Before the pairings were announced for the men’s Division I NCAA lacrosse tournament, Syracuse’s John Desko uttered what most of his coaching brethren probably were thinking about Albany.
”They’re probably every team’s worst fear,” Desko said of America East champion Great Danes, whose creative, high-powered attack is difficult to defend.
The Albany stars are Native American brothers Miles and Lyle Thompson, who along with cousin Ty have combined for 166 goals and 122 assists in a record-setting season.
Miles, a senior, leads the nation with 79 goals – just three shy of the all-time record set in 1990 by Jon Reese of Yale in 18 games – and also has 36 assists for 115 points, second all-time; Lyle, a junior, has 48 goals and 74 assists for 122 points, a Division I record; and Ty, a senior, has 39 goals and 12 assists.
”We’ve gotten positive feedback from random fans and people that email us and text us,” Albany coach Scott Marr said. ”I think we’re gaining a lot of momentum from the positive vibe that’s out there for our team to do well. People want to see these guys continue to play, and play on the biggest stage.”
Despite all that offensive prowess, the Great Danes can play some defense, too. They upset top-ranked and third-seeded Loyola 13-6 on the road in the opening round for their eighth straight win, holding the Greyhounds to their lowest scoring output of the season. Loyola had won 15 straight since dropping its season opener to Virginia in overtime.
”I think it just shows a lot about our defense and how far we’ve come this year as a team,” Lyle said. ”A lot of people look at our team and see us as an offensive team. Our defense played huge against Loyola. It’s the best I’ve seen our defense play.”
The quarterfinals begin Saturday with Albany facing ACC tournament champion and No. 6 seed Notre Dame (10-5), which easily beat Harvard 13-5 in the opening round. The other Saturday matchup features No. 7 Maryland (12-3) against Bryant (16-4); on Sunday, Johns Hopkins (11-4) meets top-seeded and defending national champion Duke (14-3), and No. 5 Denver (15-2) plays Drexel (13-4).
Five things to know about the men’s Division I lacrosse quarterfinals, with Saturday’s games at Hofstra University and Sunday’s matchups at the University of Delaware:
PARITY TIME: Besides Albany, three other teams still in the running for the national championship are unseeded: Bryant beat No. 2 seed Syracuse 10-9, Drexel topped No. 4 seed Penn 16-11, and Johns Hopkins beat No. 8 Virginia 14-8 in the opening round.
”That speaks volumes of how competitive it is,” Marr said.
Added Miles Thompson: ”I just believe that it shows that anyone is capable of winning this year. There’s no dominant team out there.”
BULLDOGS RULE: Bryant, a small school in Rhode Island, has been in Division I for just six years, but under former Duke coach Mike Pressler the Bulldogs have morphed into a real threat. A year ago, they nearly upset Syracuse in the opening round and this year got the job done – in the Carrier Dome, no less – to reach the quarterfinals for the first time. Pressler called the triumph ”monumental” and sophomore goalie Gunnar Waldt was a key, making eight fourth-quarter saves. Bryant, which has won five straight, also defeated Drexel (12-6) and Albany (12-11) in March.
DRAGONS SLAY: Drexel used a 7-0 run against Penn to win its ninth straight game and now faces defensive-minded Denver. Penn outshot Drexel 47-45, but the Dragons won 11 more faceoffs and had 40 ground balls to Penn’s 31. Denver, which beat North Carolina 9-5 in the first round for its 12th straight victory, lost to Duke (14-10) in the second game of the season and to Penn (12-10) on March 1.
BLUE GAME: Johns Hopkins missed the tournament last year for the first time in 41 years, and now the Blue Jays face the Blue Devils and aim to reach the semifinal round for the first time since 2008. Duke has made the Final Four in each of the past eight years.
NATIVE TOUCH: In Albany’s first-round victory over Loyola, Lyle Thompson had three goals and five assists, brother Miles had five goals and two assists, and cousin Ty chipped in with three goals, giving the Mohawk Indian trio 18 points in the game. Out West, Denver freshman Zach Miller, from the Allegany Indian Reservation in western New York, had two goals and an assist in the Pioneers’ 9-5 victory over North Carolina in the first round.