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Yale's Ierlan: 'It's going to be weird' playing vs. UAlbany men's lacrosse

Yale's Ierlan: 'It's going to be weird' playing vs. UAlbany men's lacrosse

Now with Yale, Ierlan set for return to UAlbany
Yale's Ierlan: 'It's going to be weird' playing vs. UAlbany men's lacrosse
TD Ierlan is starring this season for Yale.
Photographer: Photo courtesy Dan Heary/Yale Athletics

TD Ierlan still thinks about the decision he made to leave the University at Albany for Yale, but he doesn’t second-guess it.

How will it feel for the former UAlbany men’s lacrosse star, though, to play for Yale at Tom & Mary Casey Stadium on Friday night?

That, he said Monday in a phone interview, is anyone’s guess.

“I’m used to playing there, but being on the other side. It’s going to be weird, at first, but I’m just going to try to block everything out and focus on the game — but it’s going to be different,” Ierlan said. “It’s going to be tough in many ways, but I just have to focus on the game.”

Does he expect to hear boos?

“Oh, yeah. Probably. The boo birds will be out for me,” Ierlan said. “That will be weird. I’ll try not to think about that, but I’m sure I will get booed.”

As a freshman and sophomore, Ierlan was one of UAlbany’s top stars and developed into the country’s most-prolific faceoff specialist as he helped lead the Great Danes to last year’s national semifinals. Yale beat UAlbany in the national semifinals on its way to winning its national championship, and Ierlan’s decision to transfer to Yale was finalized less than a month after UAlbany’s program-best 2018 season closed.

“The education was really the main reason, but it was the toughest decision I’ve ever made in my life,” Ierlan, a political science major, said of his move to Yale. “I left a lot of close friends — a lot of guys I’m still really close with. I still think about it a lot, but this season has helped me move past it.”

Ierlan, again, has starred on the field. The 21-year-old junior leads the NCAA in faceoff winning percentage at 76.9% and in ground balls per game at 14.7 for No. 4 Yale.

Last season, Ierlan produced the best statistical season for a faceoff specialist in NCAA men’s lacrosse history. He won America East Defensive Player of the Year and was a second-team All-American during a season in which he set single-season records for faceoff winning percentage (79.1%), ground balls per game (13.4), total faceoffs won (359) and total ground balls (254). In his two seasons at UAlbany, Ierlan won 682 of 910 faceoffs (74.9%) and gathered a program-record 456 ground balls.

When last season was complete, though, Ierlan was ready to move on from UAlbany.

“At the time, I wasn’t happy and I was looking for more out of my education,” Ierlan said. “Yale’s education is once in a lifetime. If I get a degree from Yale, I set myself up for life.”

UAlbany and Yale regularly play against each other in non-conference action, so Ierlan knew heading to Yale meant he’d likely return to Casey Stadium as an opponent. Since leaving UAlbany, Ierlan said he had not had direct contact with Great Danes head coach Scott Marr, but has stayed in touch with a number of current UAlbany players.

“I won’t name names,” Ierlan said. “I don’t want them to get blacklisted.”

Ierlan said his relationships with last year’s UAlbany seniors remain strong despite his move to Yale. Among others, Ierlan said he remains in regular contact with JD Colarusso, Connor Fields, and twin brothers Justin Reh and Troy Reh. Ierlan said he’s appreciated the way they handled his decision to leave UAlbany.

“I don’t know what I would do if [the situation] was reversed,” Ierlan said, “so I think that says a lot about them.”

Only Fields, Ierlan said, still regularly cracks jokes about Ierlan’s transfer — but that’s expected.

“Fields, he always rips on me, but he rips on everyone,” Ierlan said with a laugh. “That’s Fields.”

While Ierlan said he has not spoken to Marr since telling him of his decision to leave UAlbany — “That was probably the hardest conversation of my life” — he said that’s because “the opportunity hasn’t come up” to this point.

“I don’t have anything bad to ever say about Coach,” Ierlan said of Marr, who Ierlan said reached out to him last fall to see how he was doing through Yale head coach Andy Shay. “He’s a great human and handled everything with class. I have nothing bad to say about him. It’ll be tough seeing him [Friday] on the other side. . . . If I was in his shoes, I don’t know if I would have handled everything as well as he did.”

Sophomore Austin Jones has served as UAlbany’s No. 1 faceoff specialist this season and has won 55.4% of the 222 faceoffs he has contested.

“He’s stepped in and done a phenomenal job,” Ierlan said of his former backup. “We know each other so well, so [Friday] will be a feeling-out process.”

Like every other game he’s played at Casey Stadium, Ierlan wants Friday to win a high percentage of faceoffs and help his team win.

Just, this time, his team is Yale — and Ierlan expects that change to make for a “weird” night.

“But I can’t let that affect me or anything else,” Ierlan said.

Reach Michael Kelly at [email protected] or @ByMichaelKelly on Twitter.

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