Preston: Short-stick midfielder Brian Begley a perfect fit for Loyola's two-way approach

Loyola Maryland short-stick midfielder Brian Begley is as meticulous poring over game film as he is analyzing medical reports.

This past summer, the senior from Morristown High (N.J.), had three internships — at the Stanford Medicine Clinic and Stanford Health Express Care in Palo Alto, Calif., as well as the Penn State College of Medicine Observation and Career Shadowing at its Bone and Joint Institute.

During the summer of 2016, he had an internship at the New Jersey Pediatric Neuroscience Institute.

In his spare time, Begley plays college lacrosse. He’s not just an average player but one of the best at his position in the game.

Being a defensive middie is a dirty job. There’s no glory, a lot of guts and even more sheer determination. It’s a perfect fit for the eventual Dr. Begley, who next year is moving on to the University of Pennsylvania’s Post-Baccalaureate Pre-Health Specialized Studies program. It will provide further “premed” classes, a job in the health profession and Medical College Admission Test preparation.

“In both cases, you have to make decisions in critical situations,” the 5-foot-10, 185-pound Begley said. “You use this type of thinking in lacrosse because you’ve studied the situation, know where the players are on the field, can sometimes predict what is going to happen and then you have to analyze and make the right decision.”

That’s typical Begley.

He likes to analyze and break things down. He compares being a short-stick middie to playing cornerback in the NFL. It’s an awkward but accurate analogy.

“You have to have good footwork and be able to bend well at the knees,” Begley said. “You have to be able to backpedal, open up at the hips, turn and run, and go attack the ball. You are going to get attacked, and it’s a tough job at first because you could run with everybody in high school and now guys just blow by you in college.”

“The stark reality is that you’re going to need your teammates’ help at some time because you’re going to get beat. But just like the NFL, you forget about that play and go back and make the next one.”

It’s an interesting perspective, but Loyola’s Charley Toomey said Begley is one of the most mature players he has had during his 13-year tenure as head coach at the school.

Unlike most of the other Greyhounds, Begley doesn’t always attend full practices, meetings and weight training sessions. As a medical student, he has a different schedule because of certain classes and labs.

Begley spends a lot of his own time in the lacrosse offices watching film and going over scouting reports with the assistant coaches. During the fall, when most of his teammates are watching NFL games on the weekend, Begley is in the library.

He gets some good-natured razzing from his teammates.

“He is just one of those guys who has great perspective and gets it,” Toomey said. “By ‘it,’ I mean he gets college, he gets lacrosse, he gets life. Just a wonderful person to be around. Not always vocal, but he leads by example both on and off the field.”

Off the field, Begley plans to follow in the footsteps of his father, Gerard — a doctor who specializes in facial reconstruction — even though the Loyola senior isn’t sure about which area he’ll specialize in.

But the hope one day is to open his own practice somewhere in Maryland, Pennsylvania or Virginia. A more immediate goal, however — especially Saturday, when the Greyhounds host Duke — is to get No. 7 Loyola (4-1) into the postseason and the national championship hunt.

Lacrosse has its own areas of specialization, but Begley isn’t limited. In most big-time programs, short-stick midfielders play the other teams’ top offensive middies and collect ground balls.

Once their team gets possession on the offensive end, they come off the field. But that’s not Loyola’s style. Begley is a throwback, or two-way midfielder. He already has 13 ground balls and three forced turnovers while scoring four goals.

Begley was named the Patriot League Defensive Player of the Week earlier this season, when he led the defense and scored two goals in a 19-5 win over Lafayette on Feb. 24.

“As a freshman, I came in as an offensive midfielder and they asked me to play on defense. And at that time, I did whatever it took to get on the field,” Begley said. “Then I came to the realization that my game was best suited going from defense to offense, and their style allowed me to play that way. It helps us because when we look at game film, we don’t break it down with offensive players and defensive players but as a team. And our midfielders have to know everyone’s tendencies, not just offensive players.”

Said Toomey: “He sees things, potential matchup issues, and he has the green light to stay on if he can. It’s not like he is going to go out there and just blow by people but he has his way of finding open spots on the field. If they don’t slide to him, he will go to the goal.”

Begley has some big assignments Saturday. Toomey said the Blue Devils might be the best ground-ball team in the country having outgained the opposition, 186 to 159. Duke has forced 54 turnovers and the Blue Devils have solid scoring in midfielders Brad Smith (eight goals, seven assists) and Kevin Quigley (six goals, two assists).

Begley and the Greyhounds are in for a tough game, but remember he prefers these types of critical situations.

Well, what’s up Doc?

“They are shooting at a high percentage,” Begley said. “They are strong six-on-six, but they want to get you in a one-on-one situation where they can out-athlete you. We’re going to need strong communication if we want to win.”

mike.preston@baltsun.com

twitter.com/MikePrestonSun

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