This week’s feature is “The Good, the Bad and the UMBC.”
The UAlbany men’s lacrosse team will face UMBC in the America East semifinals at 1 p.m. today at UMBC, and the primary sources of preparation have been a look back at one of the best victories of the season, 14-9 over the Retrievers on April 11, and an intense video session last Friday picking apart one of the worst losses.
That was 16-14 in favor of Vermont to close the regular season last Wednesday, after which the Great Danes “dissected our game a little more,” post-grad attack Jakob Patterson said, of the Friday film work.
“We hammered them, to be honest with you,” head coach Scott Marr said.
Of the three semifinalists UAlbany could have faced (Vermont and Stony Brook will play each other), UMBC is the only one the Great Danes have beaten. And although that wasn’t a complete effort and required UAlbany to flip a switch on offense in the second half, the team knows how to defeat UMBC, and now it’s just a matter of re-creating that in the sequel to move on to Saturday’s championship game.
“Their defense is very good, and the first half of that game, I think we were just a little sloppy,” junior attack Corey Yunker said. “Then towards the second half, we played fast and made better decisions with the ball and made simple plays to put the ball in the back of the net.
“They’re just really fundamentally sound. But if we do our jobs and get the ball spinning, we know we can score against anybody.”
“We have to play fast but not rushed, because when we play fast, they struggle with that a little bit,” Marr said. “They’re very good individual defenders. When we started getting the ball moving good, that’s when we started to get some openings and good looks at the pole.
“They’re very well coached, but they’re very … coached, and they do things pretty systematically. Once you get them out of that system a little bit, we have a good chance of creating some good opportunities.”
Yunker had four goals in the UMBC victory, all in the second half, when the Great Danes outscored the Retrievers 9-4 while cranking up their transition game.
Patterson scored on the first possession of the game, after which UAlbany’s offense sputtered, with passes out of bounds and some shots that were easily saved.
Once the Great Danes got rolling in the second half, they didn’t look back.
“In the second half, we played a little more smart, took care of the ball, had a little more off-the-ball movement and got the ball flowing and made it really difficult for UMBC,” Patterson said. “We look to do that again this week.”
“Probably played about a good 20 minutes in that game,” Marr said. “The first 40, I thought, we played miserable. We need to play more consistent from start to finish.”
In what appears to be an evenly matched group of four in the semifinals, it doesn’t hurt UAlbany’s chances that they have won against UMBC this season, while losing to Vermont (twice) and to Stony Brook.
Marr said one reason he preferred the matchup with UMBC is “for the sole purpose of allowing Stony Brook and Vermont to beat each other up in the other semifinal, then having the quick turnaround for them.
“I think they’re more preparation-type teams, where we can play on the shorter notice. But they’re all good. It doesn’t matter. You still have to win two.”
UAlbany isn’t coming into the tournament on a wave of positive momentum, after throwing in a dud against Vermont.
The troubling part was that the Great Danes’ struggle against the Catamounts was more of a result of mental mistakes than anything else, Marr, not exactly an encouraging sign when you’re on the verge of the playoffs.
Still, it’s no time to hit the panic button.
“We knew things were going south right away when we did not get to our clearing spots,” he said. “We’ve been clearing the ball the same way for 10 years, almost. To go to the wrong spots, that’s a mental error and a sure sign that we weren’t really ready to play.
“Full moon on Tuesday night, who knows what we were thinking. Yeah, it’s disappointing. You don’t want to play poorly towards the end of the season, but at the same time, it’s one day, we know what we’re capable of and we just need to turn it around and be more mentally focused and ready to play on Thursday. That’s it. We can’t change how we played that day now, so we just have to learn from it. We talk about wins and lessons, take lessons from it and move on.”
“We’re prepared for anything they throw at us,” Patterson said. “We’ve had a good week of practice. Coach has been on us. We know what’s at stake, and we’re going to come ready to play come Thursday.”
PATTERSON, KOZAR MAKE FIRST TEAM
Patterson and senior defenseman Michael Kozar were named to the America East All-Conference First Team on Wednesday.
Patterson, who was also named to the AE All-Academic First Team with a 3.86 GPA, leads the conference with 33 assists.
Kozar also made the All-Academic Team, with a 3.92 GPA in business administration.
Great Danes named to the Second Team included Steven Kunz, Jake Piseno, Graydon Hogg and Alex Burgmaster, who also made the All-Academic Team with a 3.85 in human biology.