Steve Musco

As the 2019 regular season begins to wind down, the No. 4 Yale men’s lacrosse team will travel to face a team it downed twice last year — once in the regular season and again in the Final Four — in a game that means just a little bit more for star transfer TD Ierlan ’20.

The Bulldogs (8–2, 4–1 Ivy) head to upstate New York Friday to go toe-to-toe with Albany (5–6, 4–1 America East) in their second-to-last tilt of the 2019 regular season. The Great Danes’ home advantage will be particularly stark — their dedicated fan base often fills the 4,000-seat stadium. This year’s meeting between the Elis and Albany will be especially significant for Ierlan, who will be opposing his former teammates. The FOGO joined the Elis as a transfer this fall after leading the nation at the X for Albany in the first two years of his collegiate career. After pulling off a five-score routing of Brown last week to clinch their 10th consecutive Ivy berth, the Bulldogs will look to extend last week’s consistency on both sides of the ball through the Friday evening match.

“We know a lot about them,” head coach Andy Shay said. “In our league we have rivals, and then out of our league they’re one of our big rivals. … I think [Ierlan] is going to go out and do his job. We’re going to assume that he’s going to get a standing ‘o,’ and everyone’s going to be positive and it’s going to be a hard-fought game. We’ll see what happens.”

Last weekend’s bout against Ancient Eight foe Brown saw senior netminder Hoyt Crance ’19 emerge from the sidelines to replace an out-of-the-ordinary off-game from starting goalie Jack Starr ’21. Clutch stops from Crance, paired with an offense that has seemingly found its stride after early-season struggles, allowed Yale to send the Bears home and escape with a 17–12 victory. With the win, Yale clinched a spot in the Ivy League tournament for the 10th straight year.

Albany, lifted by standout players including Ierlan last year, battled its way to the semifinals of the NCAA tournament, where it fell to Yale. But the transfer of Ierlan — who led the nation with a record-breaking .791 win percentage last year — and star attacker Chris Fields’ graduation have hit the Great Danes hard. Albany has strung together a mediocre 2019 season and lost to every ranked opponent on its schedule — No. 7 Syracuse, No. 10 Cornell, No. 15 UMass and No. 2 Maryland.

But Albany still has one of its weapons from last year on its squad. Tehoka Nanticoke leads the Great Danes in scoring with 22 goals and 10 assists. Nanticoke was suspended earlier in the year for violating NCAA rules though an Instagram post featuring an advertisement for a stick-stringing company. He missed just one contest: the tilt against the Big Red in which Albany suffered a tight one-goal loss.

Fields’ graduation and Ierlan’s transfer have bottle-necked Nanticoke’s offensive output, as his numbers are down from his standout, 50-goal rookie season. Offensively, Ierlan’s consistency and dominance have allowed the Elis to grab more than 75 percent of possessions — making them a constant comeback threat in their earlier, closer games and allowing them to effectively box out opponents’ attempts to catch up when Yale owns a lead. Twice this season, Ierlan has even taken the ball straight from the faceoff to the back of the cage.

“TD’s success at the faceoff X this year has been a key contributor to our team’s success,” captain and attacker John Daniggelis ’19 said.

Predictably, one of Albany’s major challenges this season has been filling the gap Ierlan left — the team went from leading the nation in faceoff win percentage to sitting in 42nd. As a team, the Great Danes win their faceoffs fewer than half the time.

Last year, even opposing Ierlan, Yale was successful in stopping Nanticoke, the former No. 1 ranked high school player, and held him to just one goal in the two meetings between the programs last season. This year, the Bulldogs must similarly be ready for the 6-foot-1-inch, 248-pound attacker on Friday. In his sophomore campaign, Nanticoke has also become a threat in the midfield, which will force the Elis’ coverage to be more cohesive and collective if they want to shut him down.

“It will be a great opportunity to put everything we have been working on and hopefully keep the momentum going,” attacker Matt Brandau ’22 said. “Now is a great time to hit our stride and if we can keep it up it would be a great sign especially as we approach the end of the season.”

The opening faceoff for the contest against the Great Danes is scheduled for 7 p.m. at John Fallon Field.

Angela Xiao |

Cristofer Zillo |