On a recent day, the UAlbany men’s lacrosse team scored another goal against Capital Region rival Siena, adding to the total of the number No. 1 offense in all of Division I lacrosse.
A big reason behind the team’s scoring outburst in recent years is its three All-American players, who share the same last name: Thompson.
That would be seniors Miles and Ty, as well as the preseason’s Division I player of the year, junior Lyle.
The Thompson trio’s domination began when Miles and Ty decided to attend UAlbany four years ago. Lyle, Miles’ younger brother, followed the next year.
Since arriving in 2011, the Thompsons have taken the Great Danes to another level, including a double-overtime victory over national powerhouse Syracuse last season and the program’s first berth in the NCAA tournament since 2007.
Coach Scott Marr attributes the recent success to his three star players.
“They’re just a tremendous influence on how we play the game, and the level that we play at,” Marr said. “Because they play at such a high level, they really do take our whole team to a next level.”
This year, the Danes finished the regular season with a 9-5 record, going undefeated in the America East conference. The team clinched the top overall seed in the conference tournament by defeating Binghamton 21-7 in the finale. The Thompsons scored 12 of the 21 goals.
Lyle and Miles rank first and second, respectively, in points per game throughout all of Division I. Lyle also ranks first in assists per game, while Miles is first in goals per game.
The brothers have played the sport together since they were born pretty much with lacrosse sticks in hand, and have played with their cousin Ty since they were children growing up on the Onondaga reservation, in upstate New York.
Miles Thompson attributes their success to their chemistry.
“We just know each other’s tendencies so well; that’s what makes us,” Miles said. “Knowing each other’s moves and where we’re going to be at certain spots of the field.”
The players use their Native American heritage to their advantage during games.
“We use our language and other teams don’t know our language, so we can just say anything,” Miles said. “Lyle’s name is Deyhahsanoondey, short for Deyhaus, (meaning “He’s flying over us”) and we use that. That means he’s going to backdoor his defender, because teams are starting to lock us off, where we kind of use that to help us out.”
Against Siena, the three displayed that dominant chemistry, anticipating each other’s moves and passes fluidly, resulting in 15 of the team’s 19 total goals.
After last season, when the Thompsons put UAlbany on the national map, and when Lyle, after finishing one point shy of tying the record for most points in a season, was a finalist for the Tewaaraton Award, for the nation’s top player, there was a lot of pressure on the trio to deliver again this season.
Ty Thompson said the three did not let that affect their game.
“I think there was definitely pressure at the beginning of the season,” Ty Thompson said. “Teams are going to try to stop us, and we just play through that, and play the game how it’s supposed to be played and just have fun.”
And that’s exactly what they did this season. They were responsible for 57 percent of the team’s goals, leading the Danes to average 16 goals per game. All three of the Thompsons scored at least one goal in every game this season.
Lyle Thompson says they have embraced that role.
“Being a role model for the Native American community is huge for me, and that’s kind of the role I’d like to go towards,” Lyle Thompson said. “Just helping out our younger generation as much as I can because there isn’t too much kids going off to college.”
The players made a bold decision when they decided to attend UAlbany. Although the program was on the rise, historically, it had not seen as much success as other major programs, like Johns Hopkins, Duke, and nearby Syracuse, where Miles and Lyle’s older brother Jeremy played and other Onondagas have gravitated over the years.
Lyle Thompson has no regrets about the decision to follow his brother and cousin to the state capital, and it has worked out, as UAlbany has become a nationally recognized program, finishing the regular season ranked 15th in the nation, according to the NCAA Men’s Lacrosse ratings percentage index.
“I’m completely satisfied with this decision,” Lyle said. “To be here and be playing it, and competing at a high level and succeeding, it makes me feel like I am at the right place.”
UAlbany Athletic Director Dr. Lee McElroy is also happy with the Thompsons’ decision, and said the university has every intention of furthering the relationship with future Native American athletes.
“Oh, absolutely,” McElroy said. “Coach is already looking at juniors, and rising sophomores already, who are very talented, and they’re looking at us because of the success that Miles, and Ty, and Lyle have had here.”
By finishing the regular season on a six-game winning streak, UAlbany clinched the No. 1 seed in the America East Tournament. McElroy said the program has its sights set on winning the conference title for a second year in a row and making it back to the NCAA tournament.
“Now, our next goal is to win America East,” McElroy said. “After we win America East, anything can happen and that means we can go all the way.”
Lyle Thompson said just reaching the NCAA tournament won’t be enough this time around.
“We want to go into the tournament, and go deep and make it to the national championship, not just get to where we did last year,” Thompson said.
The trio and the rest of the team will begin that journey tonight at 7:30 p.m. when they take on Stony Brook in the semifinals of the America East Tournament on Long Island.
Born and raised in Albany, WAMC News intern Dylan Buckley will graduate from the University at Albany this spring with a degree in journalism.