The University at Albany’s men’s lacrosse team has become one of the nation’s top programs in recent years, with player of the year award-winners and booming attendance. This year, UAlbany beat lacrosse giant Syracuse and notched its first No. 1 ranking. But on Saturday, the Great Danes are taking a big step forward: their first trip to the Final Four.
UAlbany coach Scott Marr has led the program for its entire Division I history — taking it over two decades from the campus backfields to a headlining role in front of thousands at Casey Stadium and 10 NCAA tourneys.
Marr had back-to-back Tewaaraton Award winners — given to the nation’s most outstanding player—and he’s gotten as far as the NCAA quarterfinals.
But Saturday, for the first time, the second-seeded Great Danes will be one win from the national championship game.
UAlbany earned the trip to Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass. — home of the New England Patriots — with a nail-biting 15-13 win over Denver in the quarterfinals.
“It kind of seems like we’ve all kind of, kind of come together as one family here, at Albany," Marr says. "And again, it’s been a great ride and I think it’s just, again it just proves to people out there that staying positive and playing positive, and doing positive things with your kids, you know, results turn out to be positive.”
Already famous for its viral headshots — full of wacky hairstyles and clothes — the team has been making it to SportsCenter for its play, too. The Great Danes won the America East conference tournament and then beat Richmond in the opening round of the NCAAs.
UAlbany has an entertaining roster including senior superstar Connor Fields, who’s in the top four all-time in career scoring freshman phenom Tehoka Nanticoke, sophomore faceoff specialist TD Irelan, goalkeeper JD Colarusso and senior twins Justin and Troy Reh, to name a few.
The 16-2 Great Danes face a familiar foe in the semifinal. Third-seeded Yale, which is 15-3, dealt UAlbany one of its two losses back in April, 14-6.
Coach Andy Shay says Yale isn’t taking anything for granted.
“There’s familiarity from the last time we played, but, a month in college lacrosse, you know, it’s like dog years, a month is a long, long time," Shay says. "A week is a month. So, it’s been, they’ve changed a lot, we’ve changed as well. I think that, for us, we need to start over fresh.”
For his part, Marr says the Great Danes are excited for a rare same season rematch.
“You know, now we feel like we’re back to full strength, and we’ve actually been playing really well since that loss, so, hopefully we’ll have a different outcome this weekend," Marr says. "But I know our kids are just going to enjoy going out there, and having a chance to compete against them again, because, again we all know we didn’t play our greatest game that day.”
The winner faces the Maryland-Duke victor for the national championship Monday.