ALBANY — The move to the shot-clock era of men’s college lacrosse was supposed to be a natural one for the University at Albany program, which has long benefitted from the play of two-way midfielders that the new rule encourages teams to use.
As the game has shifted to a faster pace, the Great Danes have slowed things down this season, a change their head coach Scott Marr didn’t expect to make.
“I didn’t, really,” Marr said earlier this week. “I thought, for sure, we’d be able to stick with that.”
But after trying to continue playing with two-way midfielders in the early part of this season, UAlbany has moved more to a conventional college lacrosse setup: six guys play offense and six guys play defense, and it’s rare that there is any crossover between those groups.
“You’ve got to work with what you have,” UAlbany senior defenseman Matt Perla said. “In past years, we’ve had some really outstanding athletes that could run offense, play defense — do both. This year, I think we have those guys, but there’s youth in that area, so it’s harder for us to play that style.”
Ahead of playing 1 p.m. Saturday at Binghamton (0-0, 0-6) in an America East Conference game, UAlbany (1-0, 2-4) continued making its transition in last weekend’s 17-11 win against UMass Lowell to removing two-way responsibilities for its players. The result was a solid defensive effort and the best offensive day of the Great Danes’ rebuilding season.
“You have to play to the strengths of your team,” Marr said, “and I think that’s what we’re trying to do.”
There are added challenges to the new way UAlbany is playing, particularly on the offensive end of the field. The Great Danes need to work more efficiently on offense since they are now taking time for substitutions they weren’t a season ago, and are now doing so with a shot clock always counting down against them.
“But it’s starting to click a little bit more every day,” UAlbany senior offensive midfielder Sean Eccles said. “It feels like we take a step in the right direction every day with it.”
Against UMass Lowell, that positive progress showed. Junior attackman Jakob Patterson recorded two goals and seven assists as UAlbany’s primary playmaker, while junior attackman Mitch Laffin scored a career-high seven goals. Meanwhile, sophomore Kyle Casey had a career-best day with three goals and one assist playing attack, while sophomore Tehoka Nanticoke had two goals and three assists playing in his new role as an offensive midfielder.
“I think we’ve tapped into something that’s going to be good for us,” Marr said.