ALBANY — Nothing to lose, right?
Actually, University at Albany men’s lacrosse head coach Scott Marr won’t go that far in describing the stakes ahead of his Great Danes in this week’s America East Conference tournament. While UAlbany enters the tournament as a No. 3 seed, the Great Danes’ recent dominance of their conference doesn’t allow for them to view themselves as an underdog.
“So I think there’s still some pressure there,” Marr said. “But, at the same time, nobody — well, not nobody — is expecting us to win. Most people are expecting Stony Brook or Vermont to win.”
Vermont (No. 2, 7-6) is Thursday’s 4:30 p.m. semifinal opponent for UAlbany (No. 3, 5-8), which finds itself not hosting the conference tournament for the first time since 2014. Instead, Stony Brook (No. 1, 9-5) hosts this year’s tournament and will play UMBC (No. 4, 4-8) in Thursday’s other semifinal. The winners of both games will meet in Saturday’s championship game.
“With this team, we knew it was going to be this kind of season and that we’d have to keep grinding, grinding and grinding,” said Marr, whose program went to the national semifinals last year with a senior-laden group. “[Winning Thursday] is all we’re talking about right now.”
UAlbany has won the last two America East championships and five of the last six. It’s likely road to a third consecutive championship, though, includes playing Vermont and Stony Brook teams that each defeated the Great Danes during the regular season.
“It’s a challenge, and it’s good to be challenged, sometimes,” Marr said. “But, certainly, if we put it all together at both ends, I think we’ve got a pretty good shot at it.”
UAlbany has lost its last two games and three of its last four. The team’s defense remains its strength, while its offense continues to struggle to make the most of its opportunities this season. UAlbany’s converted 26.9% of its shot attempts into goals this year, while the Great Danes were at 32.6% last year.
“We’ve got to shoot the ball better,” Marr said. “We’ve got to bury some of the shots we’re getting.”
While the obvious preference for UAlbany would have been to win last week at Stony Brook so that the Great Danes were able to host the conference tournament at Tom & Mary Casey Stadium, Marr said he’s confident his team can win on the road. A number of his players are from Long Island, and Marr said he expects a pro-UAlbany crowd for Thursday’s game vs. Vermont.
“If I had to pick one place to play other than our [stadium], it would be Stony Brook,” Marr said.
UALBANY WOMEN EARN NO. 2 SEED
The UAlbany women’s lacrosse team finds itself in a familiar spot.
For the seventh consecutive season, the Great Danes are the No. 2 seed for their conference tournament — and, with a win in Thursday’s 1:30 p.m. game at Stony Brook against New Hampshire (No. 3, 10-6), UAlbany (No. 2 10-6) likely sets itself up for another championship game matchup Saturday with Stony Brook (No. 1, 13-4) on the Seawolves’ home turf.
While a potential rematch with the conference’s six-time defending champion looms, UAlbany head coach Katie Rowan said that’s not the focus for the Great Danes.
“At this point in the season, it’s really all about us and looking to do our best,” said Rowan, whose team lost 17-9 last month at Stony Brook. “Just preparing and being on top of our game. A big focus for us all year has been draw controls, and that continues to be a big focus for us.”
UAlbany has won five of its last six games, with the lone loss in that stretch coming against Stony Brook. During that span of games, UAlbany defeated New Hampshire 12-11 at Casey Stadium.
“We’re feeling good,” Rowan said. “We know it’s going to be a very challenging game against New Hampshire, and we’re just focused on that.”
Rowan said she’s confident her team’s best lacrosse is still ahead of it this season.
“We really have to put together a full 60 minutes, but we’re more than capable of that,” Rowan said. “We don’t feel we’ve done that yet, but it’s exciting that that’s still out there for us. We want to put all the pieces together and hopefully win a championship this week.”
Jakob Patterson was named America East Offensive Player of the Year on Wednesday. Patterson led the conference with an average of 4.15 points per game. He is UAlbany’s leader in points (54) and assists (30) and is tied for the team lead in goals (24) with Tehoka Nanticoke.
Patterson, Nanticoke, Matt Perla and Jack Burgmaster were named to the All-Conference First Team, while Sean Eccles and Erik Dluhy made the Second Team. Dluhy, Patterson and Perla also were named to the All-Academic Team.