ALBANY — Ron John spent a long offseason waiting, but when the UAlbany men’s lacrosse senior midfielder finally got the thumbs-up, he was more than ready to go.
John didn’t take part in UAlbany’s two preseason scrimmages or the team’s season opener against Drexel due to what coach Scott Marr termed a “personal issue,” but in the three games since his return to the lineup, John has been a dynamic cog in the Great Danes’ top midfield line alongside Jakob Patterson and Kyle Casey.
“It feels awesome, just to play with those guys,” John said following Thursday’s practice at Tom & Mary Casey Stadium. “They know I was waiting. They know I was ready.”
Since getting back into the lineup, John has five goals and three assists, including the game-winning goal with 10.5 seconds left in the fourth quarter in UAlbany’s Feb. 22 win against Drexel.
But John and the Great Danes (2-2) still have plenty to fix as they head into Saturday’s 1 p.m. road game against No. 7 Maryland, the final tune-up before UAlbany heads into America East Conference play next week.
Two of those issues — man-up offense and the clearing game — hurt UAlbany in Tuesday’s 17-12 loss to UMass. The Great Danes were 0 of 7 on extra-man opportunities and finished 18 of 24 clearing the ball.
“Nothing to take away from UMass, but we gave the game away,” Marr said.
“Those are the things, like Coach says, that shoot ourselves in the foot,” John said.
At even strength, UAlbany’s top offensive unit — which includes the attack trio of Tehoka Nanticoke, Corey Yunker and Graydon Hogg alongside John, Patterson and Kyle Casey — has clicked brilliantly, accounting for 45 of the team’s 51 goals this season.
That hasn’t translated to the man-up unit, which is just 2 of 15 through four games. It’s a familiar early season struggle for UAlbany, even during seasons like 2018 where the Great Danes looked unstoppable at even strength, but took a while to jell as a man-up unit.
“We’re very skilled, and it’s the same six guys who are playing on offense on our first line,” Marr said. “It’s a work in progress. It’s funny, we talked about it today, but go back to 2018 and we were in the same boat. We didn’t start getting going with our man-up until probably our seventh game of the season. Sometimes, you try to make the perfect play and it turns into a bad shot or a turnover, or whatever it is, or you just don’t put the ball in the goal. But we’ll get there. It’s a skilled group, so we’ll keep working on it.”
Finding that rhythm will be crucial against a Maryland (4-1) team that is one of three remaining top-10 foes on UAlbany’s schedule, along with No. 1 Syracuse and No. 5 Yale.
Fine-tune a few things, John said, and the Great Danes are capable of going toe-to-toe with any team in the country.
“We’ve just got to stop stopping ourselves from winning the games,” John said. “We think we can win it all. We think we can win every game going forward. We’ve just got to play to our standards. It’s nothing really about them, it’s all about us at this point.”
Reach Adam Shinder at [email protected] or @Adam_Shinder on Twitter.