Some of the worst moments of the season for the UAlbany men’s lacrosse team have come against Vermont.
If the Great Danes are to enjoy their best moment, it will have to come against Vermont.
The teams will meet at 10 a.m. Saturday at UMBC in Catonsville, Maryland, in the championship game of the America East tournament (ESPNU).
The Catamounts have beaten the Great Danes 14-12 and 16-14, the latter coming last week in a clunker for UAlbany to close the regular season. The Great Danes shook that off and took care of top-seeded UMBC in the semifinals on Thursday, but face their nemesis for a chance to advance to the NCAA tournament.
Prior to this season, the last meeting between the two was in the 2019 AE tournament, when Vermont scored the last four goals of the game to win 13-9.
Based on Thursday’s result, the Great Danes could be hitting their stride at the right time — and they’ll need to be to top a team that seems to have UAlbany’s number in recent years.
“Just looking to play our game and put 60 minutes on the game, and I think we can beat anybody,” graduate student attack Jakob Patterson said. “Just looking to focus on ourselves, and can’t wait to play on Saturday.”
“Saturday, you have to [compete for 60 minutes],” head coach Scott Marr said. “Saturday, if you don’t, whoever you’re playing — unless they play poorly — if you don’t come ready to play and get as close to 60 minutes on a championship day, you’re most likely going out as the bridesmaid. We’re going to give it our all.”
Both semifinals had on-off toggle switch elements to them.
UAlbany never trailed and led UMBC 7-1 late in the first quarter, but was held scoreless in the second quarter and had to make big plays in the last three minutes to pull out a 14-12 win. In the other semifinal, Vermont trailed Stony Brook 5-2 after the first quarter, then held the Seawolves to just one goal the rest of the way, except for what proved to be a meaningless one with 50 seconds left in a 10-7 win for the Catamounts.
Besides executing important plays when they mattered most, the Great Danes got production from a wide range of players. Marr has been touting the Great Danes’ depth since the preseason, and this would be a good time for it to pay dividends.
“The key to us early in the game, too, was we rolled all of our midfield lines,” he said after the UMBC game. “We played all eight of our middies early, we played six poles [defensemen] in the beginning of the game, we substituted Logan Tucker on attack a little bit for Corey [Yunker], so we got guys involved in the game early, so that gave us a lot of energy, too. Different guys were contributing.”
UMBC head coach Ryan Moran said UAlbany is a difficult matchup for anyone because of what the Great Danes do off the ball.
“They are a little bit tricky to defend because they’re never really dodging,” he said with a chuckle. “Like, they’re never sprinting when they dodge, they’re always leaning into you, and you’re like, do you go, do you not go? If you go, sometimes there’s still enough to pick you apart and feed it inside. If you don’t go, they just run by you and score.
“So when you watch some of the game, you’re like, ‘How does that happen?’ But they’re good at creating some indecision within the defense. And give them a lot of credit, that’s kind of their identity: they share the ball well, and they run well.”
The pivot point in the championship game between UAlbany (No. 4 seed, 8-4 overall) and Vermont (No. 2 seed, 8-4 overall) likely will be the faceoff.
Freshman Regan Endres has done a terrific job carrying the load most of the season for UAlbany, and was 13 for 16 in the second half against UMBC to turn it around after a 5 for 13 showing in the first half.
Against Vermont, though, the Catamounts’ Tommy Burke has had the upper hand in both games.
He won 17 of 27 in the March game, and 23 of 34 last Wednesday for a total of 40 of 61 (66%).
“We’ve got to do a better job with the faceoffs,” Marr said. “That was one area where we thought we really matched up well with UMBC, whereas we don’t match up quite as well with Vermont or Stony Brook. That’ll be the thing we’ll really have to figure out on Saturday, is get the ball.”