Enduring a nagging back injury. Filling in for Josh Hawkins on defense. Shooting more with his left hand. Davis Butts has a number of reasons for his unusually low numbers this season, but the Loyola senior midfielder refuses to pick a single one.
“There’s really no excuse,” he said Thursday morning. “That’s how it ended up happening.”
That stance is not shocking considering that Butts is one of four Greyhounds co-captains (defenseman Reid Acton, long-stick midfielder Scott Ratliff and attackman Mike Sawyer are the others), but it is still admirable that he does not try to sugarcoat his campaign after compiling 21 goals and 14 assists in 2012.
Butts’ eight goals are his fewest since his freshman campaign, and his shooting percentage of 12.1 percent is a career low. But Loyola (11-4), the reigning national champion, will meet seventh-seeded Duke (12-5) in Sunday’s first round of the NCAA tournament, and that is what matters most to Butts.
“The success of our team is the ultimate goal,” he said. “Personal numbers matter to some people, but to me, it’s all about winning the championship.”
Butts, who re-aggravated a back ailment last winter that he originally injured as a freshman, said he feels as healthy as he has been in a long time. In the team’s 18-11 loss to Ohio State in last Thursday’s semifinal round of the Eastern College Athletic Conference tournament, he recorded one goal and two assists, matching a season-best three points he enjoyed in a 21-9 rout of UMBC on Feb. 26.
Butts has finished 10 games with one or zero points, but despite his struggles, coach Charley Toomey kept Butts on the first line – even electing to bump senior Chris Layne to the second midfield when sophomore Nikko Pontrello made the switch from attack to midfield.
Toomey said his confidence in Butts has been affirmed by opponents’ decision to assign their long-stick midfielders to shadow Butts despite the presence of Pontrello (15 goals and 19 assists), Layne (14, 9) or O’Sullivan (17, 3).
“I think opponents know Davis because he’s been on the field since his freshman year, and they know what he’s capable of,” Toomey said. “He’s a kid that can get going between the lines. He’s on the faceoff wings, he’s good off the ground, he can use his speed to get himself out of trouble, and he’s a heady player.”
Butts said in addition to trying to play through the pain in his back, he began to use his left hand more as opponents had schemed to take away his right hand. And he played more defense as a result of Hawkins, a senior short-stick defensive midfielder, sitting out the first seven games while serving a suspension for violating an undisclosed team policy.
“At the beginning of the year with Josh out, I took a lot more runs defensively and on the wings, and it finally caught up to me physically,” Butts recalled. “I ended up being much slower than I thought and in much more pain, but after he came back, I’m kind of getting back to the role of playing offense again, and I’m back physically to where I want to be at this point.”
Toomey said he does not concentrate solely on Butts’ goals and assists because he does a lot more that does not show up in the box score.
“Davis is a guy that we ask an awful lot of – to initiate our dodging and to suck up a pole every weekend because he certainly gets the opponent’s best every week,” Toomey said. “He’s a captain and he’s an outspoken leader in our locker room and he’s a guy that motivates his teammates. … We wouldn’t be the way we are without Davis Butts in our locker room.”Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun