When he turned away Peter Koch’s early attempt, the nerves that had built up for the Union freshman quickly dissipated.
“The first save is always the hugest for me,” Donahue said. “You start off with a goal, it hurts your self-confidence a little bit. Starting off with a save is huge. All the nerves went away, I just started playing my game. Once that happens, I know I can be a really good goalie.”
Donahue stopped 14 more shots throughout the day as the freshman and the rest of the Union defense stifled a St. Lawrence offense that had piled up 66 goals through its first four games, while Keaton McCann led the Dutchmen attack with four goals in a 10-6 win at Frank Bailey Field.
It was a satisfying victory over a long-time Liberty League rival that entered Saturday ranked No. 7 nationally.
“It’s huge,” McCann said. “St. Lawrence is always a big step for us for the road to the Liberty League [title]. Coming out of the gates, we played strong — especially against an opponent like this.”
Donahue made a number of spectacular stops for 15th-ranked Union (1-0 Liberty League, 2-0 overall), backstopping a superlative defensive performance for the Dutchmen.
The goalie, who missed Union’s season opener a week prior while still quarantining even though he had not tested positive for the novel coronavirus — sophomore Charlie Phillips got the nod in goal in Union’s 19-6 win over SUNY Plattsburgh — was unflappable despite his extremely short prep time.
“I had one practice to prepare,” Donahue said. “I’ve got to give all the credit to the guys in front of me, they definitely made me see some easy shots that I definitely love to see. They were great. It’s a huge team win against a ranked opponent. I couldn’t be happier with the results.”
“It’s unbelievable,” Union senior longstick midfielder Quinn Helmig said. “He showed up right out of quarantine and he played out of his mind.”
In front of Donahue, the Union defense locked down a potent St. Lawrence (2-1, 4-1) attack, with a number of defensive stops leading into transition opportunities.
“It really starts with our defense,” Union coach Derek Witheford said. “They got some key stops, they pushed it and we were able to capitalize.”
Union scored the game’s first three goals, and after St. Lawrence battled back with three straight to tie the game with 9:52 left in the second quarter, the Union defense entered shutdown mode.
Following Koch’s goal to tie the game at 3-3, St. Lawrence went 32 minutes and 21 seconds without scoring. By the time Koch scored a man-up goal with 7:31 left in the fourth quarter to end the drought, Union had reeled off six straight goals to build a comfortable lead.
“We were making plays and flying all over the field, and we’re just getting into that ‘next play’ mentality,” Helmig said. “We’re resetting after every one. Even when they score, just resetting and knowing what we’re going to do.”
Union got a brief scare when St. Lawrence tacked on another goal from Mark Mahoney 13 seconds after Koch’s tally to make it 9-5, then the Saints hit the crossbar on a transition attempt a little less than three minutes later, but a blocked shot and forced turnover by Helmig set up a transition sequence that led to McCann’s fourth goal of the game with 4:27 to play, halting St. Lawrence’s momentum.
“That’s gritty lacrosse right there,” Donahue said. “Having defenders jump in front of shots for me means a lot. I know that they’ve got my back, and I’ve got theirs.”
Freshman Peter Kip added two goals and an assist for Union. Koch and Mahoney scored twice each for St. Lawrence, while Loudonville native William Helm made 17 saves for the Saints.
Union will be back home at Frank Bailey Field this coming Saturday to face Vassar in Liberty League play.
St. Lawrence 1 2 0 3 — 6
Union 3 3 3 1 — 10
St. Lawrence scoring: Koch 2-0, Mahoney 2-0, Jordan 1-0, Hennessey 1-0, Abad 0-1, Hutchinson 0-1, Murphy 0-1. Union scoring: McCann 4-0, Kip 2-1, Burnes 1-2, Davis 1-2, J. Donahue 1-0, Frey 1-1, Helmig 0-1, McGovern 0-1. Goalies: St. Lawrence, Helm, 17 saves. Union, D. Donahue, 15 saves. Attendance: 251.