2013 record: 13-5, 5-0 America East
Coach: Scott Marr (108-95 overall, 14th season)
Quick summary: Albany had their best season in 2013 since 2007, going undefeated in conference play and earning a berth in the NCAA Tournament. The Great Danes bowed out early in the first round, though, losing to Denver, 19-14. Albany had signature wins over Syracuse, Johns Hopkins and UMass.
Offense: Albany returns key pieces on an offense that ranked tops in the country a year ago in goals per game (15.94). Most notably, The Thompson Trio remains in tact and ready to destroy everything in its path.
Attack: Brothers Lyle (50 goals, 63 assists) and Miles (43, 30) and cousin, Ty (54, 14) all return this season and ready to light the world on fire once again with their incredible play. The three were one, two and three in point production for the Great Danes a season ago and together, combined for nearly 56 percent of Albany's offense. And that's with Lyle missing one game and Miles missing six (!) games. The Thompson Trio is the most lethal attack unit in the country -- point blank. Their 254 points were nearly 50 points higher than any attack trio in Division I last season. However, what makes them so special is their unbelievable chemistry that they have developed over the years of playing together.
"They're just cohesive," Albany head coach Scott Marr said. "They know each other's nuances, where to go, where they're going to be and where the ball should go. Their lacrosse I.Q. is very high. They ride as a unit very well -- they're complete players."
Lyle, a Tewaaraton Award Finalist last year, broke the school record for points in a season with 113 and was just two points shy of breaking the NCAA record held by Steve Marahol. He instilled fear in Syracuse fans a season ago in the season opener when he erupted for eight points on two goals and six assists. A Houdini behind the cage, opponents are left deciding on whether or not to play him as a dodger or feeder.
"Lyle challenges himself to be better," Marr said. "He wants to be better, he wants our team to be better. The work ethic that they have in practice and their natural drive to be good is high."
Miles, meanwhile, plays predominantly on the right side. His versatility allows him to stretch the offense and let it rip from the outside or take it inside and operate in close quarters.
"(People) see them smiling and laughing when they do play and I think that's important," Marr said. "They talk about that all time: that they're playing for their Creator and the enjoyment of the game. They just want to go out, play their hardest and do their best. At the end of the game, yeah know, the result is the result and they accept either way and move on."
Midfield: Albany is somewhat unorthodox when it comes to running traditional, three-man midfield lines. The Great Danes' style of play calls middy pairs with an option to run an additional attackman on offense. Junior Matt Garziano (10 goals, 11 assists) and senior Ryan Feuerstein (16, 6) will be what most considered its first midfield line.
Despite getting overshadowed by its filthy attack, the midfield, according to Marr, is an important piece of the puzzle given how much attention the Tompson Trio receives.
"Midfielders are always going to be the staple of your team," Marr said. "A lot of responsibility is put on them. Their job is their job and they understand what their job is. Everyone understands their roles on the team."
Three sophomores -- John Maloney, Kevin McNally and Syracuse, N.Y. native David Eccles -- will also vie for time in midfield. McNally led the middy unit in goal scoring with 18 and shot a blistering 45 percent. Junior reserves Tim Cox (16 goals) and Matthew Bertrams are also expected to take the field on Sunday against the Orange.
"We have a nice group of guys that have seen a lot of action, played a lot of minutes and have played in big-time games against Syracuse, (Johns) Hopkins and UMass. We feel like we have some good growth out of those guys in the past couple of years. They're all important."
Defense: Seniors Jon Newhouse (44 ground balls, 22 caused turnovers) Cody Futia (11, 9) and Doug Eich (31, 5) are back to anchor the defense with Josh Babcock rounding out that fourth defender off the bench.
Although the Great Danes bring back a stout core group, there are still questions that remain for a team that gave up close to 13 goals a game. Can the group mature and balance out its high-powered offense? Against top-tier teams such as Syracuse, Drexel, Yale and Bucknell, Albany yielded 68 total goals and went 1-3 in those four contests.
"There's no question it's a concern," Marr said. "It's always a question when you give up goals."
Marr insists that his coaching staff are better prepared from a defensive standpoint this year than they were last year. He attributes those high-scoring games to the new rules that went into place last season.
"We were kind of finding our way through this new system of how we were going to play and how we were going to substitute," He said.
After its 18-12 loss to Bucknell, Albany made a significant change in its personnel and how the team substituted and how many players it put on the field.
"That made a huge difference," Marr said.
With a year under it belts of playing under the new rules, Albany's defense is hoping to not to duplicate last season's performance.
"We're definitely confident that our defense is going to make stop when they have to," Marr said.
With the departure of Mike Woods, look for freshman Adam Osika -- a "good size kid" according to Marr -- to get time at the short stick defensive midfielder position.
Goalie: Blaze Riorden showed flashes of greatness and mediocrity in his freshman campaign debut. He started all 18 games for the Great Danes and posted a 11.93 goals against average (49 percent).
The biggest thing for Riorden, aside from being more consistent in between the pipes, is working on his body language, according to Marr.
"When goals do go in," he said, "we're trying to get him not to worry about it so much. It's going to happen."
Albany will certainly need Riorden to mature and be a rock in the goal this year given some of its struggles the team has endured on the defensive end.
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