Liam Gleason, UAlbany’s Associate Head Coach for Men’s Lacrosse and Defensive Coordinator, has served on Head Coach Scott Marr’s staff since October 2011. In his first six years, 21 UAlbany defensive players have earned all-conference honors, with another four players earning all-rookie honors in the America East. Gleason’s defense helped UAlbany go undefeated in conference play in 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017, winning the school’s fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth America East Tournament titles.
In 2017, the UAlbany defense held opponents to 9.5 goals per game, including the top man-down defense in Division I at 82% en route to a fifth straight perfect America East regular season and the program’s third appearance in the NCAA Quarterfinals in four years. Adam Osika, Troy Reh and Stone Sims all earned All-America honors plus were all America East All-Conference First Team, joining JD Colarusso and Erik Dluhy as all-conference players.
a 2007 UAlbany graduate, Gleason played on the school’s 2007 squad that won the America East Conference championship and advanced to the NCAA quarterfinals. He made 28 appearances in his two-year UAlbany career after transferring from Division II Adelphi University. From 2007-10, Gleason served as Siena College’s defensive coordinator; and he also served as St. Rose’s Head Coach for a year.
Coming off the Danes’ dominant season opening win over Syracuse, Coach Gleason took the time to answer some questions for Capital District Lax.
Gary Govel: Your defense held Syracuse to three goals on Saturday. The last time SU was held to three goals occurred in 1991. What stood out to you about that performance, and how can you keep that defensive momentum up as the season progresses?
Liam Gleason: Since we played Syracuse in 2016 in the playoffs and lost in the first round, we have made a philosophical change. We have tried to stay tight inside the box and not chase teams outside the box. This time we did a great job with our individual match ups, we won face offs and had great time of possession with our offense. It was a total team effort from our goalie to our offense. This a veteran group for us on the defensive end. We have multiple four year and three year starters.
GG: While UAlbany is known for not specializing, one place you do specialize is man down situations. This separate unit was the top rated man down defense in 2017 so the results
speak for themselves, but talk to us a little about this group.
LG: Our man down unit really came in to their own last year. The unit is a special group of guys that put in a lot of extra work on the side with film and white board study. We have a group text and a group Snapchat for our man down unit. The guys make sure to make it fun and competitive. We have two players that are man down specialists and see limited time in 6v6 defense. They really embrace their roles.
GG: Albany’s offense is known for playing fast, but as the result your defense also has to play fast. How do you prepare the defensive players for that pressure, and how do you keep them up when they don’t get the best of an exchange?
LG: That was a major challenge we had in the past. Our defense would play a lot of possessions. Whether we turned the ball over or scored very quickly. We didn’t win faceoffs. So even positive quick strikes on offense sometimes were tough for our defense if they had just played a long possession. The addition of TD Ierlan at faceoff has really helped our defense and offense. We have also focused on managing our possession at different times of the game.
GG: What are the keys to using your two way midfielders, and LSMs to turn defense into offense?
LG: Two way midfielders help us in many aspects of the game. The first is our ride and getting back on defense. After a save or turnover we do not have to run guys off the field and sub D-mids on. This allows us to match up and pressure the clearing team immediately. This also really helps us stay strong in transition defense. The second way they help us is defense to offense. After we make a save or get a stop we are pushing the ball up the field as fast as we can and are not concerned about subbing. This helps create transition as other teams need to sub their D-mids on.
GG: Tell us a little about your approach to recruiting defensive players for UAlbany.
LG: For midfielders, defenders and LSMs, we are looking for athletes. Especially their footwork. We need midfielders who can play defense first and push the ball after a stop. We love multi-sport athletes especially basketball for defenders. Basketball has many similarities to lacrosse. Playing defense without a long pole on the basketball court really works on your footwork and angles.
GG: A little more about recruiting. Although UAlbany has featured two #1 recruits in recent years in Lyle Thompson and Tehoka Nanticoke, you also have players on both ends of the field playing at an elite level who were not highly recruited in High School. In your opinion, were these players underrated in the recruiting system, a better fit for Albany than other programs, or are there other reasons they find success in Albany?
LG: I think a little bit of all three. Especially at the midfield. Our midfielders we recruit aren’t always highly skilled lacrosse players that many schools are attracted to. We are looking for the athletes who can get stops and get the ball up the field. That being said, many midfielders flourish in our system that other schools do not run.
GG: There are now UAlbany Lacrosse alumni in coaching positions throughout college lacrosse. What lessons and experiences from their years at Albany do you hope they bring with them to these positions?
LG: Scott Marr leaves a lasting impact on all the players that have played under him. I believe that is why we have so many alumni coaching now. When they graduate they just want more! I believe its because of the positive, fun and energetic way he runs the program. You don’t always see that in a Division 1 Lacrosse program. Our guys don’t graduate and hang it up, they want to find a way to stay involved. I think most coaches who have played at Albany understand the importance of being positive and communicating with their players which is an environment that Scott Marr promotes…making it fun and not a job.
The Great Danes host the Drexel Dragons on Saturday February 24, 2014 at Noon. For more news and info visit UALBANY LACROSSE