No Place Like Home

By Blaze Riorden

As a 16 year old boy I unknowingly made one of the greatest decisions of my life.

In the summer of 2011 I was playing in the Syracuse shootout, and after my final game was approached by a man wearing purple and gold and a straw hat and flip flops. What I was unaware of was that the man, that would soon give me a big hug and an opportunity of a life time, was UAlbany Head Coach Scott Marr.

Coach mentioned he saw me playing attack and was interested in getting a lefty shooter on his roster, oh the irony. I then explained that I was a goalie and played attack during the summer for fun. He laughed and said,“perfect.”

With the deadline for signing my national letter of intent approaching rapidly he asked if I wanted to come visit. Being a naïve high school boy I told my dad that I was more interested in other “top tier” lacrosse programs, but my dad had other plans. On the way home from the tournament my dad told me, “this coach is different. He really cares about you.” A week later I’m driving up for an unofficial visit. Three days later I’m verbally committed to play lacrosse and study business at the University at Albany. Did I mention the irony?

I show up for my first day of school and in my locker is all my UA goalie equipment, along with a strung up short stick. I walked out to my first practice nervous and intimidated. Coach walks up to me and says, “did you bring your players stick out?” I laughed and said I didn’t know I needed it. He explained that practice would start in five minutes and that I should hustle in and get it.

With practice coming to an end, Coach said we were ending with a competition; man-up vs. man-down, best of 7. He calls out the players that would participate; Lyle Thompson, Ty Thompson, Miles Thompson, Tim Cox, John Maloney, and myself. Smiling ear to ear I run and grab my stick and borrow elbow pads and hop in the top left shooting spot. I tell this story for a few reasons. Life is all about opportunity and coach Marr gave me an opportunity that no other coach has ever provided. Secondly, this showed that coach was willing to take big risk on me and provide me with everything I needed to be happy and succeed. Lastly, my teammates didn’t bat an eye when a freshman goalie got asked to play man-up. This is the UAlbany way. They made me feel like family from day one having my back, and providing an opportunity of a lifetime.

When the PLL schedule was announced the first thing that caught my eye was Week 10. It was the final regular season weekend and it was happening where my career started; Albany, NY. A week later, the rosters were announced and I saw Connor Fields, Troy Reh, Miles Thompson, and Kyle McClancy also on the Chaos.

In hopes of staying healthy and surviving our next mosh pit, I want to give a special shout out to our fearless leader, Head Coach Andy Towers. I speak on behalf of the team, especially my UAlbany teammates, when I say thanks for providing us with the same love and freedom that is represented by coach Marr!

The stage is set and I couldn’t be happier. Now just four days out from playing in front of the people that showed endless love and support, we sit in first place with a playoff spot locked. My mind can’t stop thinking about all the people, memories, and ups and downs that have gotten me to this point in career. In Week 4 we played at historic Homewood Field on Johns Hopkins campus. Known for its history of being a lacrosse hot bed, I think about the rich history and passion in the stadium and it reminds me a lot of home. The passion, commitment, and aura that represents the Albany lacrosse program is now one of the best in college lacrosse. This PLL season has been nothing short of fantastic from a players standpoint all the way to the fan experience. I’m so grateful to provide the ultimate lacrosse experience to those that have gotten me to this point and have supported and shown love throughout my four years at Albany.

The stage is set and I can’t wait to see all the familiar faces. Do what you do best and make this the best PLL atmosphere yet. I’m forever grateful and GO CHOAS!

Forever a Great Dane,

Blaze Riorden

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