This NCAA tournament first-round contest pits two programs that have never played against each other. Canisius (6-7) is one of two squads in the 16-team field with a losing record, but the Golden Griffins have won their last four games, including capturing the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference tournament crown. Loyola (14-1) is the top seed in the tournament and captured its first Eastern College Athletic Conference tournament championship last week. Here are a few factors that could play a role in the outcome at Ridley Athletic Complex in Baltimore Saturday evening.
1) Canisius’ attack. The Golden Griffins are averaging less than nine goals per game, they start a trio of seniors on attack that can feast on opposing defenses. Simon Giourmetakis (34 goals and 13 assists), Jimmy Haney (26, 10) and Travis Gibbons (25, 9) have combined to account for 73.3 percent of the offense’s goals, 42.7 percent of the assists, and 61.3 percent of the points. They certainly have the attention of Greyhounds coach Charley Toomey. “One thing they’ve got going for them is a terrific attack,” Toomey marveled. “If their attack is able to get their hands free, they’re going to finish the ball. So we’ve got to lock down their attackmen and make sure that we’re taking care of their guys.”
2) Canisius’ Tim Edwards. The Golden Griffins aren’t especially deep in the midfield, but that unit is headlined by freshman Tim Edwards, who has registered 13 goals and 18 assists. Edwards will likely be shadowed by junior long-stick midfielder Scott Ratliff, who leads Loyola in caused turnovers (32) and groundballs (68). “[H]e’s going to have his hands full up top,” Toomey said of Ratliff. Edwards “is the MAAC Rookie of the Year, and he’s a very athletic young man that is very impressive. He dodges, he dodges with his head up, and he’s a guy that does a lot for them. It’s almost like he runs on the first midfield and the second midfield because they’ll keep him out there with two different guys on each line.”
3) Canisius’ ground play. The Golden Griffins are middle-of-the-road in groundballs, ranking 28th in Division I with a 29.3 average. But they can turn those loose balls into more possessions and possible scoring opportunities, and Toomey doesn’t plan on leaving any stone unturned in his team’s preparation. “I think if it becomes a groundball battle, Loyola’s got to be better off the ground than Canisius because Canisius is very dangerous, especially on the offensive end when the ball hits the ground,” he said. “They pick it up and they move it very quickly and they find a guy on the backside that is wide open.”