Any time Siena and University at Albany meet in an athletic contest, there is an added buzz.
When both teams are having successful seasons, the bar is raised even higher — for both the players, and their fans.
Such is the case tonight at 7, when the Saints (5-0 Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, 8-4 overall) and Great Danes (4-0 America East Conference, 7-5 overall) square off for area men’s Division I lacrosse supremacy at UAlbany’s John Fallon Field.
Siena won last year’s matchup, 10-9, when two of the three members of the prolific Thompson family, brothers Lyle (family matters) and Miles (injury), didn’t play. In the Division I era, UAlbany holds a 9-2 advantage in the all-time series.
UAlbany, which was ranked 10th in the country in a preseason poll, has endured an up-and-down campaign, but the Great Danes still feature the top scoring offense in the nation, averaging 15.33 goals per game.
Lyle Thompson leads all of Division I in assists (55) and points (80), while Miles Thompson is also among the national leaders with an NCAA-best 4.25 goals per game. He has 51 goals and 26 assists. Ty Thompson, the Thompson brothers’ cousin, has contributed 26 goals.
All three Thompsons have been placed on the Tewaaraton Trophy watch list for consideration as the national player of the year.
“You’ve got to be ready against the Thompsons all the time,” said Siena goalie Tommy Cordts, who has a 9.38 goals-allowed average and a save percentage of 53.2. “You must always stay in your five-point stance and keep the weight on the balls of your feet. We are worried about all the Thompsons, but we can’t forget about the rest of their players.”
“We’ll be looking out for the Thompsons, but I don’t feel any pressure individually to try to keep up with them scoring,” said Siena junior captain Richie Hurley, also a Tewaaraton Trophy candidate who is among the national scoring leaders with 24 goals and 35 assists.
Siena head coach John Svec knows all about the Great Danes’ offense. He was an assistant coach at UAlbany from 2001-08.
“We just want to play our own game and not treat this game as bigger than it is,” said Svec. “But I know they will come out flying, and they will play at 100 miles an hour. They will play their best game of the season against us. There’s not only the rivalry at stake, but the playoffs are just around the corner.”
UAlbany head coach Scott Marr expects a competitive game against his local rival.
“They can score, they’ve got an excellent faceoff man, and they’ve got a good goalie,” Marr said. “Hurley runs the show for them. We have to be aware of him at all times. He’s very good. He has an excellent release, on both his shots and his passes.”
Miles Thompson said the Great Danes, who are on a three-game winning streak, are clicking better than they have all season long.
“We were struggling a little bit early with our faceoffs, but now we’re winning more than 50 percent, and that’s all you can ask of your faceoff man,” he said. “We’re getting our middies more involved in our offense now.”
Both UAlbany and Siena received votes in the recent USILA Coaches Poll, and both the coaches and the players from each team were careful not to say anything worthy of a locker room bulletin board.
“We don’t look back at last year,” said Miles Thompson, negating any talk of revenge for the Great Danes.
“It’s a special game because it’s the Capital Cup and a rivalry, but really, it’s just another opponent for us,” said Hurley. “It’s just another chance for us to test ourselves against a quality team.”