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Michael Kelly | The Daily Gazette | February 24, 2018

Debut behind him, Albany's Tehoka Nanticoke ready for home opener

ALBANY -- Looking back, University at Albany men's lacrosse freshman Tehoka Nanticoke said he pressed during his collegiate debut last weekend in Syracuse.

"I was a little tense with my stick," Nanticoke said earlier this week.

But Nanticoke still scored a game-high five goals in UAlbany's 15-3 drubbing of the Orange . . . and earned the America East's offensive and rookie player of the week awards . . . and garnered a spot on the United States Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association DI Team of the Week along with teammate JD Colarusso, UAlbany's redshirt senior goalie.

So, all in all, a pretty good debut for Nanticoke -- but he expects to be better Saturday at noon when the Great Danes take on Drexel in their home opener.

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"My stick skills were not there," Nanticoke said of his opening performance.

Everyone else, though, was impressed with what the nation's top-ranked freshman delivered in his first outing for the Great Danes. Program legend Lyle Thompson, a two-time Tewaaraton Award winner, said earlier this week he was most impressed with the way Nanticoke was able to create so many of his shots on his own in his first college game.

"That was him doing him," said Thompson, who played for UAlbany from 2012 to 2015 and holds the NCAA career scoring record.

Ahead of UAlbany (1-0) playing Drexel (0-1), Nanticoke said he's not feeling any pressure to match last weekend's scoring output.

He's focused on having fun.

"I think that's what this whole entire program's about," Nanticoke said.

Expecting a crowd

Last time the Great Danes played a home game, they topped North Carolina in the NCAA tournament in front of a record-setting crowd.

This time? UAlbany head coach Scott Marr said he's hopeful for a solid crowd to support the Great Danes.

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"I think we've created a nice buzz for ourselves the last couple years, and our local fans have really done a nice job of supporting us," Marr said.

Against North Carolina last year, Tom & Mary Casey Stadium housed 6,472 fans -- a program-record, and record for an NCAA first-round game since the tournament's field expanded in 2003.

Attendance at last year's home opener for the Great Danes -- played at smaller John Fallon Field -- was 518. Marr said earlier this week that more presale tickets had already been sold for this year's home opener at Casey Stadium.

"I do think we're going to capture some of the casual fans," Marr said. "What we've tried to capture is that casual basketball fan."

He added: "But we'll take anybody."

Not satisfied

After dismantling a national powerhouse in its opener, is it possible for UAlbany to play better against Drexel?

Colarusso, without hesitation, said that's the plan.

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"Oh, yeah. Yeah. It's only our first game," said Colarusso, who made 10 saves in that win on his way to being named America East Defensive Player of the Week. "You know, we've only been practicing for a few weeks. We had two scrimmages and our first game. It's a long season. . . . The sky's the limit for us."

The goal is to make a program-first appearance at championship weekend in late May. Sophomore TD Ierlan, who won 16 of 21 faceoffs against Syracuse, said the Great Danes want to keep getting better each week.

"You don't want to play your best lacrosse in February," Ierlan said.

This article is written by Michael Kelly from The Daily Gazette, Schenectady, N.Y. and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.