ALBANY — Fans packed the stands at Tom & Mary Casey Stadium for a Saturday night with a big-event feel to it with the traveling Premier Lacrosse League in town and several former Great Danes stars in action.
The night’s loudest cheer?
That came during a break in the action of the first half of the Atlas’ 12-9 win against the Chaos.
That pause during an action-packed night saw what’s likely the most-anticipated lacrosse game that could come to Casey Stadium revealed as on the way, as the long-rumored meeting between UAlbany and Syracuse University on the Great Danes’ turf was confirmed for April 3, 2020. The two teams have previously played 18 times, but Syracuse — which has won 16 of those games — has never visited UAlbany.
“We should have an unbelievable atmosphere for that game,” said UAlbany head coach Scott Marr, who hung out on the sideline of the Chaos, a team that includes former UAlbany All-American players Connor Fields, Kyle McClancy, Troy Reh, Blaze Riorden and Miles Thompson.
Throughout Saturday night, the Capital Region demonstrated its appetite for high-level lacrosse. While not every seat was filled, an energetic crowd occupied Casey Stadium throughout the evening. During the night’s second half, PLL co-founder Michael Rabil tweeted out that the night’s attendance was 6,472, which represented a sellout.
“Albany was great. They showed up,” said Thompson, who was the first former UAlbany player to score in Saturday’s game. “I’m happy to be back and play in front of this crowd. I wish we could have given them a better outcome, but, you know, it is what it is.”
The night’s top star was Fields, a 2018 graduate who led UAlbany to its only appearance in the national semifinals despite playing with a torn ACL and sprained MCL in his right knee. He scored a late goal against the Atlas, but signed countless autographs for young fans, many wearing his No. 5 Chaos jersey.
“It’s awesome. I was that little kid not too many years back,” Fields said. “It’s really cool to see everything go full circle. I was that kid waiting on the railing, waiting for my favorite player to come over. So it’s just really humbling.”
The Atlas (5-5) had a 6-5 lead at halftime against the Chaos (7-3) in the Week 10 matchup of the first-year league, and the first-place Chaos trailed 10-6 after three quarters. For the Chaos, Thompson had two goals, Fields and McClancy each had one goal, and Reh had a 2-point goal and an assist. In goal, Riorden made 13 saves.
For the Atlas, Ryan Brown scored three goals.
Fields said his trip back to UAlbany lived up to his expectations.
“Seeing this crowd again, and how loud they are, and how much they love lacrosse, and each and every one of us at Albany, it’s a really cool thing,” Fields said.
The former UAlbany star said he was excited to hear, too, that Syracuse will visit his alma mater next year.
“I know — forever — Syracuse always wanted to stay home, but it shows a lot that they’re going to come here and play us,” Fields said. “I think they respect the program a lot and I think this [UAlbany] program is going to keep growing.”
NISKAYUNA’S PRENDERGAST PLAYS SUNDAY
Done practicing on a grass field near Casey Stadium minutes before the Chaos vs. Atlas game, former Niskayuna High School star John Prendergast smiled as he signed a number of autographs for youngsters.
“If this was around when I was growing up,” Prendergast said later, “I definitely would have come to it, too.”
Prendergast — a 2019 Duke University graduate who helped lead Niskayuna to a state championship in 2015 — is a member of the Chrome, a team that also includes former UAlbany standouts Brett Queener and Ty Thompson. The Crome (2-7) plays 1:30 p.m. Sunday at Casey Stadium against the Redwoods (4-5), while a matchup between the Archers (4-5) and Whipsnakes (6-3) follows at 4:30 p.m.
Prendergast said he’s expecting to see plenty of familiar faces at Casey Stadium. On Saturday night, he said he was impressed with the turnout and how early many fans showed up to the event — especially with the Travers Stakes running up in Saratoga Springs among other entertainment options Saturday in the Capital Region.
“The fans have been great [everywhere], but this is definitely one of the more populated games I’ve seen so far,” Prendergast said. “There’s definitely a lot of fans in attendance here. . . . Albany, even though Travers is going on, I know a lot of people made efforts to come out for this. It’s a great lacrosse city.”