After going with a senior-laden first midfield of Davis Butts, Chris Layne and Sean O’Sullivan for a majority of this season, as well as last year, reigning national champion Loyola has retooled the line, and the results have thus far been positive for coach Charley Toomey.
Butts and Sullivan are still starters, but sophomore Nikko Pontrello has made the switch to midfield in the No. 7 Greyhounds’ last two games. Pontrello’s move was necessitated by the development of freshman Zach Herreweyers, who has joined senior Mike Sawyer and junior Justin Ward on attack.
In a 13-12 overtime loss to then-No. 1 Denver on April 13 and a 19-11 rout of Hobart last Saturday, O’Sullivan has scored six goals on just eight shots, Butts has registered two goals and one assist, and Pontrello has contributed three assists. That trio is expected to start Saturday when Loyola (10-3) visits No. 13 Johns Hopkins (8-4).
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“We feel like they’re growing into a unit, into a unit that can dodge, a unit that can score,” Toomey said Wednesday morning. “They’re playing very unselfishly together, and I think they’re learning each other’s strengths and they’re learning to play to each other’s strengths. Whether or not it’s those three or we mix it up a bit, the guys are figuring it out right now, and it’s what we’ve been waiting for.”
Layne, who had led the midfield in scoring prior to Pontrello’s move, has run with fifth-year senior Harry Kutner and senior Phil Dobson on the second line. Although they combined for just one goal and one assist against the Statesmen, Toomey said the trio is more potent.
“It definitely gives us the ability to put another dodger and another initiator down there, which is something that we felt they needed,” Toomey said. “We had a lot of guys that were catch-and-shoot guys, and Chris Layne is another guy that can dodge and create some offense and get things going. If you don’t slide to him, we know he has the ability to run by you and score. It’s a situation where we can move parts around and try to create the best scenario for us on every possession.”