It’s all about attitude now. That chip on the shoulder comes in very handy at this time of year.
After knocking off the top-ranked team in the country in the opening round of the NCAA tournament Saturday in Baltimore, the University at Albany men’s lacrosse team has its sights set on the ultimate prize.
The Great Danes defeated Loyola, 13-6, and advanced to take on Notre Dame Saturday at Hofstra at 2:30 p.m. in the NCAA quarterfinals.
UAlbany’s berth in the elite eight may be a huge surprise to some, but not to the Great Danes themselves.
Just ask senior midfielder Tim Cox, a former Daily Gazette newspaper boy and Schenectady High School standout.
“Saturday night, we were having a great time and trying to let the win sink in,” he said. “But the best thing for us is to put all the excitement behind us and get back to business. We have a lot more confidence now, and that’s the way we’re playing — with confidence.”
Despite a long storm delay against the heavily favored Greyhounds, the 12-5 Great Danes dominated the entire game and held high-powered Loyola, the 2012 national champion and ranked No. 1 in both major polls, to just six goals.
“When we heard that buzzer for the rain delay, some of the guys were thinking it was a bad omen, but we knew we just had to stay focused,” said Cox. “Both teams had to deal with the break. Then some of the guys were having trouble cramping up, so it was important for them to stay hydrated. For other guys, it was important to get a little break from the game and start over again.”
UAlbany goalie Blaze Riorden had perhaps the best game of his career in one of the biggest matchups in program history.
“It was a total team effort on Saturday, and it was a great win,” he said. “We really believed in ourselves. We didn’t really care who we played.
“It was true that the rain kind of stopped our momentum, but it gave us time to digest what was going on. It was definitely a very satisfying feeling.”
UAlbany head coach Scott Marr has guided the Great Danes to six NCAA tournament berths, but he admitted that Saturday’s victory was special.
“Any time you beat the No. 1 team in the country, it’s always special, but to do it at their place in the NCAA tournament was something else,” he said. “It’s funny, but all the big wins we’ve had in our program have been on the road, like the wins at Johns Hopkins and Syracuse. We have a lot of confidence in ourselves.”
Marr realizes that for most people, UAlbany, the nation’s top scoring team, is simply a scoring machine, but he said there is really much more to the Great Danes than the amazing Thompson trio — Lyle, his brother Miles, and their cousin Ty.
“What people don’t understand is that the way we play inflates our defensive numbers,” he said. “We score so often, and we play at such a pace, that there are bound to be a lot of goals scored against us. But when it counts, we can play very good defense, and I think it showed against Loyola.”
Lyle Thompson, a junior, leads the nation in scoring with 122 points on 48 goals and 74 assists. He’s scored more than 100 points in back-to-back seasons, and his point total this year is the best single-season campaign in NCAA history.
Miles Thompson, a senior, adds 79 goals and 36 assists for 115 points, and he is within reach of the NCAA record for most goals in a season.
Ty Thompson, also a senior, adds 39 goals and 12 assists for 69 points.
“We know what we’re all about,” said Marr. “We were very prepared for Loyola, and we will be very prepared for Notre Dame. They are an outstanding team, very athletic and well coached. The good thing is that they play an up-tempo kind of game, just like us, so hopefully, we will be able to play our kind of game.”
The sixth-ranked Fighting Irish, who defeated Harvard, 13-5, in the opening round, are 10-5. Their balanced scoring attack is paced by Matt Kavanagh (32-30-62), Conor Doyle (28-12-40), John Scioscia (25-4-29) and Sergio Perkovic (21-4-25).
The goalkeeping duties have been shared by Shane Doss (8.53 goals-against average) and Connor Kelly (10.43).