ALBANY — Last spring, as the University at Albany men’s lacrosse team prepared for its NCAA tournament quarterfinal game against Maryland, TD Ierlan reflected on the path that led the faceoff specialist from Victor High School to UAlbany.
Only a small number of colleges, Ierlan said, made him a recruiting priority the way UAlbany did.
“They’re one of the few schools that really gave me a chance,” Ierlan said. “I’m just hoping to prove them right.”
Now, a little more than a year later, Ierlan has established himself as the top faceoff specialist in the country.
And, now, Ierlan will use his final two seasons of college eligibility for someone other than the Great Danes.
After rumors swirled early in the week on social media that Ierlan was looking to leave UAlbany and Wednesday’s reports that Ierlan had received his release, UAlbany head coach Scott Marr confirmed Thursday that Ierlan had received his full release and the rising junior plans to transfer.
“Our program appreciates all the positive contributions TD made the last two years,” Marr said Thursday in a text message. “Unfortunately, it just didn’t turn out to be the right fit. We wish him well in the future.”
Why Ierlan at UAlbany is no longer the “right fit” is unclear. Attempts to reach Ierlan Wednesday and Thursday were unsuccessful, and Marr was unwilling to offer up much more about the situation.
“It just wasn’t the right fit for both of us,” Marr said Thursday in a brief phone interview. “It is what it is.”
For two seasons, though, Ierlan and UAlbany made for a perfect fit on the field, as the Great Danes’ high-scoring offense provided Ierlan with ample opportunities to contest faceoffs.
Ierlan’s sophomore year at UAlbany produced the best statistical season for a faceoff specialist in NCAA men’s lacrosse history. In a campaign that saw him named the America East Defensive Player of the Year and a second-team All-American, Ierlan set single-season records for faceoff winning percentage (79.1), ground balls per game (13.4), total faceoffs won (359) and total ground balls (254).
“He’s the most formidable challenge in the country,” UMBC head coach Ryan Moran said of Ierlan midway through the 2018 season. “He’s the most dangerous weapon in college lacrosse right now.”
Ierlan was terrific throughout the Great Danes’ program-best postseason run as a sophomore. Ierlan was named the America East tournament’s Most Outstanding Player after winning 48 of 49 faceoffs in leading UAlbany to its fifth conference tournament championship in the last six years. Then, in the NCAA tournament, Ierlan won 57 of 92 faceoffs — including a 15 of 30 performance against Denver senior Trevor Baptiste, who is widely considered the greatest faceoff specialist in NCAA men’s lacrosse history.
“He’s our guy,” UAlbany senior Kyle McClancy said after the Great Danes won the America East title. “He’s the MVP of this team right now.”
At UAlbany, Ierlan won 682 of 910 faceoffs (74.9 percent) and collected a program-record 456 ground balls. Three times at UAlbany, Ierlan recorded perfect faceoff outings. In 37 games, Ierlan’s faceoff record was 32-4-1.
Wherever Ierlan transfers, the rising junior will be able to play during the 2019 season without sitting out. It’s likely, too, that Ierlan will compete against the Great Danes next season. Top rumored destinations for Ierlan have been Cornell — where his younger brother, Chayse, is committed to play starting next season — and Syracuse. Against those teams this past season, Ierlan dominated in a pair of UAlbany wins. Ierlan won 16 of 21 faceoffs against Syracuse and 24 of 24 against Cornell.
“It’s just unreal,” Marr said early in the 2018 season of Ierlan’s ability. “He’s just tireless in his work ethic and preparing himself for games.”
Throughout Ierlan’s two years at UAlbany, Marr routinely gushed about the player’s game-changing ability and his toughness.
“He’s a warrior,” Marr often said of Ierlan.
Ierlan would reference Marr as a “second father.” On the night Ierlan won this year’s America East Defensive Player of the Year award, Ierlan voiced his appreciation for his coach in those terms.
“Coach Marr, as much as he impacts the lacrosse community and my lacrosse career, I think what he really affects is people off the field,” Ierlan said. “That’s way more.”
Even before Ierlan’s departure, UAlbany faced a tough offseason after losing its most successful class in program history. Besides leading UAlbany to its first appearance at championship weekend, the Great Danes’ outgoing seniors won a program-best 59 games during their four-year run at UAlbany. That 11-man class included four All-Americans with JD Colarusso, Connor Fields, McClancy and Troy Reh.
Heading into the 2019 season, UAlbany returns five of its top-10 scorers. The Great Danes bring back a number of stars, such as rising sophomore Tehoka Nanticoke, and have a strong class of incoming recruits to help fuel future postseason runs — and Ierlan said after UAlbany’s season-ending defeat against Yale in the national semifinals that the program’s goal was to do more than get back to championship weekend in the years ahead.
“The goal is to get back and win it, though,” Ierlan said. “We’re not satisfied with getting here.”
Getting back to championship weekend, though, will become a much more formidable challenge for the Great Danes without Ierlan, the sport’s top player at its most unique position.
“You can’t win the game without the ball,” Marr said earlier this year of Ierlan’s value to the Great Danes.