Tied with No. 1 Maryland and No. 3 Cornell as the hottest teams in Division I, No. 2 Loyola is also tops at protecting the ball.
The Greyhounds, who have won six consecutive games after a season-opening 14-13 overtime loss to Virginia, lead Division I in fewest turnovers per game, averaging just 10.4 giveaways. They are a full turnover better than the Terps (6-0) and No. 5 Denver (5-2), who are tied with 11.5 per contest.
Coach Charley Toomey said the players understand the importance of retaining the ball and dictating the tempo and pace of games.
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“They’ve been able to handle pressure and move the ball to the next guy,” he said Tuesday afternoon. “I think right now, each player is trying not to do too much. They’re taking what’s been given to them and if it’s a good look at the cage, they’re going to take a good shot. If it’s not a good shot, they’re going to bang it and find the next guy. They’re playing very unselfish lacrosse at the moment.”
Last season, Loyola averaged 12.5 turnovers under a philosophy of trying to turn every defensive stop into a transition opportunity and taking as many shots as possible. This year’s squad is not as athletic but also cognizant enough to realize that trying to run through double teams, as some players did last season, is a low-percentage decision.
“What we’re trying to do is create more offensive opportunities in our transition and because we probably lack a little bit of athleticism, we have been able to stickwork it out a little bit better,” Toomey said. “But what we’re looking for is the [high clearing] percentage. Priority No. 1 is to clear the ball, and priority No. 2 would be to generate a good shot out of transition. I’m just happy that we’re clearing the ball [at a 93.5 percent success rate, which ranks third in the nation], and we’re making good decisions once we get it down there.”
On the opposing side, the Greyhounds rank 32nd at 7.4 caused turnovers per game, which is lower than last year’s 8.8 average. But Toomey said that number means little to him.
“The most important stat for us is, are we playing defense one time?” he asked. “What that means is, are we making the clean save? Are we knocking the ball down and if we do, are we getting a ground ball and are we getting it to our offensive side of the field with one stop? Or are we knocking it down and they’re picking it up and we have to defend another stop? Those are the stats we’re hopefully improving one week to week.”