ALBANY — Tehoka Nanticoke will play Saturday against UMass Lowell.
Frankly, the University at Albany men’s lacrosse team needs him.
But it also needs more than a return to form from its star sophomore for it to right itself.
“It starts with everybody doing their part,” UAlbany head coach Scott Marr said after Friday’s practice at Tom & Mary Casey Stadium, where the Great Danes will start America East Conference play 4 p.m. Saturday against UMass Lowell.
Nanticoke didn’t play last Saturday in UAlbany’s loss to Maryland, a decision Marr said he made on his own after Nanticoke had been unable to play in the previous Saturday’s loss at Cornell because of an eligibility issue stemming from a social-media post the star had made. Marr said Friday that Nanticoke would “certainly” play against UMass Lowell.
“Yup,” Marr said. “He’ll be in the lineup, for sure.”
Despite not playing in two games, Nanticoke is UAlbany’s third-leading scorer in goals with six and total points with eight a year after accumulating 82 points. In the week of practice after Nanticoke didn’t play against Maryland, Marr said the Great Danes “ironed some things out” regarding their lacking chemistry on the offensive end of the field. The coach acknowledged Friday that the Great Danes had struggled to incorporate Nanticoke — who missed the fall semesters and practices for “personal reasons” — through their 1-4 start to the season.
“[Despite] him missing so much time in the fall and everything, we thought it would be a little quicker that we’d get him acclimated,” Marr said. “But, this week, we’ve done some different things with him as well, and gotten him acclimated a little bit better in our team offense.”
Nanticoke, as has mostly been the case this season, was not made available for comment after Friday’s practice to reporters. The sophomore worked with the first-team offense during the workout, and Marr credited the sophomore for his work ethic during the last week of practices.
“He’s been great,” Marr said. “He’s practiced hard, and he’s fitting more into our team offense.”
As a whole, the Great Danes have struggled to fit in alongside each other this season.
“Our main objective [this week] has been to find our identity,” UAlbany junior Nate Siekierski said.
After winning once in five tries, they realize winning their conference is likely the only way they advance into this year’s NCAA tournament after making it to the national semifinals in 2018.
“This is a whole new season, and this is our path to making the tournament,” UAlbany senior Noah Taylor said. “If we win our conference, we go to the tournament. Period.”
“We’re excited to get it started, for sure,” Marr said. “It’s been a tough start in the sense of our record and just some outside things happening. We’re just ready to put some things behind us and start fresh with our conference, and get off to a 1-0 start.”
UMass Lowell is 3-3 on the season, a record that includes an overtime loss to Siena College. UAlbany’s lone win heading into Saturday’s conference opener came on the road against Drexel.
“But what’s done is in the past. We can’t do anything about it. So we have to go into this one with the right mindset,” Siekierski said. “We’re not out for the count. We’re always fighters. We’re not done. We still have a lot to do, and we know we can do it. We’re fighters.”