ALBANY — To stay, or not to stay?
For fans who spent more than three hours waiting through torrential rain, whipping winds and cracks of lightning for the Premier Lacrosse League to get its games back underway Friday night at UAlbany’s Tom & Mary Casey, that was the question.
For Dave and Chelsi Winquist of Corning, who made the trip for Friday’s games with their young sons Asher and Noah, it wasn’t a question at all.
“The lacrosse goes on,” Dave Winquist said. “Let’s play.”
The touring PLL’s return to Albany was greeted by nasty weather that left fans scrambling out of the stands and sent debris rolling across the field at Tom & Mary Casey Stadium, causing a delay of nearly 3 1/2 hours on the first of three straight days of games.
The PLL, a touring pro lacrosse league, opened a three-day weekend of action at UAlbany to an enthusiastic crowd, but the stands were emptied less than 40 minutes after the night’s opening contest between the Redwoods and Whipsnakes began with former UAlbany star TD Ierlan waking up the echoes of his tenure with the Great Danes by winning a faceoff that quickly led to the game’s first goal.
There was less than a quarter-and-a-half of action before the field was cleared just after 6:35 p.m., with torrential rain and high winds wreaking havoc on the sidelines while persistent thunder and lightning exacerbated the wait. Fans were told to clear the bleachers, taking shelter either in their cars or at SEFCU Arena.
Or, if you were the Winquists — who only had tickets for Friday’s doubleheader — leave the UAlbany campus entirely for a pizza run.
“They [Asher and Noah] kept begging to come back,” Chelsi Winquist said. “They were going, ‘I hope they play, I hope they play.’ They’re ready to play, so we’re excited.”
Some didn’t stick it out. Cecilia and Henry Kramer of Walden had planned on holding out for at least the conclusion of Redwoods-Whipsnakes, but ultimately decided against it, citing a long walk back to their car and a 90-minute drive home.
For UAlbany men’s lacrosse coach Scott Marr, who watched Friday’s action while shielded from the rain in one of the Casey Stadium suites, the scene outside was a serious callback to when a capacity crowd stuck it out through a downpour in his team’s 2017 NCAA tournament home game against North Carolina.
“Everything is the same — minus the lightning,” Marr said. “But watching the downpour through the lights, it definitely gave you the feeling of that night and hoping it was going to pass.”
A far sparser crowd was let back in at 9:40 p.m., and the game finally resumed at 9:59, with league officials saying that the plan as of press time was to complete both the Redwoods-Whipsnakes game and the nightcap of the doubleheader between the Archers and Chaos on Friday night.
The first game finally ended at 11:15 p.m. with the Whipsnakes pulling out a 14-12 victory.
About 15 minutes after the delay began, thunder and lightning reached the area, with rain following close behind. High winds and sheets of rain blew on-field advertising all over the place, with the protective netting and shot clock behind the south end zone knocked over — among other signage — and one advertising stand rolling across the entire width of the field diagonally.
The delay persisted as league officials needed to wait 30 minutes following the last lightning strike to resume activity.
After more than two hours with no activity, players from the Whipsnakes were briefly back out on the adjacent John Fallon Field to warm up just after 8:45 p.m., but quickly returned to the locker room.
HOMECOMING CUT SHORT
Ierlan was the first of a number of players with UAlbany or Capital Region connections to take the field during the PLL weekend.
The record-setting faceoff specialist got a warm reception from the Casey Stadium crowd — including at least one extremely loud “whoo!” from a spectator in the second deck — with no traces of animosity after Ierlan transferred following his sophomore year in 2018, when he played a vital role in the Great Danes’ run to the program’s first appearance in the national semifinals.
However, Ierlan didn’t finish the night, as he left the game in the second half with an injury and did not return.
Three other former UAlbany standouts — attackman Connor Fields, goalie Blaze Riorden and long-stick midfielder Troy Reh — were scheduled to play in the Archers-Chaos game to wrap up Friday night’s action.
Fans wearing Fields jerseys — both from UAlbany and Archers — were well-represented in the Casey Stadium stands early Friday evening. The former Great Danes star, who graduated in 2018 second on the NCAA’s all-time scoring list, is still featured on the scrolling video board that greets people at the campus entrance along Western Avenue.
In Saturday’s action, Great Danes icon Lyle Thompson is set to play in Albany for the first time since the 2015 America East championship game during his senior season, which he ended as the NCAA’s all-time leading scorer. Thompson and his Cannons team — which also includes former Shaker High School standout Stephen Rehfuss — will face a Chrome team featuring former UAlbany goalie JD Colarusso in the day’s second game at 7 p.m.
“I’m so proud that I’ve been a part of their progress,” Marr said. “Them playing in this league and taking lacrosse to another level has just been awesome.”
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