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Loyola at Georgetown: Three things to watch

Loyola owns a 30-6 advantage in this series and has won the last six meetings. Georgetown hasn’t won a home game in this rivalry since April 14, 2007.

The No. 2 Greyhounds (6-1) have won six straight after opening the season with a 14-13 overtime loss to Virginia. An offense that ranks fourth in the country in scoring with 13.7 goals per game has continued to rely on attackmen Justin Ward (Old Mill) and Nikko Pontrello. Ward, a senior, is third in the nation in assists per game (3.1), while Pontrello, a junior, ranks third in goals (4.0).

The Hoyas (3-4) have dropped four of their last five contests, including a 15-7 shellacking to St. John’s on Saturday. Consistent scoring has been a problem as the team has scored 10 or more goals in a game just twice so far. Georgetown is 1-4 when scoring nine goals or less.

Here are a few factors that could play a role in the outcome at Multi-Sport Field in Washington on Wednesday at 6 p.m.

1) Georgetown’s midfield. The Hoyas boast six players with at least 10 points, but a pair of midfielders caught the attention of Loyola coach Charley Toomey. Freshman Peter Conley leads Georgetown in goals (14) and assists (nine), and junior Charles McCormick ranks second in goals (10). McCormick and Conley rank 1-2 in shots this season, and Toomey did not rule out double-poling Conley and McCormick with a rotation of junior defenseman Pat Frazier or a trio of long-stick midfielders in sophomore Jason Crane (Chesapeake-AA), freshman Ryan Fournier or senior Thomas Robinson.

“That certainly would be in the thought process,” Toomey said. “… We could take on a persona of asking those guys to step up and double-pole their first midfield. But I think right now, the most important thing for us is to continue to get better defensively and to be prepared to slide to short sticks. I don’t think we’re going to come out of this game trying to do too much and over-think it. We’ve got to play good, solid six-on-six defense and support the ball.”

2) Loyola’s man-up offense. Part of the Greyhounds’ success on offense can be traced to their ability to capitalize on extra-man opportunities. The man-up offense has scored on 59.1 percent (13-of-22) of its chances, which ranks as the fourth-best mark in the country. Pontrello has scored five man-up goals, and Ward has assisted on seven of the team’s 13 goals. The unit understands the need for proper spacing and high-percentage opportunities.

“The guys know their skip lanes, they know their roles, and they’re not trying to do too much,” Toomey said. “They’re sharing it and working for the best shot.”

3) Georgetown’s ground balls. The Hoyas may not have found a consistent answer, but they certainly are getting plenty of chances thanks to an effort on ground balls that has them ranked sixth in the nation at 35.1 per game. And a huge factor in that success has been the play of senior faceoff specialist Tyler Knarr, who is tied for second in Division I with 10.0 ground balls per game and 12th with a 61.4 faceoff percentage (94-of-153). Toomey pointed out that Loyola’s faceoff unit must neutralize Knarr.

“When you’ve got a guy that picks up 16 ground balls and he’s your starting faceoff guy, I think a large number of those ground balls are starting right at the whistle,” Toomey said. “So that’s really a key for us. How are we going to fare on faceoffs? Can we make it a 50-50 or can we win the battle? That is key.”

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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