ALBANY — Arms extended and a smile on his face, University at Albany men’s lacrosse head coach Scott Marr waited to gain the attention of the Johns Hopkins senior.
And, for more than a few seconds, the head coach waited as his son Kyle Marr first embraced UAlbany assistant coach Merrick Thomson, an idol and past coach for the younger Marr.
“Hey, Merrick’s my guy, too,” a laughing Kyle Marr later explained.
Saturday saw four teams meet at UAlbany for fall ball scrimmages, with Army and Vermont joining UAlbany and Johns Hopkins. In past falls, UAlbany had traveled to Baltimore to take part in scrimmages, but Johns Hopkins head coach Dave Pietramala — a former college teammate of Scott Marr at Johns Hopkins — came up with the idea for UAlbany to host this year’s event so Kyle Marr could get a chance to play at his father’s school.
“He thought this would be nice if we could do it in Albany,” Scott Marr said. “It was really all his idea.”
“And it was awesome to get back home, to get back upstate,” said Kyle Marr, a 2014 Shenendehowa graduate who grew up in Clifton Park.
Saturday’s scrimmages were played on grass fields next to Tom & Mary Casey Stadium.
“That was neat. It’s sentimental,” said Scott Marr, who pointed to a nearby grassy area as his eyes welled. “That’s the first field [Kyle Marr] ever played on. He was 4 years old. That was his first camp.”
Kyle Marr grew up going to his father’s camps at UAlbany and tagging along to practices for the Great Danes.
“I really ran all around here for my whole childhood,” Kyle Marr said.
Now, Kyle Marr is a senior star for Johns Hopkins. As a junior, Kyle Marr was an honorable mention USILA All-American and led his team in goals with 41.
UAlbany senior Matt Perla often had the assignment of covering Kyle Marr during the scrimmage between the teams. Perla said there was no extra pressure in defending his coach’s son — “But if you can get an extra [check] in there, that never hurts,” he joked — but Kyle Marr kept him plenty busy.
“It was definitely fun just because Kyle is such a great player,” Perla said. “He’s one of the best players in the country, so it was a great challenge.”
As both programs advanced in last year’s postseason, UAlbany and Johns Hopkins almost met in a real game. That didn’t come to fruition as the Great Danes advanced for the first time to the national semifinals, but along the way, Scott Marr was able to work around his team’s schedule to attend several of his son’s games.
“That was just awesome,” Kyle Marr said. “It was pretty cool for him and my mom [Traci] to come down and watch — and not just for me. It was cool so he could come back to his alma mater and then also get to experience all of that as a parent.”
The weekend’s busy schedule didn’t allow Kyle Marr the opportunity to head to his home, but his cheering section Saturday included plenty of family and friends.
“It’s a pretty big squad here for me and my dad,” Kyle Marr said.
UAlbany’s fall scrimmages were part of a series of events around the country in connection with the HEADstrong Foundation, an organization that assists those affected by cancer, and raises awareness and funding for research. The organization was founded by former Hofstra athlete Nick Colleluori, who passed away in 2006 from non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.
As part of the event, a “hero of the day” was honored, and UAlbany’s choice was JP Honsinger of Clifton Park, a 15-year-old who has Niemann Pick Type C disease. Honsinger has become a fixture around the UAlbany men’s lacrosse program since he was diagnosed in 2013, and first started coming to the team’s practices and games.
“He’s been with us since 2013 and we have a really close relationship with his family,” Scott Marr said.
Jay Honsinger, JP’s dad, said the family has traveled as far as Denver to watch the Great Danes in recent years.
“It’s five years later, and we’re still at all the games,” said Jay Honsinger, whose son is also a regular at UAlbany’s men’s basketball and football games. “JP always liked sports, and lacrosse in particular.”
As part of his hero-of-the-day status, JP Honsinger presented Nick Colleluori Award medals to a player on each of the day’s participating teams. UAlbany’s winner was senior Sean Eccles.
Work to do
On the field, an inexperienced Great Danes team struggled at times, but also showed improvement in action against Johns Hopkins and Army.
“All we talked about before these games was about their attitudes and their effort, and how hard we were going to play,” Marr said. “We wanted to compete. We weren’t worried about scores or end results. There’s no trophies today. This was about giving everyone an opportunity.”
UAlbany played without several significant offensive players. Eccles and junior Mitch Laffin did not play because of lower-body injuries, while sophomore Tehoka Nanticoke is not with the team this fall.
“We still really are just at the beginning stages of where we are, but we need to start finding that identity,” Marr said.
After playing tentative against Johns Hopkins, Marr liked the assertiveness his team showed against Army.
“We played hard,” Marr said. “We made progress with that just within today.”