UAlbany set to host Johns Hopkins, Army – West Point, and Vermont this Saturday October 13, 2018
The ability to navigate through change is a characteristic shared by many successful organizations. Part of the appeal of sport is seeing how your team prepares for and responds to change. In pro sports, this includes free-agency and drafts; while in college sports, the focus is on recruitment, and player development. Following the program’s first Final Four appearance, the UAlbany Men’s Lacrosse Team is in the midst of change. Among the changes for the Great Danes to navigate:
- The graduation of a strong 2018 senior class, which included Connor Fields – among the top scorers in the history of NCAA lacrosse,
- The transfer of face-off phenom TD Ierlan to Yale,
- The departure of coaches Liam Gleason and Derrick Eccles, and
- The absence of Tehoka Nanticoke from UAlbany this fall due to personal reasons.
Prior to the Great Danes’ Wednesday night (October 10, 2018) scrimmage with the Hill Academy, I had the opportunity to check in with Albany Head Coach Scott Marr regarding the opportunities that these changes present, and more.
Fall Ball Check-in
Albany’s 2018 Fall Ball agenda includes three scrimmage dates: the program’s Annual Alumni Game played on October 6th, last night’s match-up with the Hill Academy in Casey Stadium, and the HEADstrong event that the Danes will be hosting this Saturday October 13th. Marr offered that each event brings some different preparation and goals.
“The Alumni Game is more about bringing our alumni back and having a good time. We play everybody, and it’s more of a festive atmosphere. We have a reception afterwards and they get to tailgate with the parents and the kids.”
Speaking about the Hill scrimmage, he added:
“Tonight we ramp it up a little bit more playing the Hill Academy. We do prepare for this a little differently. We’ll probably play our starters for a little bit, but then play our young kids seeing that the Hill Academy is made up of PG (post graduate) kids and High School seniors. A lot of those guys for them (the Hill’s High School seniors) are older as well being Canadian in their 13th year. We look at that one as an opportunity to play someone else in a different jersey, rather than ourselves at practice every day.”
However, the recruiting aspect of the Hill Academy visiting Casey Stadium is not forgotten. “It has a value of them being on our campus and seeing the style we play, and interacting with our guys during the game, so it is a valuable experience for both of us.”
“With the HEADstrong event, everyone will compete, everyone will play and get a fair shot. We want to see what some guys, in a sense at the end of the roster, are bringing to the table right now. Have they grown from their freshman year or sophomore year to their junior year? There certainly will be a lot more intensity when we play Hopkins or when we play Army. Everyone is gearing up and playing, but you’re playing against your peers.”
On the Danes’ progress this fall, Marr commented:
“Excellent – I really like our attitude. I think that they’ve worked hard on the field. It seems like a pretty tight knit group. The freshmen seem to have blended in pretty well. There’s only eight of them, so it’s a little bit smaller of a group. A lot of what we are going to do will be by committee. We lost Connor (Fields), Justin Reh, Kyle McClancy, Josh Egan, Troy (Reh), AJ Kluck, Stone Sims, and JD Colarusso. We’ve lost a lot, but it’s an opportunity for guys to step up and prove themselves and solidify a spot for themselves. Overall, it’s a good solid athletic team from top to bottom. Of our freshmen athletes, other than the two attackmen, everyone is 6’2” or better.”
Next Man Up
In regard to the absence of Tehoka Nanticoke for personal reasons, and other players not participating in Fall Ball due to injury, Marr brought up one of the most notable sports machines of this generation.
“We talked about it in this morning in film – the New England Patriots have been known to have that next man up mentality. For us, and for any team out there at a college level, we want our last guy to be our best guy. We want him to be prepared and ready to step in and play. When your number is called hopefully you go in and do your best. Obviously when you’re missing some starters, and we’re also missing some guys tonight due to class (Wed for Hill scrimmage), so some other guys are going to have opportunities to play. When it comes down to us watching film and evaluating the team, these are opportunities for guys who haven’t gotten much time in the last year or two to show what they can do.”
Following the departure of coaches Liam Gleason and Derrick Eccles to Siena, where Gleason now serves as Head Coach, Marr has added former Danes John Maloney and Connor Russell to the Albany coaching staff.
“I’m so excited. For me it’s a proud moment any time I can bring someone who played for me back to the staff, and for them as well coming back to where they played and being able to share their experiences as a player, and now as a coach. We’re kind of a unique school – a unique niche as far as who we recruit and how we recruit. To have guys on your staff who have gone through it, and understand how the school works – the classes and the social side of things is really important. John brings a lot of enthusiasm and energy, and Connor brings a lot of knowledge not only face off wise, but in general regarding the game of lacrosse.”
While some watchers were surprised that the additions to the coaching staff did not include a former defenseman or LSM, Marr dismissed those concerns with his strong endorsement of Maloney’s defensive knowledge, particularly in the transition game that is likely to be emphasized with the revised rules.
“John was a two-way midfielder for us, and he plays in the MLL as a defensive midfielder and transition guy. He has a great understanding of the defensive side, and he’s coached defense for the two years prior to coming here (St. John Fisher & Skidmore). I think when you’re picking a coach, you’re looking for the right fit. So far with John I’ve been impressed with how well he’s handled himself in his individual talks with guys, and with the defensive personnel in general.”
Experience to Growth
UAlbany was well represented at the FIL World Championships held in Israel this summer, with Great Danes alumni, coaches, and current players participating with teams representing several nations. Marr served on the coaching staff of the Iroquois Nationals, while Offensive Coordinator Merrick Thomson was among Canada’s coaches. Of the players currently participating in Fall Ball activities with UAlbany, three played in the World Championships; Ron John with the Iroquois, and Steve Ramirez and Will Ramos with Puerto Rico. In regard to the value of this experience to these players and the UAlbany program, Marr commented:
“It can only help them, and it can only help us in return. I think Ron really got a tremendous amount of confidence, and the experience of playing against men. Ron played really, really well the whole time. He was very consistent in the way he played and was instrumental for us (the Iroquois Nationals) defensively in getting the ball from defense to offense as a defensive midfielder. Ron really benefited, and really grew with that role he had with us. The same thing with Steven and Will. I didn’t see them play as much. We did play them one time and they both played well. Will scored a goal, which is pretty funny, from Steven actually on a man-up. That’s led us to look at Will a little bit on man-up as well and give him a shot to play extra man. Any time you have a chance to be a part of an international team, and international games it can only benefit you.”
Rules of the Game
On playing under the new rules, which include a shot clock and shortened substitution box:
“We’ve been playing a two-way system since 2013 when the last rule changes occurred, so we really haven’t changed much of what we do. What it does eliminate is every once in a while, we would take the air out of the ball to give our defense a rest, or just at the end of a period. It just eliminates any dead time in the game which has been really cool to see. I’ve talked to some people who have already had scrimmages and they really like it. It forces you to substitute faster. You have plenty of time to run the offense when you get the ball. I think the biggest change is that the riding game will become really important. That 20 seconds goes really quick if you cross field (pass) the ball a couple of times. A lot of teams will panic trying to get the ball over in 20 seconds, so that’s going to be interesting.”
Asked about the shortened substitution box, Marr commented:
“You’ll see more decision making – do I stay on the field or get off the field? If I stay on the field am I tired and now the team is giving up a five on four or six on five fast break. Hopefully, that part of the game grows, as the transition game becomes more of a factor, which you haven’t seen too much.”
This Saturday, October 13, 2018 UAlbany will host the Nicholas Colleluori Lacrosse Classic to benefit the HEADstrong Foundation. The event will feature scrimmages involving four of the top teams in NCAA Division I Lacrosse – UAlbany, Johns Hopkins, Army-West Point, and Vermont. While Headstrong is typically associated with cancer related charitable work, the organization will be recognizing JP Honsinger as Hero for the Day. Honsinger, who has a strong relationship with the UAlbany Lacrosse program suffers from Niemann Pick Type C, a neurodegenerative disorder that causes progressive deterioration of the nervous system. On bringing the event to Albany, Marr credits the suggestion to his former teammate, Hopkins Coach Dave Pietramala.
“We’ve been in Baltimore for the last three years for this at Hopkins. My son Kyle plays for Hopkins, and last year at the end of the event Coach Pietramala asked me if I’d like to have it at home so Kyle could play at home once. I thought that was pretty generous of him. We talked to Cheryl Colleluori who is the head of the (HEADstrong) foundation and she was all for it. Everything has worked out pretty smoothly. For JP who will be Hero for the Day, I know that being around our team, and the game, and having fun in the locker room does help him, so hopefully it’s a great day for him”
About coaching against his son Kyle:
“It’s different, because it’s a scrimmage, than if it were a real game in the spring time. It’s kind of why we stopped playing (Hopkins) for these four years. Hopefully, we can pick up the series again after this year. We try to have fun with it. I’ll joke with him, and when he’s on the field walking by I’ll talk with him. It’s kind of nice for him to be able to come back to Albany where he started his lacrosse career playing for me in the club stuff on those fields.”
To support UAlbany’s fundraising efforts click: Pledge HEADstrong
For event details, see the Tweet and included link from UAlbany Athletics embedded below.
— UAlbany Sports (@UAlbanySports) October 11, 2018
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