ALBANY — For a second, the UAlbany men’s lacrosse team thought it had scored the go-ahead goal with less than a minute to play in Saturday’s wild game against Drexel at Tom & Mary Casey Stadium.
Corey Yunker came out of a wild scramble with the ball and flipped a shot past Drexel goalie Ross Blumenthal with 45 seconds left in the fourth quarter, and the Great Danes started to celebrate … until the signal came from the officials.
Before Yunker got his shot off, UAlbany coach Scott Marr — and assistant coach Merrick Thomson, Marr jokingly insisted — called for a timeout.
“We knew we’d put another one in,” UAlbany midfielder Kyle Casey said.
Thirty-five seconds later, the celebration stuck. Tehoka Nanticoke fed the ball to senior midfielder Ron John, who fired home his second goal of the game with 10.5 seconds left. One faceoff win later, and UAlbany came away with an exhilarating 14-13 win.
“Today was just a product of working hard all week and playing as a team,” John said. “For me to be in the spot to finish the ball the last time, it meant a lot. It was amazing.”
John, a senior midfielder who produced six goals and 11 assists in 2019, didn’t play in UAlbany’s season-opening 19-10 loss to Cornell, but was back on the field Saturday as part of the Great Danes’ (1-1) top midfield line with Jakob Patterson and Kyle Casey.
John’s ability to create as a dodger added an extra dimension to the UAlbany offense, with his game-winner capping off a two-goal, two-assist performance.
“Throughout the week, I was in and out, in and out, and then Friday it came through [and I] became officially cleared,” John said. “By Friday, I was already ready to go, regardless. It wasn’t a matter of when or why. I was just ready.”
Marr said John’s absence prior to Saturday was, “Nothing to do with the NCAA. A personal issue.”
John’s deciding goal came at the tail end of a see-saw game that featured 11 lead changes as the two teams were never separated by more than two goals.
Drexel (0-2) took a 13-12 lead on Ryan Genord’s fifth goal of the game with 7:28 to play, but UAlbany came back to tie the game on a highlight-reel play with 2:31 left when Patterson flipped a pass to a cutting Casey for a behind-the-back shot that beat Blumenthal.
“I caught it and, I don’t know, I just shot it,” Casey said. “I wasn’t going in there trying to do that, I just did it and it worked out.
“Second nature,” Marr said.
Drexel won the ensuing faceoff, but turned the ball over, giving the Great Danes a chance to go in front.
Just when it seemed like Yunker had scored what would have been his fourth goal of the game, the timeout call forced UAlbany to reset. After a shot off the post by Casey gave UAlbany a fresh shot clock, the ball ended up with Nanticoke — who knew exactly where he wanted to go with it.
“I knew Ron had the hot hand,” Nanticoke said. “So, I just had to get Ron the ball.”
Graydon Hogg cut across the crease, drawing a pair of defenders and leaving John in prime position.
“I just happened to be right in the middle,” John said. “Right in the honey hole. Right in the perfect spot.”
Nanticoke (four goals, two assists) and Yunker (three goals, three assists) each had six points for UAlbany. Casey added three goals and an assist, Patterson had a goal and two assists and sophomore defender Tanner Hay recorded his first career goal. Great Danes goalie Nate Siekierski finished with 10 saves.
UAlbany will wrap up its season-opening three-game homestand next Saturday against Harvard.
Drexel 4 3 3 3—13
UAlbany 3 4 4 3—14
Drexel scoring: Genord 5-0, Coll 3-1, Mailman 2-0, Varian 1-2, Mulcahy 1-0, Fox 1-0, Bowering 0-2, Snider 0-1. UAlbany scoring: Nanticoke 4-2, Yunker 3-3, Casey 3-1, John 2-2, Patterson 1-2, Hay 1-0. Goalies: Drexel, Blumenthal, 11 saves. UAlbany, Siekierski, 10 saves. Attendance: 1,586.
Reach Adam Shinder at [email protected] or @Adam_Shinder on Twitter.