University at Albany junior attack Lyle Thompson is a marked man.
But he won’t be the only one trying to live up to lofty expectations on this year’s extremely talented Great Danes lacrosse team.
The preseason hype has been extensive. Thompson, a Native American who led the nation in scoring last year with 50 goals and 63 assists, came within one point of setting the national record for points. He was one of five finalists for the Tewaarton Trophy as the national player of the year, and was recently selected as both the Inside Lacrosse Preseason Division I Player of the Year and the LaCrosse Magazine DI Preseason Player of the Year.
In addition, all three Thompsons — Lyle, Miles and Ty — are on the cover of this month’s Inside Lacrosse Magazine. The Thompson trio each received All-America honors and combined for 147 goals and 254 points a year ago.
“Obviously, our goal is to win the national championship,” said Lyle Thompson. “We hold each other accountable every day. With all of our offensive players back, our goalie back, an improved defense and much better face-off play, we should be much better. I think our chemistry is the biggest thing.”
Chemistry is indeed the Great Danes’ strongest attribute, and much of that comes from the Thompson family. Lyle and Miles Thompson are brothers, while Ty is their cousin.
“I have more to prove this year. Last year, I was a surprise to just about every team,” said Lyle Thompson. “But last year, I had switched from midfield to attack. Now, I think many teams will know more what to expect from us.”
Lyle Thompson said he and the rest of the Thompsons, all of whom have unbelievable stick control, try to keep things simple.
“We’re a fun team. Every game, our goal is to have fun,” he said. “We also want to play smarter this year. There is no doubt that we have a lot more chemistry, because we are family. We like to play in front of big crowds, and we like to entertain the fans.”
UAlbany lacrosse coach Scott Marr understands that the expectations are over the top for his team, which finished 13-5 and won the America East Conference title last year. The Great Danes are ranked 10th in the USILA D1 Coaches Poll and 11th in the Warrior D1 Media Poll.
“We can’t wait for the season to begin,” Marr said. “Ever since we lost in the NCAA tournament out in Denver, we’ve been thinking about this season. This is the last year we will have all three Thompsons together. I definitely feel we are improved defensively. We talk about improving our team all the time. We want to finish stronger than we did a year ago.”
Last year, the Great Danes beat perennial national powers Syracuse and Johns Hopkins on the road. The Danes begin their season Feb. 16 against Syracuse in the Carrier Dome.
“Certainly, having the Thompsons on your team makes you feel very comfortable, because if you need a goal, you can get one,” Marr said. “The chemistry and continuity they have together can’t be replicated. They’ve played together all of their lives. It’s a unique situation.”
Marr said having goalie Blaze Riorden (59.1 save percentage) back, as well as several strong face-off specialists, will make the Great Danes even tougher to beat.
“I have a special group here,” said Marr. “We have another strong non-conference schedule, and I think that’s important to get us ready and get us prepared.”
16 — At Syracuse, 4; 22 — DREXEL, 1.
1 — HARVARD, 12; 8 — at UMass, 1; 15 — BRYANT, 1; 22 — at Penn State, 1; 25 — CANISIUS, 3; 29 — VERMONT, 7.
4 — at Johns Hopkins, 7; 6 — at Hartford, 1; 12 — STONY BROOK, 7; 19 — at UMBC, 3:30; 22 — SIENA, 7; 26 — BINGHAMTON, 7.
1 — America East Conference semifinals at Stony Brook; 3 — America East Conference finals at Stony Brook.
Home games in CAPS.