LOUDONVILLE — A Siena-UAlbany rivalry will be renewed Wednesday night.
For the first time since 2016, the Siena and UAlbany men’s lacrosse programs will meet in a non-conference game. This year’s contest is set for 7 p.m. Wednesday at Tom & Mary Casey Stadium on UAlbany’s campus.
The two Division I programs faced each other from 2009 to 2016 before not playing for several years outside of scrimmages. Liam Gleason, a former Great Danes player and assistant coach for UAlbany head coach Scott Marr, took over the Saints program in 2018 and the two teams had tried to get the local rivalry back on the schedule.
“I’ve been talking to Scotty about it ever since I got the job,” Gleason said Tuesday during a break in the Saints’ practice. “I’ve been on the sideline of this game as an assistant coach for Siena, an assistant coach for Albany, as a player for Albany and this is the first time as the head coach of Siena.”
This year, Gleason and Siena assistant coaches Tim Cox, Derrick Eccles and Mike Russell are UAlbany alumni, while each of Marr’s assistant coaches — Merrick Thomson, John Maloney and Steve Kunz — also previously played for him with the Great Danes.
“I feel like a proud father, in a way,” Marr said to reporters Tuesday. “For these guys to come through the program, and to enjoy it as much as they did, and learn as much they did to move on, and to want to be coaches in the same game and . . . to give back to the game and be a part of it, I’m just really proud.”
Needless to say, there will be similarities in how the coaching staffs handle the game.
“We use a lot of the same calls, the same sub-in calls, the same offensive calls — but, over the years, since we’ve been apart, they look different,” Gleason said. “It might sound like we’re all yelling all the same stuff, but on the field the Xs and Os are a little bit different.”
There are preexisting relationships between some of the players on the teams, too. In the game, Siena midfielder Nick Pepe will take on his younger brother, UAlbany defender Wil Pepe.
“It will be good to see Wil,” Nick Pepe, a Siena graduate student, said. “I haven’t seen him since the season started. Whenever you get the chance to share the field with family, it’s going to be a really special day.”
Besides preparing for UAlbany, Nick Pepe has been busy obtaining tickets for family and friends for the two brothers, both Shaker High School graduates. The game-time temperature is expected to be 33 degrees with a real-feel temperature of 28 degrees, but Nick Pepe expects fans of the two players to brave the cold — and stand out in the crowd.
“My mom already has the split jacket — Siena, UAlbany with [her sons’] numbers [on it],” Pepe said. “I’m sure my dad will come up with something.”
UAlbany (0-2) is seeking its first win of the year while Siena (1-3) is coming off its first win in more than two years. The Saints broke a 13-game losing streak over the weekend, defeating UMass Lowell 14-10 on Sunday.
Gleason will have the extra challenge of seeing if the student can top the teacher in their first-ever non-conference meeting.
“Scott is my biggest mentor, one of my best friends, so to be competing against him it’s going to be a lot of fun,” Gleason said.