ALBANY — His former teammates had his current ones tightly defended, so Yale junior TD Ierlan took the only option he had late in the second quarter of Friday’s men’s lacrosse game at Tom & Mary Casey Stadium.
So Ierlan — who stunned the college lacrosse world last offseason when he transferred from the University at Albany to Yale — charged toward the goal and his shot’s aim was true.
“This is going to sound terrible,” Ierlan said after Yale’s 10-5 non-conference win against UAlbany, “but it was almost like I wasn’t happy to score a goal.”
The awkwardness of the night never escaped Ierlan, who had two record-setting seasons at UAlbany before heading to Yale, where he has continued as the NCAA’s top faceoff specialist. Against UAlbany, Ierlan won 16 of 17 faceoffs, scored a goal, earned a victory — and had this to say afterwards when asked if any part of the night had been “fun” for him.
“It was fun to see everyone at the end,” said Ierlan, who received plenty of hugs from his former teammates and coaches after the game. “The game was not fun. I don’t think I’ve ever said that about a college lacrosse game. That I’ve never had fun. Even losses. The actual game itself, I love lacrosse and I love looking forward to every game, but this was just so hard. The whole time I was trying to focus on the game, and I didn’t really take a step back to enjoy it. But to come back and play in this stadium, to look back at it, it should be fun. It’s a great atmosphere. They’ve got great crowds.”
Earlier in the week, Ierlan had said he wouldn’t “force anything” after the game in terms of interacting with his former teammates. As he went through the postgame handshake line, though, a number of Great Danes initiated hugs with Ierlan as he became visibly emotional.
The lengthiest of those hugs came from UAlbany head coach Scott Marr.
“Lot of mixed emotions,” Marr said. “Listen, I love the kid. He did a great job for us when he was here. He was a big part of taking us to a final four. I told him after the game [that] I loved him and gave him a hug, and wished him the best the rest of the way.”
Ierlan said he met up with Marr again after the game, and said he has “nothing but the utmost respect” for his former head coach.
“He’s built a program out of really nothing,” Ierlan said of Marr, who is now in his 19th season leading the Great Danes. “I think they used to play on a rec field that had puddles on it, and look at what they are [now]. In this — quote, unquote — bad season when they’ve had one of the hardest strengths of schedule I’ve ever seen . . . they’re young, but they’re talented. They gave us all we could handle there.”
Ierlan’s goal pushed the lead to 6-0 for No. 4 Yale (9-2), as UAlbany (5-7) didn’t score until netting a pair of goals in the first half’s final 75 seconds. UAlbany, though, scored early in the second half to pull within 6-3 and had numerous chances to get closer before Yale used a 4-0 run to put the game away.
“We can’t get discouraged,” said Marr, whose team had a potential goal from sophomore Tehoka Nanticoke disallowed that would have brought the Great Danes within 6-4 midway through the third quarter. “We’ve just got to keep fighting — and I loved our fight tonight.”
For the most part, UAlbany opted to contest faceoffs against Ierlan with a long-stick midfielder rather than sophomore faceoff specialist Austin Jones.
“Let’s call a spade a spade,” said Marr, who only used Jones for three faceoffs. “We knew what we were into with TD coming into town.”
UAlbany junior Pat Barrow — who grew up and went to Victor High School with Ierlan — ended up taking the most faceoffs against Ierlan. Barrow joked he’s probably one of the few people who call Ierlan “Tristan” — his actual first name — and said it was fun, but different, to go against Ierlan.
“I’ve been friends with him since I was about 5,” Barrow said.
Barrow went 1 of 10 against Ierlan, and Barrow at one point knocked Ierlan’s stick out of his hands.
“My old roommate de-sticked me, so that’s bragging rights [for him] back when I see him at Victor over the summer,” Ierlan said.
Friday’s game didn’t include any unnecessary physicality between Ierlan and his former teammates.
“I thought we did great tonight. There was no extra stuff, and we didn’t get involved in talking,” said Marr, whose team lost to Yale in last year’s national semifinals on the Bulldogs’ way to winning the championship. “There were no cheap shots, no fights, or anything like that. I thought we really did a good job of controlling our emotions and just playing hard. I think the lacrosse world was watching and waiting for something to happen, and we just didn’t give it to them. I’m really proud of my group for that — for doing the right things on the field and playing the game with respect for the referees, and the other team and especially for TD.”
UAlbany wraps its regular season next Friday at Stony Brook. Before that, Stony Brook plays Saturday at Vermont in a game that UAlbany needs the Seawolves to win for the Great Danes to remain in contention to host this year’s America East Conference tournament.
“We just keep talking about the process and getting better each week,” Marr said.
As for Ierlan?
Moving on with his season, he said, is something he’s looking forward to after an emotional week.
“It’s the toughest game I’ve ever had to play. Hands down. I thought playing my brother was hard, but [playing UAlbany] was like playing 50 brothers,” said Ierlan, whose brother plays for Cornell. “There’s nothing you can do to ever really prepare yourself for that. It was tough. I knew the whole week it was going to be hard.”
Yale 1 5 2 2 — 10
UAlbany 0 2 1 2 — 5
Yale scoring: Morrill 0-3, Rooney 2-0, Sessa 0-2, Daniggelis 1-0, Tigh 2-0, Ierlan 1-0, Tevlin 2-0, Cropp 1-0, Brandau 1-1. UAlbany scoring: Casey 1-0, Nanticoke 0-1, Patterson 2-0, J. Burgmaster 1-0, Ramirez 1-0. Goalies: Yale, Starr, 11 saves. UAlbany, Siekierski, 8 saves.