Sunday, February 3, 2008

2008 NCAA Lacrosse Preview: No. 12 Albany Great Danes

5 Things to Know

The Resetarits era is over at Albany

1. Frank Resetarits and Merrick Thomson aren't here.

Albany coach Scott Marr made it clear he doesn't plan on changing his offensive approach, despite the graduation of attackmen Merrick Thomson and Frank Resetarits. The two combined for 113 of Albany's 248 goals in 2007. Resetarits became Albany's first DI first-team All America and Thomson finished as the Great Danes' all-time leading scorer (188 goals, 56 assists).

"It's a big hit," Marr says. "We're not downplaying that loss. But what they created in four years is something they passed on for the younger guys to do."

The 'younger guys' include senior Derek Dale, junior Corey Small and freshman Brian Caufield, Inside Lacosse's No. 16 attackman.

2. Team unity can help

Though Albany lost to Denver, 12-9, in a scrimmage on Oct. 21, players thought the travel out west strengthened team chemistry, as the group visited several sites together on the trip west.

"We have (18) new players," senior midfielder Jordan Levine says. "That definitely helped the team bonding in getting us to know each other."

The team went for a team hike at Rocky Mountain National Park, the Denver Zoo and a tour of Invesco Field - the venue of the NFL's Denver Broncos and the MLL's Denver Outlaws.

3. Tightening up the defense

When Albany's defensive unit studied film this fall, it was pleased with how its athleticism helped spark a transition game after making defensive stops.

The defense also noticed that it sporadically lacked focus as the Great Danes finished 30th in defense and allowed 9.44 goals a contest. Senior defenseman Craig McDonald says the team hopes its maintained focus will hold opponents to eight goals a game.

"I'm trying to harp on everything the coaches are saying," McDonald says. "When we were watching film, I could tell there were some careless things that resulted in breakdowns defensively."

4. Brett Queener even more offensive?

After goalie Brett Queener saved 52 percent of the shots he saw and played on Albany's man-up unit last year, Marr has decided he wants to use Queener more offensively. Marr thinks junior Dan McKeon, who split time with Queener in the cage last year, is a viable candidate at goal. He played in 18 games and stopped 56 percent of the shots he saw.

"There may be times, not just in a man up situation, where we'll be putting Danny in goal and putting Brett out on offense," Marr says.

"Danny's a good goalie and Coach (Marr) wants him to get in the mix," Queener says. "If that involves me playing midfield, it doesn't matter to me what I play. I want to win."

5. Early litmus test

A quick look at Albany's 2008 schedule shows it's strikingly similar to last year's schedule. Albany visits No. 1 Johns Hopkins in its season opener on Feb. 23 and has early games against No. 10 Notre Dame (March 1) and No. 20 Massachusetts (March 11).

Last year, Albany pulled off an 8-7 upset in its season opener over Johns Hopkins, which held the pre-season No. 1 ranking. It also won, 10-9, in overtime against UMass. Marr hopes the schedule's similar structure will yield to the same results.

"The success came to us because we learned how to win a close game against quality teams," Marr says. "When you win by one goal against Hopkins or UMass, it shows we found ways to become stronger during the times when things got tough."

Coach Marr Video

Mark Dixon's thoughts on the Danes

Fall Ball Highlights


Senior midfielder Jordan Levine


Marr specifically looks for athletic players on the recruiting trail. In an age of specialized positions, Marr breaks conventional wisdom and avoids using defensive middie specialists, instead maximizing his players' production on both sides of the field.

"Everyone gets a feel for it both ways," Marr said. "For some, it sinks in. For some, it doesn't. But that makes it easier to see who separates from the pack."

The midfield's athleticism is the primary reason why Marr thinks his team is more than capable of maintaining its offensive firepower despite the graduation loss of Resetarits and Thomson.

The midfield unit will also benefit from its numbers. Albany's top five middies return, allowing Marr to mix and match midfield lines to maximize intensity. The options include Levine (23 goals, 16 assists), junior Mike Cometti (he returns after redshirting last year from a hamstring injury), twins Mike and Steve Ammann, John Alpizar and Tyler Endres.

"This is as strong as we've ever been at the midfield," Marr says.

"Our attack is looking good and once the chemistry starts going, we'll be dangerous," Levine added. "For now, our defense and middies need to pick up the slack."

Fallball injuries to Dale (undisclosed) and Caufield (ankle) increase the possibility the attack might face a transition period, though Dale scored 20 goals last year. Injuries from defensemen Greg Shondel (shoulder) and Michael Banks (broken hand) as well as Queener's absence (academic eligibility) don't make things any easier.

Marr says the injuries are fully healed and the attack unit should gel quickly. But it's always nice for an athletic midfield to lean back on.

"A lot of teams will get the ball and slow it down," Cometti says. "We're pushing the ball and they're slowing it down. Most teams usually never see that coming."



Senior Brett Queener

Can Albany surpass last year's performance, let alone replicate it?

Queener had too many flashbacks. Anytime he saw the color red, scenes of the Cornell Bid Red's 12-11 overtime victory over Albany in the 2007 NCAA quarterfinal replayed in his mind.

"To be honest, it's been on my mind a lot," Queener says. "I didn't get over it for months. It's past me now but it won't be completely past me until we get that first win to the final four."

Following the loss, Queener stayed away from the cage until last September. He says the time away made him feel re-energized for this season. Queener's reaction epitomizes Albany's approach to the 2008 season.

The Danes were a goal away from the championship weekend for the first time in their program's history. That's why Albany doesn't feel content with last year's finish, despite advancing to the quarterfinal for the first time in school history.

Marr thinks his team can go further than last year given the depth at midfield and defense. More importantly, he sees last year's unfinished business driving his players every day in practice.

"We have a burning desire," Marr says. "These guys have dreamed about getting back since opening day. Losing to Cornell hasn't made it difficult getting 30 plus guys to work and lift hard."

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