ALBANY — For the first time since 2012, the UAlbany men’s lacrosse team is entering a season projected to finish somewhere other than atop the America East by the league’s coaches.
Did the Great Danes ending up third behind Vermont and Stony Brook when the poll was released Monday have any effect on the team?
Well … yes and no.
“I saw that yesterday, and that gave me a little more motivation for the season,” senior attackman Jakob Patterson said following Tuesday’s practice at Tom & Mary Casey Stadium. “I can’t wait now.”
“I see it, but it’s just noise. Who cares?” countered junior attackman Tehoka Nanticoke. “People can say whatever they want about us.”
After finishing 5-9 in 2019 and losing to Vermont in the semifinals of the America East tournament, UAlbany coach Scott Marr said the Great Danes are ranked right where they should be heading into the 2020 season, which opens Feb. 15 at home against Cornell.
Of course, Marr doesn’t want his team to be OK with settling for third in a conference UAlbany has dominated for most of the past decade.
“It’s a preseason poll. At the end of the day, at the beginning of May, we want to be No. 1 going into the [America East] tournament,” Marr said. “We’ll use it as a little motivation, but this team’s been good. They understand what we have to do to get back to the [NCAA] tournament. Hopefully, we’re on our way to doing that.
“Either you’re being chased, or you’re chasing somebody. Right now, we’re chasing a couple teams.”
Junior midfielder Kyle Casey echoed Marr’s approach.
“We use that as motivation, but it’s not where you start, it’s where you end,” Casey said. “That’s all we want is to finish strong, win the America East and go on to the tournament.”
It’s an unfamiliar spot for the Great Danes not to be considered the America East’s top dogs heading into the season.
“It’s a position I’ve never been in for my four years here,” Patterson said. “It’s a different role, but I’m excited to see what we do for the season.”
Nanticoke didn’t need the results of the poll to provide any extra juice. Making good on a disappointing 2019 season — both personally and for the team — is motivation enough.
“Our sophomore, junior, senior class, it should be burning a hole inside of us,” Nanticoke said. “Going 5-9 is not acceptable for Albany lacrosse. We’re all going to be playing with a little more hustle this year.”
PATTERSON FINE TO ‘TAKE IT EASY’
Patterson sat out UAlbany’s first preseason scrimmage Saturday against Siena as he continues to make his way back from a knee that’s hampered him since the fall. With the Great Danes set for a second scrimmage Thursday at home against St. John’s, the senior attackman isn’t planning on rushing back into action.
“Me and coach decided we’re going to take it easy, just get ready for the first week against Cornell,” Patterson said. “That’s what matters in the big scheme of things.”
“Hopefully, we’re getting him back soon,” Marr said.
Patterson was the 2019 America East Offensive Player of the Year after putting up 57 points (25 goals, 32 assists) last season. With the senior sidelined, he’s transitioned into a mentorship role during preseason, doing plenty of work with highly touted freshman Graydon Hogg — a fellow left-handed attackman.
“With anybody that’s on the sideline, you’ve got to fulfill a role somewhere,” Marr said. “As a senior, he certainly can help out with some of our younger guys.”
UALBANY WOMEN PICKED SECOND — AGAIN
For the eighth straight year, the UAlbany women’s lacrosse team was picked second in the America East preseason coaches’ poll. The poll was released Tuesday, with UAlbany receiving 42 points and one first-place vote.
Stony Brook claimed the top spot in the poll for the eighth consecutive year, garnering 49 points and the maximum seven first-place votes. Coaches are not permitted to vote for their own team.
UAlbany returns all 32 players from its 2019 team that went 11-7 and lost to Stony Brook in the America East championship game for the seventh consecutive year. The Great Danes have reached the conference title game in each of the last nine seasons.