By: Tom Castro
After dominating a major portion of the last decade, the University at Albany Men’s Lacrosse team is in an unfamiliar place. In the wake of a disappointing 5-9 campaign last season, the Great Danes are poised to turn things back around in 2020.
UAlbany was picked to finish third in the American East Preseason Coaches Poll, after being projected to finish first for seven consecutive years. Head Coach Scott Marr, heading into his 20th season with the Great Danes, has not changed his expectations and has continued to operate with the same winning culture that helped build his program into a perennial winner.
“Our expectation is to win our conference, that has been our expectation since we got into the conference 18 years ago, so it’s no different there,” Coach Marr said. “But really the expectation is to compete, just to see how hard we can compete, and I think if we come out every game and compete for every square inch of the field than I think we’re going to be in good shape.”
The Great Danes will once again feature a high-powered offense, led by some key returners and a solid group of upperclassmen. When it comes to the attack end of things, UAlbany will rely heavily on the reigning American East Offensive Player of the Year, Jakob Patterson, and fellow attackman Tehoka Nanticoke to run the show and control things offensively.
Patterson, a senior, was named the American East Preseason Player of the Year by Lacrosse Insider and will look to build on a terrific junior season in which he netted 25 goals to go along with 32 assists. The attackman led the Great Danes in total points with 57 and also led the entire conference in points per game with 4.07.
Tehoka Nanticoke is coming off a 25 goal, 13 assist campaign, in which he joined Patterson in receiving All-Conference First Team honors. The star attackmen are the only two All-Conference players returning for the Great Danes, after having six players receive the award last season.
With big shoes to fill UAlbany will look for contributions from a handful of newcomers, including freshman Graydon Hogg and sophomore Corey Yunker, who will both be asked to play a lot this season. Junior Midfielder Alex Burgmaster will also be a major factor as he, along with Patterson, was named to the Preseason All-Conference team.
Even after losing a handful of talented players to graduation, Tehoka still believes that the strength of this team could lay within its leadership and experience.
“Our two upper-class classes have experience in the Final Four and I think we all know what it takes to get back there but, going 5-9 last year and having to overcome that season, I just feel like our strengths are going to be our experience and pushing each other from the last guy to the first guy to get back each and every day. I think our leadership is going to have to step up and be a big factor in this season,” Tehoka explained.
On the defensive side, the Great Danes have a second-year starter in the net, as goalkeeper Nate Siekierski returns after making 13 starts with an 11.54 goals-against average and 51 percent save rate last season. In his senior season, Siekierski will look to make a few changes to his game as he helps to control the defense for UAlbany.
“A goal I set for myself is just to be more aggressive towards the ball. Being a big body, I kind of depended on that last year, making big body saves,” Siekierski said. “I want to focus more on my feet, being more agile, moving and exploding to the ball, and just be quicker from the start.”
The Great Danes have experience in the net but will feature two defensemen starting for the first time in their careers: Michael Kozar and Tanner Hay. Even with some newcomers on defense, UAlbany will look to some of their veteran guys to help lead the way. Senior defenseman Steven Nunz believes that with the right leadership and mindset, this team could position themselves to make a run.
“I want to come out every day and just work hard, lead vocally with communication but, also lead by example,” Nunz said. “Team-wise, we had a down season last year but, it’s a new season so I think we’re just going to come out and work hard every single day, keep pushing day after day, and get a win not only for the American East but, also to make a run at the Tournament also.”
There is a lot of camaraderie and trust around this team, looking to push each other every day to get better. After experiencing the woes of last season, they will look to use that as motivation and lean on one another.
According to Tehoka Nanticoke, the closeness of this group is what separates them from any other program across the nation.
“Family. From day one when you step on as a freshman, you’re welcomed into a family with Coach Scott Marr leading the way,” Nanticoke said. “I feel like that’s one of the best things about Albany Lacrosse, were all preparing every day to come out and get better. I just feel like family is the biggest part of this program.”
The Great Danes, who lost to Vermont in the American East Semifinal round last season, opened up their season with a 19-10 loss to Cornell on Saturday. UAlbany has two more games in their opening homestand, with their next game coming against Drexel.