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UAlbany's offense begins with Ierlan

UAlbany's offense begins with Ierlan

Freshman one of the best faceoff men in the country
UAlbany's offense begins with Ierlan
TD Ierlan’s domination on faceoffs was a large reason why UAlbany beat North Carolina last weekend.
Photographer: Peter R. Barber/Gazette Photographer

ALBANY — It’s not quite a revenge tour. TD Ierlan is too nice for that.

But, yeah, the UAlbany men’s lacrosse freshman faceoff specialist has noticed that UAlbany’s schedule has included several programs that once recruited him.

“It feels like I took a visit to a bunch of the schools we’ve played,” Ierlan said. “But they all passed on me.”

Maryland, UAlbany’s opponent in Sunday’s quarterfinals of the NCAA tournament, was one of the schools Ierlan had an interest in as a prep lacrosse player at Victor. 

Ierlan said he’s happy that he ended up at UAlbany — “Things worked out for the best for me,” he said — and understands that other programs just made other players more of a priority than him in their recruitment.

So there are no grudges, he swears.

But . . .  

“It’s always good to play those teams and try to show those schools they made the wrong choice,” Ierlan said.

Ierlan’s done that nearly all season — and could be a difference-maker again this weekend. The freshman is second in the country in faceoff winning percentage at 72.5 percent, and went 16 of 27 on faceoffs earlier this season in the Great Danes’ 12-11 loss to Maryland.

“He was really good on film,” Maryland head coach John Tillman said. “He was as advertised in the game.”

“He’s the biggest asset on our team,” UAlbany junior midfielder Kyle McClancy said. “He takes so much pressure off our defense and gives us so many chances to score.”

Typically, Ierlan does his job and then quickly exits the field, a FOGO — “face off, get off” — in the truest sense. He began developing his expertise for the role in high school, right around the time he was also developing into a state-level wrestler.

Ierlan finished in third place in the state tournament as a 160-pound senior to cap a high school career that included more than 200 career wins. Wrestling started as his primary sport, and he often spent free time training with Hilton’s Yianni Diakomihalis, a current high school senior — and a New York prep wrestling legend who won four state championships and a state-record 210 consecutive matches.

“I think I was with him more than my parents half the time during wrestling season,” Ierlan said.

Time spent wrestling also helped Ierlan with his lacrosse craft. There are similar physical demands between wrestling and being a faceoff specialist, but Ierlan said wrestling most helped him with the mental aspect of the hand-to-hand combat involved in faceoffs.

“It’s really uncomfortable for a lot of people, but I think because of my [wrestling] background, I’m used to being down there and I’m more comfortable with it,” Ierlan said. “I can stay down there longer.”  

Since going 13 of 29 against Yale, Ierlan has been dominant. The freshman has won 88 of 106 (83.0 percent) of faceoffs in the Great Danes’ last four games.

“We feel good every time TD steps on the field that we can win the faceoff,” UAlbany head coach Scott Marr said.

Ierlan likely represents eighth-seeded UAlbany’s top threat against No. 1 Maryland this weekend at Delaware Stadium. As a team, Maryland has only won 49.5 percent of its faceoffs.

But Marr said there’s no extra pressure Sunday on Ierlan. If the freshman wins half his faceoffs, Marr said that’ll signify a job well done for Ierlan.

He’d like to do more than that, though, for the UAlbany coaching staff that showed the most interest in him back when he was trying to find a college team.

“They’re one of the few schools that really gave me a chance,” Ierlan said. “I’m just hoping to prove them right.”

Reach Gazette Sportswriter Michael Kelly at 395-3109, mkelly@dailygazette.net or @ByMichaelKelly on Twitter. 

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