ALBANY — Anthony Altimari’s finally found his confidence at the faceoff X. In turn, the UAlbany men’s lacrosse team is putting its confidence in him.
In his first two years as a faceoff specialist at UAlbany, Altimari barely saw the field. As a freshman in 2018, that made perfect sense as Altimari sat firmly behind faceoff wizard TD Ierlan on the Great Danes’ depth chart. Ierlan transferred to Yale prior to the 2019 season, but Altimari still found himself languishing without much playing time as Austin Jones took the bulk of the faceoffs for UAlbany last season.
Confidence was hard to come by, and for a faceoff specialist confidence can be the difference between success and failure.
“It was tough at times,” Altimari said Wednesday following practice at Tom & Mary Casey Stadium. “It was definitely a grind.”
Through his first two seasons at UAlbany, Altimari had taken the field for just 42 faceoffs — and won only 17.
Entering his junior year, Altimari knew he needed to prove he belonged on the field and live up to his billing when he was rated as the No. 6 faceoff specialist in his recruiting class when coming out of Yorktown High School.
“The focus was coming back and proving to myself, my teammates and everyone around me what I was capable of and what I was made of,” Altimari said. “I didn’t feel like I did too good of a job of that last year. I definitely knew that I had more in the tank, and that needed to be proved.”
Altimari saw the field a bit more in UAlbany’s season opener Feb. 15 against Cornell, going 1 of 5 as part of a six-man faceoff rotation for the Great Danes that was just 11 of 32 in a 19-10 loss.
But heading into last Saturday’s game against Drexel, UAlbany coach Scott Marr — like Altimari and UAlbany junior midfielder Kyle Casey, a Yorktown graduate — had seen enough to install Altimari as the team’s primary faceoff man.
Altimari paid off that confidence by winning 16 of 28 faceoffs against Drexel, helping UAlbany (1-1) to a 14-13 win.
“He kept coming up and asking us what he has to do better,” Marr said. “We’ve had good conversations, good open communication, and he’s done a really good job of applying what we’ve asked him to do and putting in the extra time on his own.”
Altimari is hoping to build on that performance this Saturday as the Great Danes wrap up their season-opening three-game homestand with a 1 p.m. meeting against Harvard at Casey Stadium.
Harvard (1-1) has struggled to win faceoffs through its first two games, going a combined 11 of 42 in games against UMass and Holy Cross.
For Altimari, it’s important to avoid the psychological ruts that he fell into over his first two seasons.
“You’ve got to just keep moving forward, and that’s definitely something I’ve tried to do,” Altimari said. “Just keep working hard and not let anything affect me or get in my head.”
And as much as Altimari’s own confidence means to him, the fact that the team is finally putting its confidence in him might mean even more.
“Going out there, having your whole team behind you and cheering you on, it’s a big difference from going out there without that,” he said. “It’s a big advantage going into each game — and each faceoff.”
Reach Adam Shinder at [email protected] or @Adam_Shinder on Twitter.