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Michael Kelly | The Daily Gazette | April 6, 2018

Albany looks to match 2007 team's undefeated start

  Albany looks for their 11th straight win of the season Friday vs. UMBC.

ALBANY — With a win Friday at UMBC, this year's University at Albany men's lacrosse team matches the Great Danes' 2007 squad for the program's best-ever start to a season.

"Oh, really?"

That was Merrick Thomson's response to that information Wednesday. Now an assistant coach with the program he played for from 2004 to 2007, Thomson didn't remember the Great Danes he helped lead as a college senior had started 11-0.

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Instead, both associate head coach Liam Gleason — another senior on that 2007 team and Thomson better remember what it felt like to be a part of that team more than a decade ago, and how similar it feels to being a part of this year's No. 1 UAlbany squad.

"The culture has stayed the same," Thomson said. "Very similar kids. That's the biggest thing. I look at these guys now and the way they hang out with each other, and that's how my team was."

"And the confidence," Gleason said.

UAlbany (2-0, 10-0) meets UMBC (0-2, 2-7) at 7 p.m. Friday in a game rescheduled from Saturday because of a forecasted snowstorm in the area this weekend. Senior Connor Fields (knee) has been ruled out for the game and senior Justin Reh (upper body) is also likely to miss his second consecutive game, but the Great Danes are still equipped with more than enough to keep its status as the nation's lone undefeated team.

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If the Great Danes do that, they will match the 2007 team's 11-0 start and have a chance in a couple weeks to eclipse that mark when it takes on Binghamton at Tom & Mary Casey Stadium after a bye week. With those two wins, this year's Great Danes would top another program-best mark that once belonged to the 2007 team, the first UAlbany men's lacrosse team to win more than 10 games in a season and the one that previously had the highest national ranking No. 2 in program history.

"We play a very similar style to what we did back then, too," said UAlbany head coach Scott Marr, the program's coach since the 2001 season. "There's a lot of similarities between how this team works now and how it did back then. That team was very dangerous, too, in that we had seven or eight scorers and we shared the ball very well."

While this year's team features a bevy of stars in redshirt senior JD Colarusso, Fields, sophomore TD Ierlan, senior Kyle McClancy and freshman Tehoka Nanticoke, the 2007 team had six players score more than 30 points. Frank Resetarits a Tewaaraton Award finalist that year and Thomson led that team, but the latter sees this year's version of the Great Danes as a superior one.

"We're a smarter program now," Thomson said. "We make smarter decisions offensively and defensively we've grown astronomically."

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Gleason, Thomson said, deserves much of the credit for that last part.

"He's done an unbelievable job," Thomson said.

Like this year's team started its season with a win against Syracuse, the 2007 Great Danes also started their campaign with a memorable win against one of the sport's blue bloods. While UAlbany beat Syracuse 15-3 this year, the 2007 group topped Johns Hopkins 8-7 to start its season,

"That win, right from the start, really gave us a lot of confidence and I feel that's the same with this year's team and beating Syracuse," Gleason said. "That [Johns Hopkins] win really set the foundation for us that we could be a special team."

In 2007, UAlbany lost to Syracuse after starting 11-0, and also fell to Binghamton in a regular season game before winning the conference tournament. Like that 2007 team, Gleason said this year's team has done a great job making sure it doesn't look ahead despite logging one win after another.

"Our team has really embraced that," Gleason said. "Our mindset of just trying to focus on us and our next opponent has been great this year."

The 2007 team had its season end in the NCAA tournament quarterfinals against Cornell. Nobody knows how this season will conclude for the Great Danes, but Thomson said he is confident the players on this year's UAlbany team will remember their season similarly to the way he remembers his senior season: more by the fun than by the wins.

"Our team that senior class we're still as close today as we were 11 years ago," Thomson said. "I see that with this group, too."

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.