Friday, February 22, 2008

University of Albany´s Men's Lacrosse Starts 2008 Against Top-Ranked and Defending National Champion Johns Hopkins

Courtesy: UAlbany Sports Information

Albany, N.Y. -- The University at Albany men's lacrosse program begins its 2008 season against top-ranked and defending national champion Johns Hopkins on Saturday, Feb. 23 at 12 noon. The opener will be televised nationally on ESPNU. The Blue Jays are ranked No. 1 in the USILA and Inside Lacrosse polls. The Great Danes, who reached the NCAA quarterfinals for the first time last spring, are also highly-rated in the USILA (#11) and Inside Lacrosse (#12) rankings.

Season Preview

UAlbany has developed an accomplished program as a member of the America East Conference, but last season the Great Danes rose to national prominence by winning their first-ever NCAA Tournament game and playing a memorable overtime battle with Cornell in the quarterfinal round.

The Great Danes not only captured their fourth conference championship in the last five years, but were ranked No. 2 nationally for six consecutive weeks. UAlbany went on to set a school standard with a 15-3 record and recorded seven top-20 victories.

"We have to give credit to all the guys on our early teams who created the work ethic," said UAlbany's Scott Marr, who was named the 2007 USILA Division I National Coach of the Year. "We have received tremendous support from our administration and there is a sense of family that gradually keeps getter better and better."

The Great Danes have 24 letterwinners returning to face a schedule that features three national championship programs in Johns Hopkins, Syracuse and Princeton.

"The seniors and juniors on last year's team learned valuable lessons, including how to win close games," Marr states. "There are many players on our current team who have won a (NCAA) playoff game and been involved in the atmosphere of a quarterfinal. But we just can't take anything for granted; you're just not going to show up and win."

UAlbany will maintain its up-tempo style despite losing the program's all-time scoring leaders in Merrick Thomson and Frank Resetarits, a pair of professional first-round draft choices who combined for 485 career points.

Corey Small, a left-hander with a low-to-high shooting motion, has moved to attack from the midfield where he totaled 24 goals and seven assists as a sophomore. Derek Dale, a senior, made strides as a good feeder, and was fourth on the team in scoring with 20 goals and 18 assists.

"Corey will be on the field a lot more and he finishes well," says Marr, whose offense ranked second nationally at 13.78 goals per game in 2007. "Derek stepped up his game. He gets the ball to people and rides hard."

Brian Caufield, who is listed as one of the nation's top incoming freshmen, figures to move right into the first attack line with his physical tools and ability to dodge. Caufield earned All-Long Island recognition as a scholastic senior with 53 goals and 49 assists.

Sophomore Kyle Brunk (6 goals, 2 assists) also returns after making the America East All-Rookie Team. John Alpizar, a junior midfielder who has shined in the spotlight games, may become the fourth attacker. He had six goals and 13 assists last year.

Speaking of the midfield, the Great Danes may have its best collection of two-way players. Tewaaraton Trophy candidate Jordan Levine is the top returning scorer with 23 goals and 16 assists, plus set the program's Division I record with 91 ground balls. He combines speed with explosiveness.

"He is a competitor who hates to lose," Marr explains. "Jordan has that extra gear and wants to be in the moment, like all the great ones, where he can make something happen."

Mike and Steve Ammann, twin brothers who each were on the all-league second team, elevated their play last season. Mike had 11 goals and 20 assists, while Steve added 13 goals and nine assists.

"They represent a versatile group where so many can play both ways," Marr offers. "The Ammanns are complete midfielders who have physically matured. They have a sense of urgency as seniors and have pride in being team captains."

Tyler Endres (29 ground balls) exceled as a short-stick one-on-one defensive midfielder, but he may get more offensive opportunities. Trevor Ortolano, a 6-foot-4 transfer from Lafayette, brings size and experience to midfield. Kevin Courtney is the leading candidate to take faceoffs.

All-America goalkeeper Brett Queener is a dynamic player with his ability to move the ball in transition. Queener, a two-time first-team all-conference selection, had a 9.68 GAA last season. Dan McKeon, who had a .561 save percentage in 18 games, also established himself in the cage.

"He has improved on stopping the ball and but still needs to keep making better decisions when he comes out of the goal," Marr says about Queener, who also worked on the man-up unit last year. "He creates a chaotic scene and teams get frantic."

Craig McDonald is a member of a veteran defensive group. McDonald, who can strip the opposing attacker and has good clearing ability with his stick skills, earned first-team All-America East recognition. "Craig is tenacious and plays with injuries," Marr states. "You can't teach his game sense and he communicates well."

Joining McDonald is Garrett Pedley, a second-team all-league defender who had 29 ground balls. Mark Phelan, a 26-game veteran, Greg Shondel and Mark Kelly will also be in the rotation. High School All-American Mike Banks (6'3") played in the U.S. Lacrosse National Senior Showcase.

Chris Schongar, a coach's favorite who can run all day from his long-stick midfielder position, piled up 73 ground balls and was a force on the face-off wing. Brendan Gleason (6'4") can be used on defense or in the midfield.

"We are climbing the mountain," Marr says. "The Cornell overtime loss is a great motivator. We just have to calm down the excitement because nothing will be easy. We're not an underdog in every game anymore."

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