Syracuse. The name still carries weight that — for once in seemingly forever — the record doesn’t.
Because of that, the atmosphere for Thursday night’s men’s lacrosse game between the Orange (4-5) and UAlbany (3-5), when the Great Danes will host for the first time in the team’s 20th meeting, was predicted on Tuesday to be “electric,” “special” and a lot of other adjectives.
Gates will open at 4 p.m. for the 7 p.m. game. There will be tailgating, a band, lawn games, appearances by local and lacrosse-related businesses, as well as a halftime fireworks show, youth team scrimmages and a special recognition of former UAlbany players Lyle, Miles and Ty Thompson.
It’s also supposed to rain throughout the day and night. It most likely won’t deter fans, as UAlbany coach Scott Marr fondly recalled his 2017 team’s NCAA Tournament victory over North Carolina before 6,472 fans in a driving rainstorm.
“We had 7,000 people and nobody really left, and that was a monsoon,” Marr said. “We have dedicated fans. Being here for 22 years and seeing the growth and progress of lacrosse in this area, just how much people enjoy it and how much people are into it, we’re really fortunate in that regard.”
Marr was understanding about all his team’s trips to the Carrier Dome in Syracuse, but he also said the brewing rivalry shows the teams have grown closer in skill.
“We’re 22 years old [as Division I], we’re babies in this,” Marr said. “They’ve been around for so long. The fact they are coming here is great for the sport, for this area. I’m grateful they’re coming here, for sure, but I think we’ve been on the same playing field for the last decade or so. You look back on our games, I think we have seven [losses] of less than three goals, three overtime games, a couple one-goal games in there too. It’s certainly a good rivalry.”
The connections run deep. UAlbany’s roster has a number of players from the Rochester, Finger Lakes and Syracuse areas that grew up going to Syracuse games in the Dome, including senior defenseman Tanner Hay.
“Nobody wants to go to the Dome and play Syracuse, so having them come here, we’re definitely looking forward to it. Everybody’s fired up,” Hay said.
Hay’s brother, Camden, a sophomore attackman, gave an example of how big the game is on the UAlbany campus.
“Actually this morning I got an email that says, ‘Don’t forget, Thursday, Albany/Syracuse, 7 o’clock.’ It’s all over the place right now. They’ve been shooting promo stuff for it, and there should be a lot of people for it,” said Camden Hay, who reminded the gathering that even though Syracuse may not be nationally ranked in the polls, “They’re still capable of doing stuff like they’ve done in the past.”
The Orange have Albany-area connections also. Sophomore attackman Liam Ferris is a Bethlehem graduate, while sophomore defenseman Nick Fraterrigo and senior midfielder Lucas Quinn are Niskayuna graduates.
Marr has no shortage of connections to the Syracuse coaching staff. He played with assistant coach Dave Pietramala at Johns Hopkins University in the late 1980s, played against head coach Gary Gait when he was dominating the midfield for the Orange, and coached volunteer assistant coach TD Ierlan for two seasons. Pietramala also coached Marr’s son, Kyle, at Johns Hopkins.
“Talk about bringing Syracuse to Albany, but now you’re bringing two of the best players ever [Gait and Pietramala] to coach on our sideline, it should be a lot of fun,” Scott Marr said. “Obviously I lived with Dave and was teammates with Dave for three years, and Gary and I have been friends since we played in college. Pretty cool ties.”