ALBANY — As a freshman on the UAlbany men’s lacrosse team a season ago, Tanner Hay was out of his comfort zone.
Hay came to UAlbany as one of the crown jewels in his recruiting class, but the rangy, 6-foot-4 defender spent the 2019 season moved from his natural position as a close defender to longstick midfielder — and played sparsely at that, appearing in just six games off the bench.
Coming into this season, as Hay was moved back to close defense — the spot where he was a 2018 Under Armor All-American while at Victor High School — it certainly brightened the sophomore’s mood.
“I was ecstatic,” Hay said after practice Wednesday at Tom & Mary Casey Stadium.
“I played there [close defense] all throughout high school,” he added, “so it’s nice to be back down there.”
Hay’s first career start last Saturday against Cornell certainly could have gone better. The Great Danes gave up a massive advantage in possession, allowing Cornell to spend the bulk of the game in UAlbany’s defensive half.
That resulted in a 19-10 loss, which has Hay and his fellow defenders vowing to rebound this Saturday as UAlbany hosts Drexel at 1 p.m.
“I don’t think the score was very representative of how we played defense throughout the game, but that stung,” Hay said. “We took it as an insult, and we’re ready to bounce back.”
Hay had one caused turnover and one ground ball against Cornell. He was one of two new starters on defense for the Great Danes, along with junior Michael Kozar. Senior Steven Kunz was the only returning starter at close defense, with redshirt freshman Jake Piseno and senior Pat Barrow splitting time at longstick midfield.
“No excuses, these guys have been playing lacrosse for a long time. We’ve just got to play better,” UAlbany coach Scott Marr said. “We’ve got to do things smarter and be a little more disciplined in what we’re doing.”
Marr said that, in the long run, moving Hay back to his natural position will benefit the UAlbany defense.
“He’s been a close defenseman most of his life,” Marr said. “He’s really good at getting up and out from that position.”
Hay and the UAlbany defense will try to blunt the sting of their performance against Cornell when they take on a Drexel team that is coming off a season-opening 16-15 loss to High Point last weekend.
“We’ve got to be better,” Hay said, “from top to bottom.”
Hay is the cousin of UAlbany defensive coordinator, John Maloney, and both were part of an emotional moment prior to the Cornell game. Maloney’s younger brother, Ryan, is a senior on the Cornell lacrosse team who suffered a spinal cord injury while on vacation in New Jersey last July.
Prior to Saturday’s game, a message from Marr to Ryan Maloney played on the Casey Stadium video board, and the Cornell senior was honored on the field. During the acknowledgment, Hay hopped off the UAlbany sideline to embrace his cousin.
“I hadn’t seen Ryan since a couple days before I left for school in the fall. It was nice to see all of [my family],” Hay said. “To see Ryan doing much better and everything, that was great.”
OTHER WEEKEND ACTION
The Siena men’s lacrosse team returns home to Hickey Field for a 3 p.m. game Saturday against UMass Lowell. Siena (1-1) is looking to rebound from last week’s 26-9 loss at the hands of Hobart.
In women’s lacrosse Saturday, UAlbany is set visit Yale at 1 p.m., while the Siena women host Columbia at noon to kick off a lacrosse doubleheader at Hickey Field. On Sunday, the Saint Rose women’s team will play the first game in program history when they hit the road to face Saint Thomas Aquinas at noon.
Reach Adam Shinder at [email protected] or @Adam_Shinder on Twitter.