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ALBANY: Year of the Dog

Don't tell University at Albany men's lacrosse coach Scott Marr that winning a national championship is out of the question.

He's only been dreaming about the moment since he arrived five years ago, and now he said he has the team that can do it.

We've got every position filled, said Marr. "We have a goaltender, we have a good defense, we have a strong midfield and we have good goal scorers on the attack. It's just a matter of playing well."

The Great Danes have been playing well " well enough to be ranked second in the nation by Marr's peers in the coaches' poll and third by the media that follows the NCAA Division I world.

High praise indeed for a program that is only five years removed from being an afterthought on its own campus.

"It's a little bit (weird), but we don't care," said sophomore long-stick midfielder Chris Schongar, a Shenendehowa graduate. "We don't look at the rankings. We want to win the (America East) conference first."

Albany took a big step toward that goal Saturday at Fallon Field by beating America East rival University of Maryland-Baltimore County 13-9. The Retrievers had been a thorn in the Great Danes' side for the last three years, beating Albany four out of their last five meetings before Saturday.

"We needed this for home-field advantage (in the America East playoffs)," said Schongar. "We knew if we beat them today, we'd have an excellent chance of hosting the tournament."

The scene at Fallon Field " an overflow crowd of 1,225 including several hundred Albany students " was a far cry from what Great Dane home games were like when they jumped to the Division I level five years ago. Back then, there were more Albany players on the sideline than there were fans watching the games.

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