Story contributed by Gabe Flaten of the Albany Student Press:
Momentum is a two-way street–as shown in the University at Albany’s thrilling, 15-12 NCAA tournament first round win versus the reigning champions, the UNC Tar Heels.
In the first half, the Danes seamlessly cruised to 14-3 lead, getting five goals from Bennett Drake, three from Kyle McClancy and four assists from Connor Fields.
“The offense was firing on all cylinders,” said Fields, a Tewaaraton finalist and leading NCAA point scorer.
However, the Tar Heels waged a furious comeback in the second half, scoring nine straight to cut the lead to 14-12. To delay UNC’smomentum, head coach Scott Marr took a wise timeout at 14-12 with ten minutes left in the fourth quarter to settle the distressed Danes.
With six minutes remaining, the Great Danes stopped the bleeding, courtesy of an unassisted goal by senior two-way midfielder Adam Osika, whose second goal of the game was the first and last for UAlbany in the second half.
If Coach Marr were told before the game that his team would win while only scoring one goal in the second half, he would have thought that was crazy.
“It’s a 60-minute game, but we only played well for about 45,” Said Marr, who was concerned about his team’s second half performance.
At the ‘X’, TD Ierlan was crucial in keeping possession in favor of the Danes and keeping the ball away from All-Americans such as Chris Cloutier and Luke Goldstock, a Niskayuna alum. Ierlan won the first ten face-offs of the game and forced UNC to play on their heels for all of the first half.
“We know you can’t win without the ball,” said Marr.
As the rain poured down relentlessly, nothing could seemingly deter the Great Danes in the first half. It should be noted that Marr’s team has never reached a NCAA Final Four in his 17-year tenure.
“That is the most gratifying thing”, Marr said after thanking all of the people who have contributed to building the program up behind the scenes over his career.
The attendance for Saturday night’s game (6,472) ranks number one in UAlbany’s lacrosse history and is the largest attendance for a first round NCAA Tournament game since the tournament expanded in 2003.
This historic accomplishment was evident on the field. With each goal the crowd grew increasingly loud, and the play on the field amplified.
“That atmosphere was electric,” said Marr.
.The Great Danes look to carry their six-game winning streak into next weekend, where they will play the victor of Maryland and Bryant. The Danes have not lost since an April 12th thriller against the Terps. When asked about the idea of a rematch against Maryland, Marr grinned.
“I can’t wait.”