UAlbany Can Reclaim The America East

(Photo Courtesy of UAlbany Athletics)

In 2018, Scott Marr and the UAlbany Great Danes reached the highest high in program history: advancing to Championship Weekend. That magical season was the product of what had gone in since the beginning of the Thompson era in 2013, and up to that point, which allowed the Danes to flourish as college lacrosse’s best and most consistent mid-major program.

Five America East titles, six NCAA Tournament appearances, including three quarterfinal finishes and one semifinal finish. And on top of that, two Tewaaraton Award winners in Lyle and Miles Thompson, a finalist in Connor Fields, and numerous All-Conference and All-American selections. The Danes were dominant during that stretch from 2013 through 2018 with the Thompsons and then Connor Fields headlining that roster.

Following that 2018 season, it looked like it would be Tehoka time for the next three years in New York’s capital city, and the success this program had found in recent years would remain. However, in many respects, this Danes team took a turn for the worst. UAlbany went 5-9 (4-3 America East) during that 2019 season and fell to Vermont in the conference semifinals. They then followed that up with a 2-3 record during the shortened 2020 season.

In 2021, facing an America East-heavy schedule, the Dane train appeared to get back on the tracks. The Danes went 8-5 overall (5-3 America East) and fell to Vermont, 15-10, in the conference title game. Additionally, the fiery offense that has been a staple of this program made somewhat of a return as Albany finished the season ranked 11th nationally in scoring offense (13/85 goals per game) and third in points per game (24.08).

Coming into this spring off the heels of what many would consider a bounce-back season, Albany has no lack of talent to compete in the America East. The only question is if they can indeed put all the pieces together in a way that lets them continue to push forward, back towards the level they were once at. And if they can, an America East title run is not out of question.

With Tehoka Nanticoke leaving the program early last season, Jakob Patterson stepped in and gave the Danes a go-to guy on the offensive end. Patterson, as well as Kyle Casey and Ron Jon are now gone. The trio now leaves the keys to this offense in the hands of a somewhat younger core expected to lead the way next season.

Senior attackman Corey Yunker is the Danes’ top returning point-getter from a year ago. He put up 39 points off 28 goals and 11 assists as the team’s second-leading scorer. That included a six-point outing against Vermont in the America East title game. Junior Graydon Hogg was the third-leading scorer with 29 goals and nine assists for 38 points. The duo is expected to lead this offense in 2022.

Outside of the aforementioned playmakers, a trio of sophomores in Camden Hay, Logan Tucker, and Peter Salit are expected to make significant impacts on that end of the field. Hay started the first three games of the season and played in 10 contests overall, tallying 18 points (5G/13A). That included an impressive six-point (2G/4A) outing against Colgate in his college debut. Tucker saw action in 12 games with four starts and put up 15 points (12G/3A) while Salit had 14 points (6G/8A) on the year, starting in four games and seeing action in 10.

On the defensive end of the field, the Danes have practically a blank canvas to work with coming into the 2022 season. Defensemen Steven Kunz and Michael Kozar, as well as goalie Liam Donnelly, are all gone from a defense that ranked 31st nationally in scoring defense a year ago, allowing 11 goals per game.

Senior Elijah Gash, who came in as a transfer from NAIA St. Ambrose last season and put offense around the league on notice, looks to be the leader of this unit in 2022. He collected 18 ground balls and caused 10 turnovers in 11 starts last season. Taner Hay is the second-most experienced pole returning from last season. A full-time starter in 2020, Hay played in 13 games with just one start last season and recorded 19 ground balls and five caused turnovers.

While there are serious questions as to what the supporting cast around Gash and Hay will look like, the biggest question for this Albany team heading into this spring is who will be starting in between the pipes?

Albany, as great and memorable as their offense has been, has always had a strong tradition of good goalie play. From Brett Queener in the 2000s to Blaze Riorden and JD Colarusso during the height of the Albany lacrosse’s dominance, and Nate Siekierski and Liam Donnelly most recently, the goalie play at Albany has been strong even when the defense as a whole wasn’t too grand.

Liam Donnelly stepped in as a grad transfer last season and filled the big hole left by Nate Siekierski. Now it’s time for the Danes to cycle through again and find the next starter in cage, which looks like it could very well be Will Ramos. The redshirt senior has played in eight games throughout his career and seen two starts, which included six appearances and one start this past season. He made 26 saves with a .481% save percentage in 2021.

Senior Tommy Heller, sophomore Jack VanValkenburg, and redshirt senior Perry Cassidy are also on the Danes’ roster. Heller is the only one of the three who has seen any action at Albany. Cassidy transferred in from Western Connecticut State where he was a four-year starter.

Sophomore Regan Endres looks to be the Danes’ primary option at the faceoff dot once again. He stepped up as a freshman and found immense success, going 143-for-281 (.509%).

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