ALBANY — The UAlbany men’s lacrosse team moved the ball well on Sunday.
As a result, the Great Danes avoided moving in the wrong direction in the America East standings.
The UAlbany offense exploded in the second half, outscoring UMBC 7-1 in the fourth quarter, to give the Danes a badly needed 14-9 win over the Retrievers.
With Binghamton losing to Hartford on Saturday, the top four teams, Stony Brook (5-1), Vermont (5-1), UAlbany (4-2) and UMBC (4-2) have separated themselves from the bottom half as the AE heads into the homestretch of the regular season.
Thirteen of UAlbany’s goals were assisted, compared to just one of nine for UMBC, something head coach Scott Marr has been stressing. It helped that the Great Danes were able to dictate a faster pace in the second half, using fast-break goals to break an 8-8 tie and go ahead 11-9.
“My dad [Fred] — and it was his birthday today — he passed away a couple years ago, but his biggest stat, the only stat my dad ever kept in any lacrosse game was assisted goals,” Marr said. “I think it’s the team with over 50% goals assisted had like an 80-something percent chance of winning.”
Corey Yunker scored three of his four goals in the fourth quarter and also had two assists, and Jakob Patterson finished with two goals and four assists for the Danes (6-3 overall).
Against a team that doesn’t score much and relies on disciplined defense, UAlbany looked like it had close to a 100% chance of winning once the Great Danes got up 12-9 on Graydon Hogg’s goal with 6:12 left.
At that point, UAlbany began to go deeper into the shot clock to kill time, and polished off the Retrievers (5-2 overall) with goals from Kyle Casey and Hogg.
“You’ve got to finish the game, but defensively we were playing well, and I didn’t feel like they could put three goals up in a five-minute span,” Marr said.
“We started a little slow, but we just kept going at it and kept believing, then towards the end of the game we started putting the ball in the back of the net,” Yunker said.
“They did a good job getting back in transition. If you looked at some of them, they’d have six guys back already, so that was tough. Then we got a couple off of faceoffs, so that’s huge. We kept pushing the ball, and towards the end they started falling.”
Yunker tied it at 8-8 with a quick-stick on the left post, and Ron John scored in transition on a quick passing play from Jake Piseno to Patterson to John.
UMBC’s only goal after having taken an 8-5 lead early in the third quarter came during a span of 38 seconds in the fourth when UAlbany outscored the Retrievers 3-1.
Yunker got another quick-stick in front, then scored in transition off a clean faceoff win by Regan Endres to make it 11-9, followed by Hogg’s goal. Yunker’s four-goal day put him at 13 for the season.
“He had some huge goals,” Marr said. “A lot of his goals are on the doorstep. He just dunked a couple. But those dunks come because our offense is doing the right thing, and he’s just the last guy on the chain and gets to finish those balls. And he’s in the right spot.”
Slow starts continue to be a problem for UAlbany.
Patterson scored 57 seconds into the game, but the Great Danes had to claw back from down 4-1 to get to 5-5 at halftime.
Then UMBC scored three quick ones to start the third quarter, and UAlbany had to claw back again.
“We were playing a little tentative in the beginning, so it was just getting comfortable and realizing that we needed to settle down, move the ball, and we went to a faster pace in the second half,” Patterson said. “[Offensive coordinator] Merrick Thomson was harping on that, and it was a great success.”
“We started slow. Again,” Marr said. “And that’s something we have to fix. Regan did a great job getting us the ball, and then we squandered those first three or four possessions after Jakob scores that first goal.
“If you listen to Merrick on the sideline, he’s yelling the word ‘Pace, pace, pace’ the whole time, getting us to play with a better pace and a better tempo. That’s when we’re at our best. UMBC does a nice job of slowing the ball down and taking time on the clock. We’re better at playing chaotic and a little faster, so as the game wore on we started to get better and better at that and got the game to our pace in the second half.”
The Great Danes have another big one coming up, at Vermont on Friday, before closing the regular season against NJIT and Hartford, two 1-5 teams.
UAlbany beat Hartford 16-6 on March 6.
“We told the boys this was really a must-win,” Marr said. “We had to get this ‘W’ today. And they’re a good team, very disciplined, very smart. They don’t turn the ball over much. They’re tough kids. They ran hard, but we definitely needed to get this in the ‘W’ column, because those right now are the four teams at the top, so we have to to position ourselves and hopefully things break our way and maybe we get the 1 or 2 spot.”
“Definitely big for us. Every conference game now is huge for us going forward,” Yunker said.
UMBC 2 3 3 1 — 9
UAlbany 1 4 2 7 — 14
UMBC scoring: McIntyre 1-1, Dupuis 1-0, Patschorke 1-0, Zichelli 1-0, Frawley 3-0, Bohanan 2-0. UAlbany scoring: Casey 1-0, Endres 0-1, Yunker 4-2, Salit 1-0, Patterson 2-4, C. Hay 0-2, Burgmaster 0-1, John 1-1, Tucker 2-1, Hogg 3-1. Goalies: UMBC, Lingner, 6 saves. UAlbany, Donnelly, 7 saves; Ramos, 1 save.