Albany a victory away from its first Final Four
May. 15, 2015
ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — Albany lacrosse coach Scott Marr is on the cusp of reaching a lifelong goal — championship weekend.
All that stands in the way of his high-scoring Great Danes (16-2) making lacrosse's final four is top-seeded Notre Dame (11-2). The teams meet Saturday in Denver in the NCAA Tournament quarterfinals, a reprise of a scintillating quarterfinal matchup a year ago won by the Irish in overtime.
The Great Danes have won nine in a row since a loss at Syracuse six weeks ago, and they're using last year's heartbreaking setback to Notre Dame as a motivator. Behind three goals and three assists from Thompson, Albany built a 12-7 lead in the fourth quarter before Notre Dame rallied. The Great Danes had the final possession of regulation with the score tied at 13, but Thompson watched cousin Ty's blazing shot from straight-on with 3 seconds left ricochet off Irish goalie Conor Kelly's helmet and stay out, and Matt Kavanagh won it in overtime.
The Great Danes say they learned an important lesson.
"It taught us to finish a game. We were up last year and we didn't finish the game," Thompson said. "You can never stop playing, no matter what the score is."
The Great Danes defeated Cornell 19-10 in last week's opening round, avenging a 16-9 defeat they suffered against the Big Red in the second game of the season on a frigid, rainy day in Dallas. Thompson had three goals and six assists to extend his NCAA-record career scoring total to 395 points (174 goals, 221 assists).
Payback didn't factor into that game, either.
"I think we did a good job of not thinking of revenge and focusing on ourselves and what we control — having it be about us, not about them," Thompson said. "They (Notre Dame) are just well-rounded. They've got a good, strong goalie, and they're a good defense. I think we match up well against them, too, similar to Cornell."
The Irish are coming off another comeback victory — 12-10 over Towson after trailing 6-2.
"Once we have that initial momentum swing, I think we're the best team in the country at taking that momentum and converting it into a lot of goals at a very fast pace," Notre Dame midfielder Nick Ossello said. "It's a testament to how well we can play off momentum swings. I think that's really going to help us in the rest of the playoffs."
Towson's defense targeted two of Notre Dame's top scorers — Kavanagh and Mikey Wynne — and eight teammates picked up the slack. Conor Doyle scored three times, Ossello and Will Corrigan scored two goals apiece, and Sergio Perkovic, Jim Marlatt, P.J. Finley, Eddy Lubowicki and Nick Koshansky each scored once.
"Playoff lacrosse can be tough," Irish coach Kevin Corrigan said. "If a team doesn't have poise and maintain its sense of itself and its game plan in the face of some adversity, whether it's the first quarter or the fourth quarter, you're not going to be successful at this time of the year."
The matchup with Albany promises to be another high-scoring affair — the Great Danes lead the nation in scoring at over 17 goals a game and being behind doesn't seem to faze them. They trailed 2-0 in each of their previous two games and responded with 41 goals.
"They're a great offensive team. I don't think those things bother them one bit," said Denver coach Bill Tierney, whose Pioneers (14-2) face Ohio State (12-6) in the other quarterfinal at Mile High Stadium. "They know when they get their hands on the ball they're going to get some things going. They're a dangerous entity. I'm sure Notre Dame is having an interesting time trying to prepare for them."
Added Albany goalie Blaze Riorden: "It's us winning and becoming a champion — that's the real motivation. It doesn't matter who you're playing, where you're playing. I'm confident that if we play to the best of our abilities, we'll be all right."