Albany last played in the NCAA tournament in 2007. That drought may end this spring.
The No. 19 Great Danes improved to 7-3 after edging No. 12 Johns Hopkins, 10-9, at Homewood Field in Baltimore Friday night. Already 1-0 in the America East, they warrant consideration as the favorite to win the conference tournament and earn the automatic qualifier to the NCAA tournament.
But even if an upset were to occur, Albany may have moved closer to getting an at-large berth courtesy of wins against No. 9 Syracuse and the Blue Jays.
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Friday night’s victory over Johns Hopkins was a significant accomplishment for the program, which has won just two times in 12 meetings against Johns Hopkins.
“Pretty big because it’s a non-conference game, it’s a top-ranked team, and we’ll just roll off this and keep going,” Miles Thompson said.
Coach Scott Marr agreed with his junior attackman.
“If you look at where we’ve been the last couple years, we’ve struggled at times, and we’ve played well at times,” he said. “For us to open our season with a win at Syracuse and then to come down to Baltimore – in a real big game for both teams – and for us to win here at Homewood Field, I don’t know if there’s another team in the country that you could name that has beaten Hopkins and Syracuse on the road in the same season.”
Marr and the players peppered their post-game comments with references to climbing into a wheelbarrow. Marr said the saying came from New York Giants cornerbacks coach Peter Giunta, who spoke with the team Thursday as it traveled from upstate New York to Baltimore.
“On our way down [Thursday], one of our players – [redshirt freshman defenseman] Justin Berger’s father – is in the Giants organization, and we stopped at Giants Stadium on the way down and got a tour of the facilities,” Marr said. “And coach Peter Giunta, who is a defensive backs coach, talked to the group for about 25 minutes, and he told a story about a tightrope and a wheelbarrow. It was about resiliency, it was about replacing the me with a we, and that’s been our motto all year. We actually took that from the Giants, and we have that in our locker room as a saying. This team has bought in. Everybody’s put their chips in the center of the table and like tonight, we just rally around each other.”
The Great Danes have been sparked by one of the more talented attack units in Division I. Sophomore Lyle Thompson entered the week ranked first in the country in points and assists per game, junior Miles Thompson – Lyle’s brother – recorded five points on three goals and two assists against the Blue Jays, and junior Ty Thompson – the brothers’ cousin – leads the team with 26 goals.
If the overlooked defense can play as well as it did against the Blue Jays, Albany could be one of the more balanced teams in the nation. So is this the year the Great Danes create waves in the NCAA tournament?
“We certainly hope so,” Marr said. “We have felt since September when we started and actually, it started at the end of last year when we made the move for Lyle going to attack, we just felt like we had something unique. We just have a unique team. Teams are a lot of times about chemistry and how they treat each other and how they respect each other, and this team just has that. You would never know who’s a senior and who’s a freshman. They just all enjoy being around each other, and they work real hard for each other. So we feel good about what we can do.”