ALBANY — TD Ierlan is coming back to Tom & Mary Casey Stadium.
Arriving along with the former Great Danes star is the rest of Yale, his new team — the one that eliminated the University at Albany men’s lacrosse program in last year’s national semifinals on the Bulldogs’ way to winning a national championship.
UAlbany head coach Scott Marr’s top concerns, though, aren’t how his team will match up with Ierlan or in trying to earn revenge for a season-ending game from a year ago that Marr said he hasn’t rewatched “one bit” since that disappointing Saturday at Gillette Stadium.
Marr’s top concern remains with trying to figure out this year’s Great Danes, a talented group that has been consistently inconsistent throughout a trying 2019 campaign.
“Well, certainly, again, we’ve been talking all season about this [with this] team,” Marr said earlier this week ahead of Friday’s 7 p.m. matchup with No. 4 Yale. “We’re just waiting for our full game to come about. We’ve got to play a complete game.”
Perhaps a matchup with what’s become one of UAlbany’s top rivals — and a program that twice beat the Great Danes last season — will bring that out of Marr’s team, one the coach acknowledged is “having a tougher time this year.”
What’s known, though, is this: The only path toward an overall winning 2019 season for UAlbany that doesn’t include winning an NCAA tournament game involves the Great Danes topping Yale.
While Yale brings an 8-2 record into Friday’s matchup, UAlbany is 5-6 with two regular-season games to go, plus the America East Conference tournament it remains in the hunt to host for the seventh consecutive year. Half of UAlbany’s losses have come against teams nationally ranked currently inside the top 10, but the Great Danes have already totaled more losses this season than in any campaign for their program since 2014 and have some work to do if they’re going to avoid their first losing season since 2012.
“Each game,” UAlbany senior Jack Burgmaster said of what’s left for the Great Danes, “is just that much more important.”
“So [Friday vs. Yale is] a good opportunity for us to play a top-10 team,” Marr said, “and, hopefully, come away with a win.”
To do that, UAlbany will need to find a way to neutralize what for two seasons was one of its top weapons: faceoff specialist Ierlan.
After enjoying a record-setting sophomore season at UAlbany, Ierlan — who transferred to Yale last offseason — has continued dominating at his position during his junior season. This year, Ierlan has won a best-in-the-nation 76.9% of his faceoffs. Marr said he is confident sophomore faceoff specialist Austin Jones and the rest of UAlbany’s faceoff unit can find ways to stay competitive with Ierlan, but the coach is also realistic about what type of game is looming for the Great Danes.
“We’re going to have to play incredible defense. We’re really going to struggle, obviously, to get the ball, I think, with TD facing off, so we’re going to have to be able to play good, solid defense,” Marr said. “We’re going to have to be mistake-free clearing the ball, and take advantage of the opportunities we do get when we do have the ball.”
For two seasons, TD Ierlan starred for UAlbany men’s lacrosse.— Michael Kelly (@ByMichaelKelly) April 15, 2019
Friday, he returns to Casey Stadium as an opponent.
“It’s going to be weird.”
Does he expect to get booed?
“Oh, yeah. Probably.”
Via @dgazette: https://t.co/FCCE6zmPxb#NCAALAX pic.twitter.com/Xe4ee3WNqS
Defense has rarely been the issue this season for the Great Danes. When UAlbany has struggled, it’s mostly been because of runs of ineffectiveness on faceoffs — Jones is at 55.4% on the season — and an offense that is prone to stagnating like it did in last weekend’s 9-7 win vs. UMBC when the Great Danes only scored a goal apiece in each of the final three quarters.
To knock off Yale, UAlbany needs to put it all together.
“We’ve played well against these top teams in our losses, but not well enough,” Marr said. “We haven’t played a full game. We’ve really got to put together a 60-minute effort here.”