"> Once Denied, TD Ierlan Now Fueling Albany's Historic Offense | USA Lacrosse Magazine

PHOTO BY BILL ZISKIN

Albany's TD Ierlan is second in Division I with a 72.5 faceoff win percentage, trailing only Denver's Trevor Baptiste.

Once Denied, TD Ierlan Now Fueling Albany's Historic Offense


It was just his fall debut, but TD Ierlan felt the nerves as he entered the stadium at Johns Hopkins’ Homewood Field for a matchup with Richmond last October. Ierlan, Albany’s freshman faceoff specialist, had grown up watching games take place on the historic field, and he’d be suiting up for the Great Danes for the first time at that very same place.

It was a lot to take in for the product of Victor (N.Y.), who had heard "no" from up to 10 different schools during the recruiting process.

“Just going through warm ups, you looked at it like ‘Wow. I’ve seen the Hopkins field so many times. Now I’m actually playing on it,’” Ierlan said. “… Leading up to [the first faceoff], I was a nervous wreck. I was shaking and stuff. As soon as I won that first one, I was excited and thought it was fun.”

He won the first faceoff, part of a streak that saw him take 14 of 15 faceoffs against Spiders faceoff man Peter Moran. All the nerves were for naught, as Ierlan put together a stellar debut, even if it was just a fall scrimmage.

Albany coach Scott Marr, watching Ierlan from the sidelines, turned to his assistants in approval.

“We looked at each other on the sidelines, and it was pretty premature,” Marr said. “I said ‘I think we’ve got something in this kid.’ We were all pretty happy to see what he had in that fall tournament.”


“We looked at each other on the sidelines, and it was pretty premature. I said ‘I think we’ve got something in this kid.’" -Albany Coach Scott Marr


Ierlan and his coaching staff came out of the fall tournament with confidence that he could contribute for this Great Danes team. It would have been tough, however, to forecast just how good Ierlan would be in his first season at Albany.

Ierlan, who will face off against top-seeded Maryland on Sunday afternoon, finished the regular season as the nation’s second-best faceoff man. His 72.5 percent on faceoffs sits behind only Denver’s Trevor Baptiste. He won 73 faceoffs more than any other freshman in Division I.

“It’s pretty cool to here all these things,” Ierlan said of the acclaim that accompanied his impressive season. “It hasn’t really hit me. At the end of the year, I’ll go back and look at it like ‘that’s really cool’ but right now, I have to focus up. Especially this time of the year, when you’re only playing the best guys.”

“He’s clearly the best faceoff guy we’ve ever had,” Marr said. “At this point, every faceoff he goes out for, we feel he’s going to win it. That’s a great feeling to have.”








Ierlan, who grew up a very competitive wrestler on top of lacrosse, was called upon for faceoffs once he joined Victor’s varsity team as a freshman. The instincts he learned in wrestling, including the mental stamina that comes with hitting the mat for five or six matches each meet, helped him prepare. He eventually set the Victor school record for wrestling wins with 161.

Playing as a middie and faceoff man, Ierlan started to garner attention from college coaches as early as his freshman year. He visited with a handful of schools during his sophomore year, and was ready to choose his school by the next summer.

He called prospective schools to inform them of his impending decision, when they told him they’d gone a different direction. 

He had interest from almost a dozen schools, but each had eventually told him no.

“To constantly be told that you’re not good enough, or you’re too small and not athletic enough, it was really tough on me,” Ierlan said of the recruiting process. “My whole family and friends, and my Victor coaches, they really helped me out. They said ‘I don’t care where you’re going to end up, you’re going to do great things.’”

Late that summer, Albany reached out to Ierlan after seeing him play at an Under Armour tryout. Marr’s assistants Liam Gleason and Eric Wolf had tracked him for a couple years, and were “‘banking on’” him. Ierlan committed to Albany late in the summer before his junior year — happy to find someone who valued his services.

It turned out to be a perfect fit, as Ierlan’s strong faceoff play has helped a high-functioning Albany offense, which leads the nation with 15.76 goals per game. It also boasts the nation’s leading scorer, Connor Fields, who sits at 113 points, already the sixth-best number in NCAA history.




PHOTO BY BILL ZISKIN

After struggling in his first collegiate game, Ierlan won 54 of 76  faceoffs in the next three games.


But Ierlan’s season, and Albany’s for that matter, did not get off to a strong start. He went 6-for-21 against Syracuse’s Ben Williams, and the Great Danes fell 10-9 at the Carrier Dome.

“I thought we could give ourselves a chance and we’d be in all the games,” Ierlan said of his faceoff unit. “Right after we played Syracuse, I had to rethink everything. I was like ‘Wow. 30 percent? I don’t remember the last time I was that bad.’”

But Marr and his staff didn’t lose faith. Ierlan remained the primary faceoff man, winning 54 of 76  faceoffs in the next three games, with 34 ground balls to go with the strong showing. At that point, Ierlan said he started to settle into his position.

He tore through a relatively solid faceoff list in the America East, leading the conference in faceoff percentage. And in turn, Albany swept its conference schedule, winning games by an average of 7.6 goals per game.

The Albany offense has rivaled that of the Lyle and Myles Thompson-led Great Danes’ from 2013-2015. The difference between those teams, however, has been faceoff play. In that three-year span, Albany won less than 50 percent of its faceoffs — 49.7, 41 and 45.8 percent respectively.

“In years past, we have had our offense struggle to get the ball,” Marr said. “Now, we’re fortunate that we can go out and win some on our own and have more possessions than we’ve had in the past. It does a world of good for our offense and defense. We’re fortunate that it’s worked out.”

Now, Marr and his team has a special player at the faceoff position. Ierlan has helped the Great Danes win 15 of 16 games leading into the NCAA quarterfinals. The only loss? The same Maryland team that Albany faces on Sunday.

Ierlan said he followed Maryland's primary faceoff man, Austin Henningsen, as he got the attention of school around the country in high school. In their first matchup, Ierlan won 16 of 27 faceoffs against the Terps, including all three against Henningsen.

But he’s not too concerned about his faceoff percentage. He wants to help Albany advance to its first final four in school history.

“At the beginning of the year, I was just trying to get my first faceoff win, and I barely got that against Syracuse,” he said. “After that game. I said ‘I’ll be lucky if I go 40 percent.’ Things just started happening. I didn't see it playing out like this. But I’d definitely trade 70 percent to make a final four and have a chance to win a national title.”