LOUDONVILLE — All of Siena men’s lacrosse coach Liam Gleason’s talk about the “next play” mentality he’s instilled in his team paid huge dividends as the Saints were scrambling to avoid blowing a seven-goal lead in their season opener against LIU.
With 4:46 left in the third quarter Saturday at Hickey Field, Siena seemed to be well on its way to a blowout win over Division I newcomer LIU. But, as Siena’s offense began to stagnate, LIU found its groove. The Sharks reeled off six straight goals, cutting Siena’s lead to one with nine minutes to play.
And then the Saints got on to the next play and finally buckled down. Anthony Tebbano made a couple of big saves down the stretch, the Siena defense forced key turnovers and Christian Watts broke a long scoring drought with the goal that sealed a 14-12 victory.
“It’s obviously frustrating, but lacrosse is a game of runs,” Siena junior midfielder Nick Pepe said. “We’ve just got to keep our composure. We know what we have to do to put the ball in the back of the net, and we know what we have to do to keep the ball out of our net.”
Pepe forced the final turnover of the game, intercepting a pass in the final minute and allowing Siena to run out the clock.
The Siena defense forced LIU into 23 turnovers and six failed clears.
“That’s what you’ve got to do in these kind of games. You’ve got to make plays towards the end,” Gleason said. “I thought our ride and our defense, they made those plays to give us a chance to hold the ball at the end of the game.”
For the game’s first 40 minutes, it was a showcase of Siena’s offensive balance. Five Saints — Brendan Lantieri, Maurice Tessier, Colin Gleason, Dylan Pantalone and George Rusnak — scored two goals apiece, while Jack Kiernan had a goal and four assists.
Siena’s multidimensional attack kept LIU off-balance, with only an 18-save performance from goalie Will Mark keeping the Saints from piling on even more.
“It was equally distributed, and I think that’s how our offense is going to be,” Liam Gleason said. “We don’t have one guy that’s going to dominate the ball. We want to keep it moving.”
“If we can get four or five guys with two goals a game, that’s great,” Pantalone said.
But after Brett Habich’s goal made it 13-6 with 4:46 left in the third quarter, the momentum flipped. LIU began running its offense through 260-pound attackman Will Snelders, who assisted on five of the Sharks’ goals during a 6-0 run that capped off when Sean Boll scored his fifth goal of the game to get it within 13-12 with nine minutes remaining.
That’s when the Saints finally cleared the cobwebs from their heads and got on to the next play.
“That’s the biggest thing that gets you through games like this,” Tebbano said. “Coach Gleason hammers that home in practice, in film and all that.”
“I talk about ‘next play,’ but that is about those positive plays, too,” Liam Gleason said. “When you go up five, six, seven goals, you’ve got to keep making the next play. I tell them, ‘Play 100%, not 110%.’”
The game was also a reunion between a pair of longtime friends on the sideline, as Liam Gleason and LIU coach Eric Wolf played two years together at UAlbany in 2006 and 2007 before later spending six years together as assistant coaches — two at Siena, and another four at their alma mater.
“Before and after, it’s all great. During the game, you don’t even think about it,” Wolf said. “He’s one of my best friends. I love him, his kids, his family. We spend vacations together. For him to give us the opportunity to come up here was really special. After a game, if you are going to lose to your best friend, I think that’s the way you want it.”
LIU 1 3 4 4 — 12
Siena 3 5 3 1 — 14
LIU scoring: LaCalandra 0-3, Russell 2-1, Snelders 1-5, Blume 2-0, Boll 5-0, Murphy 1-0. Siena scoring: Van Schepen 1-0, Habich 1-0, Gleason 2-0, Kiernan 1-4, Rusnak 2-0, Lantieri 2-0, Pepe 0-1, Tessier 2-0, Pantalone 2-0, Watts 1-0. Goalies: LIU, Mark, 18 saves. Siena, Tebbano, 12 saves.
Reach Adam Shinder at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @Adam_Shinder.