The Albany Great Danes have been on a pretty solid postseason run over the last few years. For the last three seasons, Albany has made the NCAA Tournament, making the quarterfinal round in 2014 and 2015. However, it could be said that with the offensive talent that this team has had over those years, the program has fallen short.
In 2015 the Syracuse Orange were able to hold off the Great Danes in a 17-12 victory. All-time, SU is 12-1 versus Albany, the only loss coming in a double overtime game in 2013. In fact, two of the last three matchups took at least one overtime to decide.
While Syracuse is off to a convincing 1-0 start, the Great Danes open up its season against SU in Carrier Dome this Sunday at 4 PM. Albany is currently ranked #12 in the Cascade/Maverik Media Poll and in the USILA Coaches' Poll while the Orange hold the #5 position.
Syracuse will host a triple-header on Sunday with the women facing off against the Wagner Seahawks at noon. Any fans that show up for the women's game by halftime will be able to park at no charge and walk into the Carrier Dome without paying for a ticket for the men's game. Anyone who arrives after that will have to pay normal parking and admission prices. The women will also host the Marist Red Foxes at 7:30 PM.
Two time Tewaaraton Trophy winner Lyle Thompson is easily the biggest loss for any team in division I lacrosse. Thompson put up 400 points over four years, including 175 goals. There are two big returning names for Albany this year. Sophomore Connor Fields recorded 66 goals in 2015, placing him 9th in NCAA history for freshman goal scorers. After racking up numerous postseason awards, Fields brings his 88 points back in an attempt to put up similar numbers without Lyle Thompson distracting defenses. Fields was held to two goals and one assist against the Orange last season. In the NCAA Tournament, the sophomore put up four goals against the Cornell Big Red in the first round and six goals against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in the quarterfinals. While the lefty is an excellent shooter, he also has a talent for feeding fellow players. It will be very interesting to see whether Nick Mellen or Brandon Mullins faces Fields. Last week, Mellen drew the top attackman but that could have been just to throw him in the fire and see what he could do.
Alongside Fields will be Seth Oakes, who missed the fall but has been cleared to play by the NCAA. Oakes spent 2013 and 2014 at Onondaga Community College. As a Lazer he scored 46 points in 2013 but missed the 2014 season due to injury. Listed as a redshirt junior, Oakes found the net 54 times and added 12 assists in 2015 for Albany.
The third starter at attack will most likely be Kyle McClancy. The sophomore had 16 goals and six assists last season and is an outstanding dodger. McClancy played midfield in 2015 and was named to the America East All-Rookie Team, but should be moving to attack in 2016.
John Maloney may be Albany's best midfield option. The senior out of Victor, NY, has good defensive ability, but also may be the team's best outside shooting option. He has played 51 games over the last three seasons, racking up 83 points, 88 groundballs, and 18 caused turnovers.
Standing at 6'3", Adam Osika is known for his incredible athleticism. He has a great dodging ability and should be more of a force this season. The Ohio native has 14 points through two years. I expect the junior to play a lot of defensive midfield. Redshirt senior Derrick Eccles will be asked to carry much more of a burden this year. Eccles, a graduate of Corcoran High School in Syracuse, has never had more than 16 points in a season but does have 35 in his three years.
Connor Russell is still out with a knee injury, and the Great Danes will be missing his .488 career faceoff winning percentage. With Russell still out, Albany will most likely be using a rotation at the faceoff X that could include a mix of: Stone Sims, Harry Erickson, Justin Zelen, and AJ Kluck. Syracuse's Ben Williams went 12-16 against Siena, and looks to be in excellent form. Cal Paduda backed up Williams nicely on Saturday going 5-8, so I don't expect the Orange to have any problems at the faceoff X.
Coach Scott Marr is not known for his defensive recruits, but the Great Danes could look much better than in years past on defense due to a strong group of returning defensive midfielders and close defenders. The Albany defense returns two starters: Josh Babcock and James Burdette. Babcock is most likely going to be the number one defenseman and is the closest thing this team has to a "shut-down" defender. The senior has 13 caused turnovers and 14 groundballs in his 47 games played. Babcock has started 33 games in two years, and has the most game experience out of the entire close defense. The Penn Yan, NY, native comes into this season with 25 caused turnovers and 33 groundballs.
The starting Syracuse attackmen put up 14 points versus Siena. Dylan Donahue didn't seem to have any issues settling into his new role as a distributer and scorer. Meanwhile, graduate student Nick Piroli appears to fit in nicely on his new team. While there were a lot of questions coming into the year, I'm not sure the Great Danes' long poles will be able to slow down this Syracuse group.
While Lyle Thompson may have been the best player in college lacrosse last year, Blaze Riorden had the most memorable play from 2015 when he made a save and took it coast-to-coast for a goal against Cornell in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Riorden is a big dude at six feet tall and weighing 215 pounds. In years past, Riorden has been somewhat left out to dry by his defense. In 2015 he made the 14th most saves in division I while having a 9.93 goals against average, leaving him with a .560 save percentage which was good enough for 11th in the country. The senior hails from nearby Fairport, NY, and has had a heck of a career. That being said, he will need to put up similar numbers this year for this program to have a shot at another postseason.
The Syracuse Orange faceoff with the Albany Great Danes at 4 PM on Sunday, February 21 in the Carrier Dome. The game can be seen on TWCS, ESPN3 and can be heard on TK99. Of course you can also follow me @Orangelax for game updates.