photo courtesy of laxbuzz
There was no stopping the high-powered No. 2-seeded University of Albany Great Danes from advancing to their first ever Championship Weekend with a 15-13 Quarterfinal win over the University of Denver Pioneers. The energy, the hard-hits and the passion from the Great Danes was unbeatable. The game came down to dogfight across the entirety of the field and it was evident, the Great Danes wanted it more. The efforts from Denver to stay in the game were too little, too late. The battle between the greatest career faceoff and the greatest faceoff of the season matched the anticipated hype. Trevor Baptiste and TD Ierlan exemplified power versus finesse and drew an even battle. Ierlan didn’t back down from the undisputed faceoff champ of college lacrosse, the sophomore’s sharpness and intricate footwork challenged Baptiste.
Both players demonstrated the redefinition of the FOGO position throughout the epic battle. Ierlan set the all-time single-season record for faceoff wins in the Quarterfinal, with 340. Baptiste drew a penalty and capitalized on the play to score in his final appearance for the Crimson and Gold.
While the clash at the X was insanity, the game came down to the defensive performances. The offensive powerhouses were equally faced with an uncharacteristic position of minimal possessions that only increased in magnitude as the game ensued.
Denver’s dominant defense faced its match with aggression and relent exerted from the exuberant Albany offense. Through methodical precision and tenacity, the Great Danes were able to dismember and disrupt the synchronization of DU’s defense and beat Alex Ready in the cage. While Ready made 15 saves, Albany’s offensive production was steady and the Great Danes seized the opportunities presented.
The Pioneers remained within three goals of the Great Danes until the final quarter. The intensity from each team was overwhelming. Every time Albany extended its cushion, the Pioneers were right there to diminish the lead.
Colton Jackson kept the Pioneers in the game. Immense coverage on DU’s attackmen Austin French and Ethan Walker provided Jackson with time and space. The junior power-midfielder blasted four, absolute rockets throughout the game to keep Denver’s hopes alive.
Ultimately, wreckless turnovers cost the Pioneers crucial offensive possessions. The Great Danes forced nine Denver turnovers. The Pioneers knew coming into the game that each possession would be vital, but Albany’s defense was effective with overbearing pressure and obstructing Denver’s shooting game.
The Pioneers fought until the very end. When Kyle McClancy scored his third of the afternoon to extend Albany’s lead to four goals at 15-11 for the first time in the game, the Pioneers responded with a hat trick goal from Joe Reid and Colton McCaffrey’s second of the day.
The final faceoff was won by Ierlan allowing the Great Danes to hold on until time expired. Denver ends the 2018 season with a record of an overall 13-4 and a BIG EAST confernce record of 5-0.