Here is the second part of Monday’s Q&A with ESPN and Big Ten Network analyst Mark Dixon, who will provide play-by-play coverage during Saturday’s game between No. 7 Harvard and Penn State. The former Johns Hopkins midfielder, who can be followed on Twitter at @DixonLacrosse, discussed No. 5 Towson’s surprising campaign, No. 8 Loyola Maryland’s upcoming game against No. 9 Duke and No. 11 Maryland’s biggest concern.
What’s different about Towson in 2016 than in previous years?
When Shawn Nadelen took that program over, they were not good, and I think the cupboard was a little bare in terms of recruiting. I think the culture was not good. When Nadelen took over, he did some type of conditioning test and a vast majority of the guys failed. So you have to give a ton of credit to Shawn Nadelen and his coaching staff for changing the culture of Towson lacrosse. But outside of that, I think this is just a very balanced team. [Redshirt senior] Tyler White in the goal might have a case for best goaltender in the country. I know [Maryland redshirt senior] Kyle Bernlohr, the reigning winner is back, but I think White is just playing really well in the goal. He’s got a terrific defense in front of him, they face off well, they have midfielders who can run by you, and they have an attack that is really dangerous. I think [junior attackman] Joe Seider might be the next best shooter in college lacrosse not named [Johns Hopkins senior attackman] Ryan Brown. They’re just a very balanced team. They’re well-coached, and they’re efficient. They don’t make a ton of mistakes. Watching Towson lacrosse through the years, how many times have we seen them boot the ball out of bounds or miss a pass or fail a clear at critical moments? They just don’t seem to be making those kinds of mistakes right now, and they’re playing with a ton of confidence, but they’re not overconfident because they recognize where they’ve been the past couple of seasons. So Towson has been really impressive. I saw them in the preseason, and they were my [pick for] surprise team of 2016. I named them and Hofstra as two teams to watch for bounce-back seasons, and so far, they’re certainly living up to that billing.
Duke visits Loyola Maryland on Saturday at 11 a.m. at Ridley Athletic Complex in Baltimore. Which team needs this win more?
It’s important for both teams because you want to have quality wins against a non-conference opponent. [Blue Devils senior midfielder] Myles Jones had just one assist, and they didn’t get much scoring out of their second midfield. So I think it’s important for Duke. Obviously, Loyola lost the game against Towson last week, a tight game over at the RAC, but they got a win against Holy Cross and are back on track. But the Patriot League is not the ACC, and what I mean by that is, typically, you can bank on all five ACC teams making the NCAA tournament. That’s not the way it is in the Patriot League. You’ve either got to win that league or you’ve got to have some real non-conference quality wins. So you can say that both teams need this game for different reasons.
Maryland is 1-2. If you’re the Terps, what’s your biggest worry?
My biggest worry about Maryland is the way they play offense and the way they approach it. They just seem so robotic right now. They’ve got players on the offensive side of the ball. If you’re Maryland, it’s almost like you need to get out of your own way. That might be unfair to say because they did put up 15 against High Point and they played two of the better defenses in the country in Yale and Notre Dame. And I think that Notre Dame score was misleading. That was a 4-4 game and then Notre Dame scored two in the fourth and then three on empty nets when Maryland had to press the issue. That game was much closer than the final score indicated. But if you’re Maryland, you’ve got to open it up a little more offensively. Just have a little bit more faith in each other, have a little bit more faith in your guys to get the job done. That would be my fix if I was in charge.
Both No. 14 Johns Hopkins and Navy had bounce-back wins on Saturday with the Blue Jays routing Princeton 17-7 and the Midshipmen throttling Bucknell 13-6. Which team needed it more?
Both of them needed it, but I think probably Hopkins. Princeton beat them last year 16-15 in overtime in a game that they should have won if they had gotten some saves in the goal. So not only did they come out and beat Princeton, but to beat them the way that they did and with the number of injuries that Hopkins had, getting that win at home against a team that had your number for the past couple seasons is really important for Hopkins.