Saturday would have been a day of celebration for the Siena men’s lacrosse team. The Saints were due to host Canisius at Hickey Field in the final game of the regular season and honor their eight graduating seniors.
Those plans changed six weeks ago when the spring sports season was wiped out by rising concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic.
But, even though there’s no game, and Siena’s seniors are spread out back at home instead of together on campus in Loudonville, Saints coach Liam Gleason said the program still wanted to find a way to honor the seniors’ contribution to the program. They’ll do that with a virtual tailgate at 1 p.m., right at the scheduled time Siena would have been facing Canisius in a game that could have had serious postseason implications.
“Who knows what it would’ve meant?” Gleason said in a phone interview Thursday. “It could’ve been for a first seed, it could’ve been for a chance to get into the [MAAC] tournament. It’s a bummer, for sure, but we’re happy that we can do something for [our seniors].”
Of the team’s eight seniors, two are set to return next year having already been accepted into graduate programs at Siena, though both players had an extra year of eligibility remaining after using medical redshirts earlier in their career.
Midfielder Maurice Tessier, an Albany Academy graduate who scored three goals in Siena’s first six games of 2020 before the season was canceled, is enrolled in Siena’s five-year accounting program and will be back in 2021.
Also returning will be midfielder Brett Habich, who had two goals and an assist during the shortened season. Habich is in a two-year MBA program and Gleason said it’s likely he’ll utilize both the extra year afforded by his redshirt and the added year of eligibility granted by the NCAA to all spring athletes to play two more seasons.
Of the team’s remaining seniors — players Jack Drillock, Tommy Pulzello, Colton Hart, Jack Buckley and Niskayuna High School product Dylan Pantalone, plus undergraduate assistant coach Kevin Prunty — Gleason said it’s possible that “one, maybe two” more could return in 2021, though it’s dependent on if they’re accepted to graduate programs.
“We’re limited in a way of what we can offer, grad-wise,” Gleason said. “Really, the MBA route is the only way for most of them to do it. They’ve got to finish up and apply for the MBA, and we’ll see if something works out.”
Gleason said players will have until mid-May to make their decision, something he understands will be largely based on financial circumstances.
“I feel for these guys. Everybody wants to come back, but higher education is expensive, man,” Gleason said. “Most of these guys, you get some academic aid and then we give you an extra five or 10 grand athletic, and then you’re still playing. And, if you go to grad school, you don’t get academic aid. To come back, you’ve got to sign up for another 40, 50 grand. That’s a tough thing to commit to sometimes, especially if you had a job potentially lined up.”
That’s why, regardless of who plans to return, Gleason felt it was important to show appreciation to a senior class that lost its final season as a group under unprecedented, world-changing circumstances.
Among those Gleason said will be taking part in the virtual tailgate are incoming Siena College president Chris Gibson, outgoing president Father Kevin Mullen, athletic director John D’Argenio and members of the Siena board of trustees who are lacrosse alumni.
“We’ve got some heavy hitters,” Gleason said. “The whole idea is that we wanted to give the seniors an opportunity to say what their experience meant to them, and then just tie alumni into in it and say, ‘Hey, we’re welcoming you into this great network now.'”
It’s a chance to raise a glass to the senior class — literally.
“We’re going to give them a virtual toast,” Gleason said. “Everyone will have a drink in their hand, and we’ll send them off into life.”
Reach Adam Shinder at [email protected] or @Adam_Shinder on Twitter.