LOUDONVILLE — The goal is to start “building a dynasty.”
That sounds lofty, and members of the Siena College men’s lacrosse program know that.
But first-year Siena head coach Liam Gleason played for, and coached under, University at Albany head coach Scott Marr as he built the Great Danes from a Division I newcomer to a national power. That means Gleason has seen the incredible amount of work that goes into building a championship-level program, but also that it’s possible to do that in the Capital Region.
“We have all the pieces here to get to that level,” Gleason said Wednesday after his team’s practice. “That’s definitely our goal — to be national ranked, to be talked about the way Albany’s talked about, to play at that high level and attract that kind of talent.”
Siena scrimmages the Great Danes 5 p.m. Friday at UAlbany’s Tom & Mary Casey Stadium. Admission is free to the scrimmage, one Gleason wants to use to provide his team with the chance to see how much work is ahead of them to reach an elite level.
“I’m really excited. A lot of people out there don’t really know how good [UAlbany is] going to be this year,” Gleason said of the Great Danes, who lost several stars from last season’s team that advanced to the national semifinals. “There’s a lot of good pieces there. So, for us, it’s going to be a great test.”
Siena already had two quality tests this preseason with scrimmages against Harvard and Stony Brook. Coming off a 3-9 season, Gleason’s top assignment since he was hired last June after serving as a UAlbany assistant for the last seven seasons was to rebuild the culture around the Siena program.
“We have a lot of fun in practice,” Gleason said. “It’s a great, positive energy, and I think that’s just kind of built our guys’ confidence up [so] that they’re playing loose. They’re having a lot of fun.”
That’s how his players see it, too.
“Everyone’s having fun,” Siena senior Mike Reilly said. “Laughing. Really getting after it.”
That camaraderie is what the Saints want to use to their advantage when their 2019 season starts Feb. 16 against Hobart.
“Everybody’s buying in,” Siena sophomore Nick Pepe said. “We’re going to rely on each other to get through the mistakes or any adversity that we’re going to go through in a season.”
Siena has not posted a winning season since the 2014 campaign in which it won the MAAC championship, and the Saints were picked to finish in sixth place out of eight teams in this year’s MAAC Preseason Coaches’ Poll. Gleason said that positioning is “absolutely fair” given the program’s recent run of losing seasons.
“Until we start [winning] in the conference,” Gleason said, “that’s where we deserve to be.”
Where the Saints are right now? Gleason said he’s confident they’ve taken necessary steps during the offseason and preseason to show immediate improvement.
“I feel great with where we’re at,” Gleason said.