ALBANY — Can’t totally ignore it.
But, for the most part, that’s what the UAlbany women’s lacrosse team wants to try to do.
While their top rival — Stony Brook, which has defeated the Great Danes in the last seven America East Conference championship games — just left Syracuse earlier this week with a statement win, UAlbany head coach Katie Rowan Thomson said her team cannot get caught up in comparing how it does 10 a.m. at the Carrier Dome with how the Seawolves fared.
Such a comparison, Rowan Thomson acknowledged, will be made in the “back of your mind” following UAlbany’s season-opening game — but it can’t consume the Great Danes.
“You have to know everything is played under different circumstances and that it’s so early,” Rowan Thomson said earlier this week.
UAlbany senior Madison Conway said it would be impossible not to take away from this weekend’s game at least somewhat of a comparison between her team and Stony Brook’s squad. But, she said, any thinking along those lines will take place after UAlbany’s game at No. 4 Syracuse.
“We’re really just focused on Syracuse,” Conway said.
“And,” UAlbany sophomore Hailey Carroll said, “it will tell us what we need to improve on.”
A year ago, Syracuse (1-1) beat UAlbany 19-7 in a game in which the Great Danes won 7 of 27 draw controls. During a 2019 season that saw the Great Danes finish 11-7, UAlbany won 44.3% of its draw controls, and trying to improve that area of the game was regularly a focus for Rowan Thomson. That emphasis hasn’t changed this preseason.
“But another big focus for us has been our mindset — our mental work,” Rowan Thomson said. “Really believing in ourselves and playing with confidence. We’ve seen a lot of growth in that area this preseason.”
UAlbany junior Kendra Harbinger said that work will help the Great Danes in their trip to the Carrier Dome to play Syracuse. While that matchup always comes with some added pressure for UAlbany — “Huge name, huge space,” Harbinger said — the Great Danes want to handle it better than they did last season.
“We know we have the talent,” Harbinger said.
Among its 32 returning players from last year are 13 America East all-conference selections. Included in that group are the league’s reigning offensive player in Conway and last year’s top rookie in Carroll, players that make up a third of the Great Danes’ returning first-team all-league members.
After playing Syracuse, UAlbany plays the following Saturday at Yale and the Saturday after that at Michigan before playing its home opener March 7 vs. Canisius.