Graham Savio picked a good time to record the best performance of his career, matching a personal best with 17 faceoff wins and setting a career high with 12 ground balls in top-ranked Loyola Maryland’s 13-10 victory over No. 6 Johns Hopkins on Saturday.
Charley Toomey couldn’t say he saw that effort coming from Savio as the Greyhounds (15-1), the third seed in the NCAA tournament, prepare for a first-round meeting with Albany (11-5) on Saturday at 12 p.m. at Ridley Athletic Complex in Baltimore.
“I don’t think you can come to expect anything from a freshman,” Toomey said on Tuesday afternoon. “But what we are excited about and hopeful of is that Graham is maturing with each game. What we really felt coming out of Saturday is, we saw a young guy continuing to grow and continuing to develop, and the old adage in May is, you don’t really advance too far if you don’t have good faceoff and goalie play.
"So obviously, we were happy with Saturday’s result, but quickly the process starts with understanding what Albany does at the X and how they attack from the wings.”
Savio has won 54.8 percent (154 of 281) of his draws, collected a team-best 80 ground balls, and scored his first goal in Saturday’s win. Savio overtook junior Blake Burkhart and senior Brendan Donovan (Loyola High) on the team’s depth chart, but Toomey couldn’t pinpoint when things began to crystallize for Savio.
“I like the way that he studies film, I like the way he prepares with [assistant] coach [Steve] Vaikness, and I like the way that he and Blake push each other to be better Monday through Friday,” Toomey said.
Savio could be significant against a Great Danes team that ranks 51st out of 67 Division I teams in faceoff percentage (41.9 percent, 208 of 497). Specifically, freshman Connor Russell has won 46.8 percent (124 of 265) and senior Artie Marrapese has won just 38.5 percent (60 of 156).
“Whether it’s Albany or Hopkins or whoever is on your schedule, if you’ve got the ball, that’s pretty doggone important,” Toomey said of the value of faceoffs. “For this team that wants to play fast, you have to make stops and run or you have to win faceoffs and pick up ground balls and run. So the game will start with a ground ball, and if we can get that ball and pick it up and create some offense, that’s how we want to play. But that’s certainly how Albany wants to play as well.”