ALBANY — Needed that one.
After losing four times in five tries to start its season, the University at Albany men’s lacrosse team started America East Conference play with a 17-11 win Saturday against UMass Lowell, a victory that Great Danes head coach Scott Marr said his team couldn’t do without.
“I definitely felt it was a must-win,” Marr said. “We really had to get back on track and get going in the right direction.”
And UAlbany got going that way with sophomore Tehoka Nanticoke back in a significant role. The team’s top star returned to its lineup after sitting out last weekend’s loss to Maryland, and Nanticoke was one of five Great Danes who produced multiple points in Saturday’s victory at Tom & Mary Casey Stadium.
“We got so many guys involved and that’s our typical offense,” Marr said. “That’s typical Albany offense right there.”
Junior Mitch Laffin scored a career-high seven goals to lead UAlbany, while junior Jakob Patterson added two goals and seven assists. Sophomore Kyle Casey scored three goals and had an assist, while Nanticoke delivered two goals and three assists playing nearly exclusively as an offensive midfielder.
Nanticoke didn’t play in UAlbany’s loss to Maryland the previous Saturday, a benching Marr described as “just a personnel decision made by me.” The previous Saturday against Cornell, Nanticoke had not played because of an eligibility issue stemming from a social-media post the star had made. Two days after that loss to Cornell, Marr had criticized the NCAA for Nanticoke not being able to play, words that led to the NCAA issuing a pair of statements regarding the situation and UAlbany athletic director Mark Benson to “publicly repudiate” Marr’s “unacceptable comments.”
Now more than a week removed from the NCAA-related controversy and with Nanticoke coming off a five-point game, Marr said he thought his program was ready to move past the distractions of the previous weeks and pursue the conference championship it'll likely need to secure a spot in this year's NCAA tournament.
“Yes, I do,” Marr said. “I think we’re moving in the right direction.”
After trailing UMass Lowell (0-1, 3-4) 5-3 early in the second quarter, UAlbany (1-0, 2-4) put together a game-changing 11-1 run that stretched well into the third. During that run, Patterson had a goal and five assists, Nanticoke had two goals and two assists, Laffin had four goals, and Casey had two goals and an assist.
“We wanted to make a statement that we can play,” said Laffin, whose team had lost three consecutive games before topping UMass Lowell. “Those three losses didn’t define us. It wasn’t UAlbany lacrosse.”
“Every game is a must-win, but, especially today, after the three losses in a row,” Patterson said. “It just feels good to get a win as a team today.”
Nanticoke was not made available for comment after Saturday’s game. His coach and teammates said they liked the way the Great Danes’ offense operated with the talented sophomore running onto the field as a midfielder.
“He just draws a lot of attention of the defense,” Patterson said. “If he’s dodging, all the defenders are looking at him, and all we have to do is just play off him, and then once we get the ball, we move it to the next guy and score the goal.”
After its 11-1 run, UAlbany’s lead never dwindled to fewer than six in the final 20:24.
The Great Danes play next Saturday at Binghamton. While the win against UMass Lowell featured a strong 60 minutes of play, Marr said that was set up with one of the Great Danes’ better group of practices.
“Our team,” Marr said, “is really coming together.”
UMass Lowell 2 3 2 4 — 11
UAlbany 2 5 7 3 — 17
UMass Lowell scoring: Do. Giachello 1-0, Lining 1-0, Cozzi 3-3, Russo 1-1, Highfield 1-3, Da. Giachello 1-0, Sevigny 1-0, Bot 1-0. UAlbany scoring: Laffin 7-0, Casey 3-1, Patterson 2-7, Nanticoke 2-3, J. Burgmaster 1-0, Goldsmith 1-0, A. Burgmaster 0-1, John 1-1.
Goalies: UMass Lowell, Lardieri, 11 saves. UAlbany, Siekierski, 14 saves.