Albany’s Lyle Thompson readies for final postseason run
ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — Senior Lyle Thompson is at the point in his lacrosse career at Albany where his next game could be his last. The career scoring leader in Division I history isn’t quite ready to hang up his stick and gloves.
“I just want to prove to the lacrosse world that this team is a championship team. I truly believe that,” Thompson said. “We have a big upside this year. I really like our chances. I think we’re going to be there on championship weekend.”
The road to the Final Four of the NCAA Tournament for the sixth-ranked but unseeded Great Danes (15-2) begins Saturday at Cornell when they meet the eighth-seeded Big Red (10-5). The winner plays either top-seeded Notre Dame (10-2) or Towson (12-5) in the quarterfinals at Denver a week from Saturday, with the Final Four to be played at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia on Memorial Day weekend.
Albany, the highest scoring team in the nation at 17.4 goals per game, earned an automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament with a 22-9 victory over Stony Brook in the America East Conference tournament title game last Saturday.
Cornell and Albany have close ties. Big Red assistant coach Chris Kivlen played for the Great Danes and was an assistant under long-time head coach Scott Marr. It will be the third all-time meeting between the schools. The two met in the 2007 NCAA quarterfinals, with the Big Red winning 12-11 in overtime. Cornell also beat Albany 16-9 on a cold, icy day in Dallas in February.
That setback was the second game of the current season for the Great Danes, who are riding a 10-game winning streak, their only other loss to upstate New York rival Syracuse.
“After that game, we had to move on. We had to become a great team,” said Thompson, who has 48 goals and 59 assists. “We weren’t the best that we could be. Chemistry and all that comes together with playing, we built as a unit. We’re a completely different team.”
Thompson, who has 10 goals in the past two games to raise his career scoring mark to 386 points (171 goals, 215 assists), needs six assists to match the all-time assist record set in 1985 by Tim Nelson, who played at North Carolina and Syracuse.
“We’re rolling right now as an offense,” said freshman Connor Fields, who leads Albany with 56 goals.
What looms as paramount for the Great Danes is their performance at the faceoff X. Marr figures Albany has to win at least 40 percent of the draws to succeed.
“We’ve proven over the years that you don’t have to win faceoffs to win games,” Marr said. “You have to be perfect in every other aspect, though. You hope you get a couple here and there.”
Cornell sophomore Domenic Massimilian is 64.5 percent at the faceoff X, seventh-best in Division I, while Albany’s Cason Liles has won 53.8 percent of his draws.
Albany’s top attack trio of Thompson, Oakes and Fields have combined for 155 goals and 90 assists this season. Oakes has 51 goals in 15 games.
“We think we can score on these guys,” Cornell coach Matt Kerwick said. “They’ve improved a lot defensively since we saw them. We need to do a great job with our offensive possessions.”
And try to limit Thompson as much as possible.
“He’s one of the best ones I’ve seen at his position. He’s a special player,” Kerwick said. “He can get to where he wants to go without a lot of effort. We can’t get caught watching him.”
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