The manner in which No. 13 Loyola pounded No. 18 Towson, 20-4, on Wednesday seemed to catch even Greyhounds coach Charley Toomey by surprise. Loyola was fast, opportunistic and overwhelming in almost every aspect of the victory, which was the program’s most convincing win since 2007.
But Toomey said the next challenge for the Greyhounds (2-1) is turning around and trying to get ready for Holy Cross in a Patriot League opener for both teams on Saturday. The quick turnaround is a difficult task, but nearly as important is avoiding the emotional and physical letdown that can follow a seemingly easy outcome.
“We talk about it an awful lot, about winning a practice,” Toomey said Wednesday. “It’s a short week of preparation again, getting ready to turn it around and get on a plane on Friday to go up to Holy Cross. We need to come tomorrow ready to practice. We need to be focused. We need to understand matchups defensively, but continue with what we’ve tried to do offensively, and that is hone in on our spacing, hone in our speed, our transition game.
"I like the way our seniors have kind of demanded [how] practice goes. There’s still a lot of lacrosse to be learned and in this locker room, there’s a lot of confidence to be gained. Certainly, this is a good confidence builder, but we hope that our best lacrosse is still ahead of us.”
Toomey’s message appears to have already filtered down to the players. Senior defenseman Joe Fletcher, who was sitting next to Toomey during the post-game conference, said the team knows each opponent and game is different.
“We talk about complacency and getting comfortable,” Fletcher said. “That’s the big word we try to avoid. That was the first thing Coach mentioned. We have Holy Cross this Saturday. It’s our first Patriot League game. So we know what we have to do now to stay focused. Just keeping hungry, that’s the big thing. You can’t let your guard down.”
The good thing for Toomey is Holy Cross is no slouch. Although the Crusaders are 0-1 after falling to No. 9 St. John’s on Saturday, they lost, 15-13, and outscored the Red Storm, 7-3, in the fourth quarter.
Junior attackman Nikko Pontrello recalled some advice that former long-stick midfielder Scott Ratliff would often give.
“Something Scott Ratliff told our team when he was playing with us was, 'you can’t get too high and you can’t get too low,'” Pontrello said. “'Whatever the situation, play your game and the pieces will fall from there.'”
* The faceoff battle was practically even between Loyola and Towson, with the former winning 14 draws and the latter winning 13. But the Greyhounds won 10 of 13 faceoffs in the first half, which was part of the reason why they owned an 11-1 advantage at halftime.
Junior Blake Burkhart, who had entered the game winning just 16.7 percent (2 of 12) in the first two contests, went 10-for-14 against the Tigers as volunteer assistant coach Steve Vaikness was selective in who took draws.
“It was really a matchup-driven decision,” Toomey said. “When they ran [freshman] Alec Burckley out there, he was trying to run [freshman Graham] Savio. When they were out there with their other young man, [sophomore Conor] Pequigney, then he was trying to go with Blake. So it was a matchup-driven game. Coach Vaikness does a terrific job with that stuff throughout the game.”
* While Pequigney struggled with just one win in five faceoffs and sophomore Zack Gregory won just 2 of 9, Burckley fared much better, winning 10 of 13 and scooping up a game-high six ground balls.
Burckley had lost both faceoffs he had taken in the team’s first two contests, but was tapped by coach Shawn Nadelen as Pequigney’s troubles from Towson’s 15-8 loss to No. 12 Johns Hopkins on Saturday (9 of 24) extended into Wednesday’s game.
“I didn’t think Conor was feeling it today,” Nadelen said. “So we went to Alec Burckley, who struggled the first couple reps. So we needed to calm him down a little bit, and Gregory gave us a little spark. But Zack’s been injured the past couple weeks. So, we knew we couldn’t get a lot of miles out of Zack.
"We were able to get Alec back in there and Alec – after settling down – did a pretty good job late in the second half. But they did a good job. When we were able to get the ball out and have opportunities to grab the ground ball, [we lost the balls because of] simple checks or we were overrunning the ball. Their wing play was much better than ours. We didn’t do a good job of boxing guys out and being in better position to pick up the ground ball cleaner.”
* Loyola broke the 20-goal mark for the second consecutive year (the team scored 21 in a 12-goal rout of UMBC on Feb. 26, 2013) despite the absence of offensive coordinator David Metzbower.
Toomey said Metzbower was sidelined by an illness.
“Coach Metzbower is a little under the weather,” Toomey said. “He’s going to be back on our sidelines in the very near future. Coach Vaikness is doing a heck of a job.”