Friday, October 23, 2009

UAlbany Men's Lacrosse WriteUp By Inside Lacrosse

Last season, Albany players were greeted with a copy of the 2008 America East Championship – a heartbreaking loss to UMBC which saw the Great Danes blow a nine-goal lead – when they returned for fall practices. This year, coach Scott Marr took a different approach.

“There’s nothing we really held over their heads. We’re tired of looking backward,” he said. “We’re not talking too much about the past anymore.”

Instead, Marr and his staff preached hard work and character this fall in an effort to improve chemistry on a team that didn’t quite live up to expectations during an injury-riddled 2009 season.

Fall focus

Improving defensively was a big focus for Albany this fall (Greg Wall)Much of the fall practices were spent trying to tighten up a defense that allowed over 11 goals per game last season. “Our play defensively was a big question mark coming out of last year,” Marr said. “We really wanted to focus on our defense and becoming a little more athletic in how we play our individual defense, and then our team concept had to get better. We really saw the defensive side of the ball really gel this fall.”

Senior Brendon Gleason moves into a starting role alongside fellow senior Mark Kelly and close defender Mike Banks, a junior. Gleason played in 17 games as a freshman, but was limited to spot duty over the past two seasons.

Banks was an honorable mention on the 2009 IL Preseason All-America Team, but suffered through a disappointing season as he dealt with back problems that limited his physical play. While still not fully healthy, Marr said Banks is learning how to cope with the pain and had an impressive fall. “[Banks] is playing like we thought he would when we brought him in right now,” Marr said.

Marr placed an emphasis on team chemistry and communication this fall, abandoning early morning practice sessions and lengthy runs for a workload aimed at tightening the bond between teammates.

“It’s a much tighter group, and I think that could be the difference as far as chemistry is concerned with this team over last year, “ he said. “Our chemistry and our camaraderie seem to be a lot better right now.”

Fresh faces
Even though the core of the team will undoubtedly be a strong group of juniors and sophomores, Marr said he does expect a few freshmen to see the field, led by defender Anthony Ostrander (Farmingdale), who will serve as the primary backup at the pole position and could see some time at the close defender spot, as well.

Matt Mackenzie is a left-handed faceoff specialist who was coached by Brodie Merrill while at The Hill Academy in Ontario. He’s expected to split time with senior Kevin Courtney and junior Matt Cushing at the X, as Albany looks to improve on its .435 face-off winning percentage from a year ago.

Other freshmen expected to see some playing time are defender Andy Fish (Lincoln Senior; Portland, Ore.), and defensive midfielders Colin Beavers-Anderson (Lawrenceville, N.J.) and Jack Nickla (Bellport).

Marr compared midfielder Kevin Gluekert (Bethpage) to former Albany midfielder Jordan Levine in terms of size and speed, but Gluekert broke his kneecap playing football at the end of last year and may redshirt if he doesn’t heal in time for the spring.

Key Battles
Though most of the starting spots are filled, the Great Danes still face some uncertainty between the pipes.

Last season, John Carroll was anointed the starting goalie as a freshman coming into the season, leaving senior Dan McKeon on the bench. As the season rolled on, Carroll ended up splitting time with Drew DiCioccio, a redshirt freshman at the time.

Now, DiCioccio and Carroll are battling again for the starting spot while Marr and his staff contemplate using a two-goalie system.

“I think they both bring solid attributes to the table,” Marr said. “They’re both very good stoppers. I think John gives you a little more athleticism out of the goal, but Drew gets rid of the ball a little bit quicker. They each have a couple of things that they do very well.”

Marr liked what he saw from his sophomore keepers this fall.

“I think the best thing out of this fall so far is they weren’t giving up bad goals,” he said. “When you’re giving up 11 goals a game, I think your goalie is giving up two goals that he probably should have had. And then I think if your defense does a better job, then that’s another one or two more goals. So you really can kind of shave that down to an eight or nine with a few less soft goals and a few better plays by the defense in general.”

Top Dogs

Brian Caufield leads a high-powered offense for the Danes (Greg Wall)Albany will go as far as their high-powered attack can take them. Junior Brian Caufield and sophomore Joe Resetarits return, while junior Derek Kreuzer will step in for Corey Small, now a member of the Toronto Nationals and Edmonton Rush. While stepping in for a player of Small’s stature is no small task, Marr said Kreuzer brings a different type of game to the table.

“Corey was more of a catch-and-shoot finisher, whereas Derek is a little bit more of a creator and ball carrier for us,” Marr said. “He’s a finisher off of zone dodges, but then can also distribute for us. I think he’ll pass the ball of a dodge a lot better than what Corey did.”

Marr didn’t get a chance to see what his attack can do at the Catamount Classic Lacrosse for a Cure fallball tournament last week, as both Kreuzer and Caufield sat out with injuries. Caufield underwent surgery for a dislocated kneecap he suffered the first day of fall practices, but is recovering well and expected to be fine for the start of the season.

The attack will be aided by a number of talented offensive midfielders, led by senior Dave Brock and junior Joe Pompo, who each chipped in with 19 points a year ago. Marr also expects big things from sophomore Luke Cometti this year, who was injured to start his freshman year and improved as the season moved on.

“This team should be able to put the ball in the goal,” Marr said. “There’s no doubt about it.”

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