SYRACUSE — The questions for the University at Albany men’s lacrosse team ahead of its season opener Saturday at the Carrier Dome centered around how its reworked faceoff unit would fare and how junior Nate Siekierski would do in goal in his first college start.
That was supposed to be the least of the Great Danes’ problems, but lackluster production on that side of the field doomed UAlbany in a 13-5 season-opening loss against Syracuse.
“I just felt we struggled offensively,” UAlbany head coach Scott Marr said. “We didn’t take good, quality shots. I think we missed on some opportunities that we did have.”
UAlbany (0-1) trailed Syracuse (1-1) 4-3 after one quarter, but started the second with three consecutive turnovers.
“So we had three possessions in a row to make it a 4-4 game,” Marr said, “and we just can’t put the ball in the goal.”
Syracuse could, though, and the Orange offered four goals in the first, second and fourth quarters. Meanwhile, UAlbany only scored two goals in the game’s final 48:26, as the Syracuse defense effectively double-teamed UAlbany sophomore star Tehoka Nanticoke, and the Great Danes’ offense sputtered after a solid start.
“I thought it was good, too, that we went to [double-team] him under control,” Syracuse head coach John Desko said of his team’s approach to limiting Nanticoke, who scored two goals Saturday after scoring five against Syracuse a year ago. “You go, and you fly out at him and try to take the ball out of his stick, he’s just going to beat the double-team and get to the goal.”
“I think he stopped moving his feet a little bit and got himself boxed in a couple times, and they did a good job of doubling him,” Marr said of Nanticoke, who declined to speak with reporters after the game. “We’re going to work [with] him on getting away from those doubles this week.”
UAlbany fell behind 8-4 at halftime and never was closer than four in the second half, which saw the Great Danes coaching staff received a pair of conduct penalties in the final minutes after disputing a non-call.
“I just voiced my displeasure over the fact he was giving us penalties after the call was blown,” Marr said.
Siekierski served as the top bright spot for the Great Danes in his first game replacing JD Colarusso, as the junior made 16 saves and looked the part of a steady anchor for UAlbany’s defense.
“He was outstanding,” Marr said.
Meanwhile, sophomore faceoff specialist Austin Jones led his revamped unit to a better day than expected in the Great Danes’ first game without former faceoff specialist TD Ierlan who transferred to Yale in the offseason. Jones won 10 of 16 faceoffs, and the Great Danes won 11 of 21 overall faceoffs.
The rest of UAlbany’s new-to-the-rotation players, though, often struggled in their first time out filling holes left in the lineup by the graduation of the Great Danes’ all-time winningest class of players.
“It’s our first game of the season,” said UAlbany senior Noah Taylor, who had two goals. “We have a long way to go and a lot of our talent is young, so this was their first real-game experience.”
UAlbany entered the game ranked No. 14 in the coaches poll and No. 15 in the media poll, while Syracuse was No. 20 in the media poll and unranked in the coaches poll after it lost its opener 12-9 against Colgate. Off that disappointing loss, Syracuse rebounded against UAlbany on the strength of a six-goal day from senior Bradley Voigt and a five-point showing from sophomore Brendan Curry.
Syracuse also outdid UAlbany 44-24 on ground balls, a stat both head coaches listed before the game as a top priority to win.
“We got worked,” Marr said of the ground-ball disparity.
And, now, UAlbany has to get back to work.
“It’s not the end of our season,” said Marr, whose team plays at Drexel next weekend. “It’s one game that we’re going to learn from and move on.”
UAlbany 3 1 0 1 — 5
Syracuse 4 4 1 4 — 13
UAlbany scoring: Nanticoke 2-0, Patterson 0-1, Casey 0-1, Taylor 2-0, S. Eccles 1-0.
Syracuse scoring: Voigt 6-1, Solomon 1-0, Refuss 0-1, Trimboli 1-1, Curry 2-3, Carlin 1-1, Buttermore 1-0, J. Kim 0-1, Aburn 1-0.
Goalies: UAlbany, Siekierski, 16 saves. Syracuse, Porter, 12 saves; Strang, 2 saves.