ALBANY — The age of the Syracuse and UAlbany men’s lacrosse programs aside, the message emanating from the Great Danes is they’re actually pretty similar this year.
Syracuse is 4-5 and only in the “also receiving votes” section of the USILA poll and USA Lacrosse Magazine poll. It’s coming off a subpar 22-6 loss to Notre Dame last Saturday and is undoubtedly looking for redemption.
UAlbany is 3-5 and had to work hard last Saturday to deliver a 13-12 win over UMass Lowell, a team it has never lost to. The teams meet at 7 p.m. Thursday at Frank & Mary Casey Stadium.
“They’re obviously going to want to come out swinging after being pummeled by Notre Dame,” UAlbany sophomore attackman Camden Hay said of the Orange. “We’re looking to do the same. After UMass Lowell, I don’t think we were all that happy with how that ended, and I think it’s just going to be a battle, straight up, from the first whistle.”
As senior defenseman Tanner Hay, Camden’s older brother, said, “The ranking and no votes, it doesn’t affect how we prepare for them because we think we’re a top-20 team and we’re not getting votes. We could be there too. Especially with the way college lacrosse has been this year — anybody’s day can be anybody’s game. We’re just trying to get better at our stuff.”
That stuff includes eliminating mistakes, sharpening its transition game and moving the ball effectively on offense. Twelve of the Great Danes’ 13 goals against UMass Lowell were assisted.
“We’re not a real strong one-on-one, dodging-type team, so we need to rely on ball movement and moving off the ball and finding the open man,” UAlbany coach Scott Marr said. “Our last two or three games [goals] have gone into double digits, and same with the assist side, so that’s a positive. My father always said the team with over 50 percent of their goals assisted has a good chance of winning.”
Defensively, Marr hasn’t made a decision about who will start in goal among Jack VanValkenburgh, Will Ramos and Tommy Heller. VanValkenburgh is coming off his first start, necessitated by usual starter Heller’s separated shoulder. And Ramos just received a waiver to play after missing the first seven games due to academic reasons. Heller was scheduled to practice Wednesday, and Marr said he’ll be confident with whomever gets the nod.
Another thing UAlbany feels good about is its zone defense.
“I just think it plays really well to our team because we have a very long, athletic defense,” Tanner Hay said. “When we’re in zone, we’re able to take up a lot of space to play two guys with one of our guys.”
Syracuse, which has a 17-2 edge in its series with UAlbany, has suffered from a number of injuries this season, but still has plenty of talent. Among its best players are midfielders Tucker Dordevic (33 goals, 11 assists) and Brendan Curry (21 goals, nine assists).
“Well, they have one of the best players in the country,” Marr said. “I mean Dordevic is just ridiculous — change of direction, both hands, he’s really the leader of their team. But they’re great athletes. This is an ACC team. We watched them at their best against Duke, we watched them at their worst against Notre Dame and we watched them in the middle against Stony Brook. Stony Brook’s more of a comparable spot for us because obviously we played Stony Brook.”
UAlbany has had 17 players score its 81 goals this season. Corey Yunker has 13, and Graydon Hogg and Camden Hay each have 12.