ALBANY -- Along with several teammates in a campus dorm room, University at Albany men's lacrosse sophomore TD Ierlan watched Sunday's NCAA tournament game between Denver and Notre Dame to find out the Great Danes' next opponent.
As it became clear Denver was going to win, Ierlan took his cell phone out of his pocket and placed it on the couch. Looking at teammates Pat Barrow, Davis Diamond and Doug Goldsmith, Ierlan told them to get ready.
"I'm going to put my ringer on," Ierlan announced.
And . . .
"As soon as the clock hit zero," Ierlan said Monday, "I think I got 15 text messages. Immediately."
The buzzing didn't stop.
"But after that," Ierlan said, "I didn't really look at my phone too much."
UAlbany and Denver meet 2:30 p.m. Saturday in Hempstead, which means Ierlan will face off -- literally -- against senior Trevor Baptiste in a matchup the national lacrosse community has likely craved more than any other potential pairing this season.
Freshman Tehoka Nanticoke wowed us all this past weekend in Albany's game vs Richmond! Learn more about his journey and how his unique talent has impacted the No. 2 @UAlbanyMLax team! #AEMLAX #NCAALAX pic.twitter.com/B5gE1o7O0Y— America East (@AmericaEast) May 14, 2018
Baptiste, a repeat Tewaaraton finalist, is widely considered the greatest faceoff specialist in NCAA history. Meanwhile, Ierlan is in the process of putting together the greatest individual season in NCAA history at the position. This season, Ierlan leads the nation in faceoff winning percentage at 83.4 percent and Baptiste is second at 76.5 percent.
The two players do not know each other well, but Ierlan said there is no animosity between them.
"There's no reason to hate each other or be mad," Ierlan said. "I respect what he does. He respects what I do."
Baptiste and Ierlan met up, briefly, last summer at a lacrosse tournament in Colorado. Their conversation, Ierlan said, didn't touch on lacrosse outside of how it would be "cool" to eventually face each other.
"He was a really nice kid," Ierlan said. "Really respectful to me."
Universally, that is the read on Baptiste, a player who is respected both for his ability on the field and personality away from it. UAlbany senior Connor Fields, who was a Tewaaraton finalist last year along with Baptiste, said the Denver senior checked in on him soon after he originally injured his right knee back in March.
"He texted me right away," Fields said. "He reached out, which was really nice of him."
The matchup is set for Saturday, May 19th on Long Island: 2-seed UAlbany will take on Denver at Hofstra. pic.twitter.com/zInLfuQCRU— UAlbany Lacrosse (@UAlbanyMLax) May 13, 2018
Fields said he returned the favor last week with a congratulatory text message when Baptiste was named a Tewaaraton finalist.
Fields and Ierlan were nominees to become finalists, but neither player became a finalist. That seemed to rankle UAlbany head coach Scott Marr, who declined Monday to address his players not making the award's top-five cut.
"I'm not going to get into that," Marr said. "I'm not getting into it."
Marr also tried Monday to frame UAlbany's upcoming matchup as more than a 1-on-1 battle between two star players.
"It's Denver vs. Albany. OK. First and foremost," Marr said. "This is not going to be about Trevor Baptiste and TD Ierlan."
Ierlan agreed with that line of thinking. He said he is excited for the matchup, but more excited for the opportunity to play a part in extending UAlbany's season into championship weekend.
"We have our chance to make our first trip to the final four," Ierlan said.
With that in mind, Ierlan defined personal success for himself this Saturday in team-minded terms.
"If I win 20 percent of the faceoffs and we win the game, that's successful," Ierlan said. "Whatever it takes for us to win. I'd take 20 percent in a win over 90 percent in a loss."
Fields feeling 'almost normal'
After scoring seven points in No. 2 UAlbany's first round win against Richmond, Fields admitted Monday he was "definitely nervous" as he went to sleep Saturday night regarding how his right knee would feel once he woke up.
Fields, who originally sprained his MCL nearly two months ago, was pleasantly surprised with how the most-talked-about knee in college lacrosse felt Sunday morning.
"I had a full range of motion and it felt really good," said Fields, who said he experienced minimal swelling. "I didn't wake up sore."
Fields didn't practice Monday, but said that had more to do with a cold he is dealing with than of limitations with his knee. Fields, who became the No. 2 all-time scorer Saturday in NCAA men's lacrosse history, said he plans to return to practice no later than Wednesday.
Fields didn't fully commit to playing against Denver -- "I don't want to get into the details of that" -- but also said there is no reason to think he wouldn't play. He said he feels "almost normal," and did some running and light lacrosse activity on his own Monday without wearing a brace.
"I don't think I really need the brace anymore, actually," Fields said. "But I will keep using it."
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.