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UAlbany men’s lacrosse on to NCAA quarterfinals, one win away from uncharted territory

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University at Albany senior attack and captain Connor Fields was listed as doubtful for Saturday’s first-round NCAA tournament matchup at Casey Stadium versus the Richmond Spiders.

After the game, the only thing in doubt was who the Danes would play next between the winner of Notre Dame and Denver in the Quarterfinals next Saturday.

Behind seven points (two goals and five assists) from their 2017 Tewaaraton finalist, who moved into second place on the all-time Division I career points list (356) behind fellow Great Dane Lyle Thompson (400), UAlbany knocked off Richmond 18-9 to advance to their fifth Elite Eight appearance.  

It was a statement performance for Fields, who missed three games with a right knee injury. He originally hurt his knee seven weeks ago versus UMass Lowell. In his final home game at Casey Stadium, his last opportunity to put on the Danes’ home white uniform, he delivered.

“It was bittersweet,” Fields said. “But it was awesome getting out of the game knowing that we were in good shape but at the same time knowing it was my last time stepping onto Casey Field.”

UAlbany started the game on a 4-0 run, capped by two goals by blank Sean Eccles. Blank Troy Reh had his first career hat trick (all in the first half). They went into the locker room up 9-5 and never looked back, outscoring the Spiders 9-4 in the second half to seal an 18-9 home victory.

Faceoff specialist TD Ierlan went 24-for-29 from the faceoff X, fresh off winning 48-of-49 (98 percent) during the America East Tournament. He also earned the NCAA DI single-season ground balls record, currently with 240 this season.

He passed the former mark held by Bryant’s Kevin Massa, who had 231 in 2013. With 326 faceoff victories overall this year, he is 13 away from the single-season record.

“Holy smokes,” Richmond head coach Dan Chemotti said when asked about Ierlan. “He’s awesome.”

Freshman attack Tehoka Nanticoke, who entered the season as the No. 1 recruit in the nation and led the Danes in goals during the regular season, finished with four goals and two assists in the win. He currently sits tied for fourth in the country with 46 overall.

UAlbany head coach Scott Marr, now in his 18th season with the Danes, praised his senior captain for finding a way to get on the field despite the knee injury that forced him to put to end his Tewaaraton trophy and all-time single-season point record aspirations during his senior season.

“He’s a warrior,” Marr said. “He willed himself to play. He wanted to play so badly. We’re so proud of him to take a chance that something could go wrong, put himself through that pain and agony. It shows how much he wants to play and wants to be there for his teammates. Can’t say enough about him.”

Four different Richmond players had two goals each, with Ryan Lanchbury and Mitch Goldberg both having two goals and an assist. Goalkeeper Blake Goodman got the loss in goal, finishing with 12 saves.

JD Colarusso, who currently stands in fourth with a .590 save percentage this season had nine saves in the victory.

Over 4800 fans were in attendance for this game, the largest crowd of the season for UAlbany. The Danes finish a perfect 10-0 at home in 2018.

The depth of the Purple and Gold was clear with eight different Great Danes scoring goals and 10 different UAlbany players had at least one point.

UAlbany advances to the NCAA Quarterfinal round for the second straight year and fourth time in the last five seasons. UAlbany will play Denver, who knocked off Notre Dame in the first round, on Saturday, May 19 at Hofstra University on Long Island at 2:30 p.m.

The Danes are just one win away from a place they’ve never been before- the Final Four. With Connor Fields back on the field for UAlbany in some form of the player that has produced one of the most decorated careers in Division-I lacrosse history, the Danes should be right there come Saturday but know they have to take it one game at a time.

“We can’t focus on championship weekend yet,” Reh said. “We’ve still got one more game to get there.”

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Rob "Lep" Lepelstat is the assistant sports editor of the Albany Student Press. Along with the ASP, Lepelstat works as a producer for ATV and director for WCDB's sports department. During the summer of 2017, he interned at WABC-TV in New York City.

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