A 10-3 thrashing of Michigan on Saturday helped Loyola improve to 7-2 overall and 3-0 in the Eastern College Athletic Conference this season. But the No. 15 Greyhounds are in this position despite not having played with a full deck of cards.
The reigning national champion played the first seven games of the season without senior short-stick defensive midfielder Josh Hawkins, who served a suspension for violating an unspecified team rule. Undisclosed injuries forced Loyola to play without senior attackman and 2012 Tewaaraton Award finalist Mike Sawyer for two contests, senior midfielder Davis Butts in Wednesday’s 13-8 victory over Georgetown, and senior midfielder Chris Layne and senior defenseman Reid Acton on Saturday.
“It’s tough because for one reason or another, we haven’t had the whole of our team out there for any one game,” coach Charley Toomey said Monday morning. “That’s been the challenge thus far for this season. It’s like we take a step forward and then we take one step back. Due to injury or whatever the situation is, it seems like we’re always losing one young guy that is vital to our success. I’m looking forward to having our starters out there as one. I think this weekend going forward, we’ll see what Loyola is going to be about. I think we finally are going to be at a point where we’re healthy and – knock on wood – we can throw this whole team out there on Saturday and see what we have to offer. So I feel good about us because we’ve been able to endure a rough stretch.”
Layne and Acton are expected to return for Saturday’s road contest at No. 3 Ohio State (6-2 overall and 1-1 conference). When Layne does return, the team will have to make a decision on starting six players out of a group of seven that includes Sawyer, junior attackman Justin Ward, sophomore attackman Nikko Pontrello, freshman attackman Zach Herreweyers, Butts, Layne and senior midfielder Sean O’Sullivan.
“We’ve got a week to figure that one out,” Toomey said. “I don’t know right now. It’s going to be hard to take Michael off the field and certainly Justin Ward. I would think that Zach is going to get the start this weekend. But Nikko’s playing well. He gives us a dodging presence. He ran a little bit out of the midfield last year. So depending on Davis’ health, I would imagine that he’s either running on the first or the second. He definitely gives us an option.”
Sawyer scored three goals against the Wolverines in his first game back since sustaining an unspecified injury in an 8-6 win against Bellarmine on March 2. Toomey said it was comforting to see Sawyer playing alongside Ward and Herreweyers on attack.
“I think he was a little bit rusty,” Toomey said. “He had three goals on 15 shots, but his leadership and his presence out there open up other things. I think he opened up some other guys’ opportunities because you know you have to get to Mike, and when you stretch out one side of the field, you might be a little thin on the other side. So just having Mike back gives other guys some opportunities.”