Albany lacrosse star Connor Fields played with torn ACL

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) Albany attackman Connor Fields was the epitome of selflessness during his four-year lacrosse career with the Great Danes, willing to sacrifice anything for the good of the team – even his athletic future.

Fields, of East Amherst, New York, sprained the MCL in his right knee in a win at UMass-Lowell in late March, then hurt it again a month later in a lopsided loss at eventual national champion Yale.

Medical tests after the loss to the Bulldogs also revealed a torn ACL. Surprised by the finding because the knee had felt OK, Fields, coach Scott Marr and the training staff elected not to reveal the full extent of the injury, not even to the team, because the senior wanted to finish the season and not be a distraction.

”It was tough, for sure,” Fields said Wednesday. ”But coach and I were both on the same page. I wasn’t actually that worried. Each game it was getting more comfortable.”

The situation was not so easy for mom, though, because she’s a nurse.

”For me, every game was hard to watch,” said Jennifer Fields, who shared the secret with a couple of the players’ mothers. ”If he does something he won’t be able to play. But he’s 22. He makes his own decisions.”

So finish the season he did, capping an impressive career with five goals and 10 assists in three NCAA Tournament games. Albany’s season ended with a 20-11 loss last Saturday to Yale in the national semifinals at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts.

”You people have no idea what this young man has been through for the last month and a half,” Marr said after the season-ending loss. ”I could not be more proud of him for leading our team and being a warrior and playing with a really serious injury.”

Fields helped lead the Great Danes (16-3) to new heights in his final year: the top ranking in the nation early in the season, for six weeks, and a berth in the Final Four. Both were firsts for the men’s program.

”I just think just being with the guys, I mean, practice I had so much fun at,” said Fields, who revealed the extent of his injury Tuesday. ”We worked hard, and it was just great to be with the guys. I had so many great times here, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”

Fields scored 25 goals and 29 assists in the first seven games of the season, a pace that gave him a chance to challenge the Division I scoring record. But the injured knee, which limited his ability to dodge, forced him to miss three full games and major parts of two others, and he had just nine more goals and 23 assists the rest of the season. He finished his career with 199 goals, tied for third all-time, and 364 points, second all-time to former teammate Lyle Thompson (400).

In spite of the knee, Fields, the third pick in the Major League Lacrosse draft, went out in style with three goals and two assists in his final college game. His first goal against Yale was spectacular and came as he unleashed a shot while tumbling headfirst to the turf in front of the goal. And his first assist was a beauty: a no-look, behind-the-back flip from the right side across the crease to Jakob Patterson for an easy goal.

When it was over, Fields lingered on the field after the other players departed. One last chance for the lone Albany player selected to the all-tournament team to spend more time with the fans and soak in the moment.

”For that kid to be out there at all is phenomenal,” Yale coach Andy Shay said. ”I’ve had a knee injury. The respect I have for him for finishing his senior year and leading that team to the Final Four, I’ve never seen anything like it.”

Fields, drafted by the Charlotte Hounds, said he has an appointment with a doctor next Tuesday before a decision is made about the next step.

”I want to play. I just love going out there,” Fields said. ”But at the same time, we’re hoping for a longer deal. Whatever they want me to do.”