At the end of No. 1 seed Loyola’s convincing 17-5 win in Saturday’s NCAA tournament first-round contest at Ridley Athletic Complex in Baltimore, Canisius won 14 faceoffs to the Greyhounds’ 12. Through the first two quarters, however, it wasn’t that close.
Over that span, the Golden Griffins won 7-of-9 draws. After three quarters, Canisius was still humming at 10-of-15.
It was a somewhat stunning outcome as the Golden Griffins had entered the contest winning just 48.5 percent (150-of-309) of their faceoffs. Meanwhile, Loyola had succeeded on 52.3 percent (184-of-352).
Controlling faceoffs was a priority for Canisius during the week of preparation, according to junior Mike Moran.
“We needed to get possessions throughout the game,” said Moran, who went 13-of-20. “… We just wanted to get the ball and slow the game down. We know they like to run and gun and stuff like that. So we tried to stop the fastbreaks.”
Greyhounds senior J.P. Dalton had won 54.2 percent (180-of-332) of his draws, but was stymied to the tune of 5-of-14 faceoffs. His struggles persuaded the Loyola coaching staff to insert junior long-stick midfielder Scott Ratliff (3-of-6), sophomore Brendan Donovan (4-of-5) and even junior midfielder Davis Butts (0-of-1) at the X.
“He’s a talented guy,” Dalton said of Moran. “He was quick on the whistles, and he was able to get them possessions. What happened was we decided for Scott to come in and try some different things out, and we really wanted to stop the break and not worry about using so much hands except to get up the line and stop the break. We wanted to make it a 50-50 ground ball, and we were able to get more possessions from that.”
Ratliff won the first faceoff of his career in the third quarter after misfiring on six draws prior to Saturday’s contest.
“I didn’t even take faceoffs in high school,” he said. “So it was a little weird being out there. But I think it was a good change of pace on them. Not really going for the win, but more just trying to pressure him and not let him pick up the ball.”
The Greyhounds get a week to address faceoffs before meeting Denver in Saturday’s quarterfinal at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis. Pioneers junior Chase Carraro outdueled North Carolina sophomore R.G. Keenan – widely considered one of the top faceoff specialists in Division I – en route to a 22-of-30 performance.
Carraro has won 37-of-54 draws in two previous meetings against Dalton and Loyola. So working on faceoffs figures to be a high priority this week.
*According to the school’s sports information department, the Greyhounds have added to their season total of 30 runs of at least three goals with two more against the Golden Griffins with a 4-0 spurt in the first quarter and then a 13-0 streak in the second half. Coach Charley Toomey said he has begun to rely on the players finding a way to string together goals. “We definitely expect to go on runs,” he said. “We don’t know when that run is going to happen. Whether or not it’s J.P. winning at the X or [Ratliff] coming in and tying up or [junior short-stick defensive midfielder Josh] Hawkins coming off the wing for a tough ground ball, we feel like when the ball hits the ground, we’re at our best, and that’s what started to happen in that third quarter. … That’s kind of how we play. So whether or not it’s a five-goal run in the second quarter or the third quarter, we don’t care when it comes. We try to ride that wave while it’s happening.”
*Loyola’s victory was the school’s first in the NCAA tournament since 2001 when that squad beat Georgetown, 11-9, in the first round. Previously, the Greyhounds had lost in the first round in three trips to the tournament. “It’s kind of like all of our hard work is paying off so far,” Dalton said of the win. “We’re excited mostly to be able to go to practice on Monday. That’s a really big thing for us. We get to keep going with our season towards a championship.”
*The Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference champion is still looking for its first victory in the NCAA tournament, going 0-11 all-time after Canisius’ loss Saturday. Still, just qualifying for the tournament was a step forward for the Golden Griffins (6-8) and coach Randy Mearns. “I think it’s huge,” he said. “I think at the end of the day, it will help out from a recruitment standpoint because at least we got to the national stage. I think it bodes for good things to come for our program.”