ALBANY — More than in any game this season, UAlbany’s offense revolved around junior attackman Connor Fields when the Great Danes took on Maryland a month ago.
Partially, that was because Maryland — UAlbany’s opponent Sunday at Delaware Stadium in the quarterfinals of the NCAA men’s lacrosse tournament — wanted it that way.
“It was definitely their game plan last time to put Connor on an island a little bit and see what he could do,” UAlbany senior midfielder Eli Lasda said.
Fields was individually successful, scoring three goals and dishing five assists — but UAlbany lost 12-11. The Great Danes’ tops-in-the-country offense was held under its season average, only five players scored goals and just three registered assists.
It was an un-UAlbany-like performance — particularly from its starting midfielders, the team’s two-way sources of energy and production. The Great Danes’ starting midfielders — seniors Bennett Drake and Adam Osika, and junior Kyle McClancy — combined to score one goal and register zero assists.
That trio, which has a combined 84 goals and 31 assists this season, knows it needs to play better Sunday for the Great Danes to clinch their first-ever trip in program history to the national semifinals.
“We’ve improved a ton since that game,” McClancy said. “We weren’t moving the ball then as well as we are now, and a lot more guys are getting involved now with our attack.”
That balance needs to continue Sunday, even if the Maryland defense tries to bog down the Great Danes into over-relying on Fields, the team’s Tewaaraton Award finalist.
“We really have to attack them and go after them,” UAlbany head coach Scott Marr said. “We can’t let them dictate how we’re gonna play.”
How UAlbany uses its midfielders is relatively rare within Division I men’s lacrosse. While most teams have midfielders specializing in either offense or defense, the Great Danes’ fast-paced approach takes advantage of their midfielders’ ability to play the full field. What UAlbany gives up in specialization, it gains back in its ability to put opposing teams in unfavorable defensive lineup situations because of the quick switch the Great Danes are able to make from defense to offense.
“There’s not many teams out there now doing that, so we’re more of an old-school team with it,” Osika said. “It’s cool to be one of the last few teams doing that.”
“And this is how we’ve all been playing since we were 10 years old, running up and down the field all game,” McClancy said. “Me, personally, my favorite part of the game is transition, so I love that.”
In general, the eighth-seeded Great Danes have voiced appreciation for their second chance to take on top-seeded Maryland. But to avenge one of its two losses this season, UAlbany knows it has to dictate tempo and flow — and that starts with its talented midfielders.
“We have to play our game,” Drake said.