ALBANY — Scott Marr’s first impression after his UAlbany lacrosse team’s last-second 14-13 win Saturday against Drexel?
“Well," Marr said, "what a difference a week makes."
Saturday’s thriller at Tom & Mary Casey Stadium was a stark difference from seven days prior, when the Great Danes were rocked 19-10 by Cornell in their season opener. Against Drexel, UAlbany was sharper, more intense and all-around better.
A big reason for that came in the form of a productive first midfield line of Ron John, Kyle Casey and Jakob Patterson that combined for six goals and six assists in its first game action as a three-man unit.
John sat out UAlbany’s preseason scrimmages and the opener against Cornell due to what Marr called a “personal issue,” but the senior made a huge impact in his season debut with two goals — including the game-winner with 10.5 seconds left in the fourth quarter — and two assists. Casey, shut out a week earlier, had a stunning behind-the-back shot to tie the game in the fourth quarter as part of a three-goal, one-assist performance. Patterson, shifted from attack to midfield at halftime of the Cornell game, added a goal and two assists.
“Today was just a product of working hard all week and playing as a team,” John said after the game.
The speedy John added an extra dimension to the UAlbany offense with his dodging ability, helping to open things up for big days from attackmen Tehoka Nanticoke (four goals, two assists) and Corey Yunker (three goals, three assists).
When UAlbany had the ball on the possession that eventually led to the game-winning goal, the offense twice ran through John on isolation plays from the wing that generated good scoring opportunities.
“It just makes us more dynamic. Ron’s such a good dodger. He just causes matchup problems for teams,” Marr said. “Now they have to take poles off of Corey or off of Graydon [Hogg] and put some short sticks on them. It creates some matchup problems. It’s always very difficult [to defend] when you have Jakob, Ron and Kyle all on the same line, and then the three attackmen we have out there as well.”
ALTIMARI IN THE ZONE
In the opener against Cornell, UAlbany used six different players at the faceoff X as Cornell won 21 of 32 faceoffs. Saturday, the faceoff situation was much more settled for the Great Danes, who won 17 of 32.
Doing the bulk of the work was junior Anthony Altimari, who was 16 of 28 with six ground balls against Drexel faceoff specialist Jimmeh Koita.
“I thought it was pretty even most of the game,” Marr said. “It was 50-50. It was a battle. That kid [Koita] was good, but Anthony’s really progressed here these last six months.”
Altimari was also named a team captain for Saturday’s game.
“Off the field, on the field, in the locker room, in the weight room — he’s being a really, really good leader for us and he’s leading by example every day,” Marr said.
SECTION II DEBUTS
A pair of freshmen from Section II schools acquitted themselves well for UAlbany in their first career action Saturday.
Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake High School graduate Darien LaPietro got into the rotation as a short-stick defensive midfielder, while Shaker High School grad Wil Pepe shared time with Pat Barrow and Jake Piseno at long-stick midfielder.
Marr was pleased with what he saw from both LaPietro and Pepe, along with fellow freshman Connor Fingar and sophomore Declan Palandjian, who saw his first action of the season.
Pepe, in particular, drew praise for his work in helping to limit Drexel’s Collin Mailman to a single goal after he’d scored four in the Dragons’ opener against High Point.
“Wil’s a beast,” Marr said. “That No. 9 [Mailman] could not get past him.”
Reach Adam Shinder at [email protected] or on Twitter @Adam_Shinder.