ALBANY — It’s been circled, highlighted and underlined on the schedule.
It’s safe to say Friday’s 6 p.m. game for the University at Albany women’s lacrosse team at Stony Brook isn’t sneaking up on the Great Danes.
“Everyone’s been marking their calendar for this game,” said UAlbany junior Madison Conway, the reigning America East Conference Offensive Player of the Week.
“Definitely. It’s obviously one of our biggest games every single year,” UAlbany sophomore Kendra Harbinger said earlier this week. “We’re still trying to beat them.”
And that’s the thing.
While Stony Brook is the top target for UAlbany, the Great Danes haven’t had meaningful success in recent years against their top rival. Stony Brook has defeated UAlbany 12 consecutive times — and half of those wins have come in America East championship games.
That run of losses sticks with the Great Danes, but head coach Katie Rowan — hired last June — doesn’t think it haunts her young group.
“They’ve shown more excitement for it than frustration,” Rowan said of the looming matchup.
UAlbany (4-0, 8-5) and Stony Brook (4-0, 8-4) enter the matchup tied for first place in the conference, but Stony Brook has dominated more than UAlbany. In conference games this season, Stony Brook has outscored opponents 74-14, while UAlbany is at 61-38.
In her first season at UAlbany, Rowan said she views figuring out how to find success against the Seawolves as a key piece to her job.
“It’s part of it. I don’t know if it’s the [most important thing], but it’s definitely important because they’ve been at the top of the conference,” Rowan said. “We’re really looking forward to competing against them.”
There are significant signs that the gap between Stony Brook and UAlbany is not as wide as it has been in past years. Stony Brook lost star Kylie Ohlmiller and several other key players after last season to graduation, while UAlbany has continued to improve the level of talent on its senior-less roster. Harbinger is the reigning America East Rookie of the Year, while freshman Hailey Carroll appears on her way to earning that honor this year. So far this season, Carroll has won the conference’s rookie of the week award on five occasions.
“Obviously, Stony Brook is a very good team, but we are, too,” Carroll said. “We can play at their pace . . . but we have to play to the level that we know we can play for the full game.”
“We’re a team this year that can definitely beat Stony Brook,” Conway said.
After playing Stony Brook, UAlbany wraps up its regular season with a road game at Hartford and a home matchup with UMBC. While the Great Danes appear to be a lock to make their conference tournament regardless of how their next three games go, a win Friday at Stony Brook would give them a major momentum boost.
“They know they can do it,” Rowan said. “They have that confidence.”