Towson is clinging to a 27-26 lead in this cross-town rivalry, but Loyola has won the last four meetings. The No. 17 Greyhounds are flying high after bouncing then-No. 16 Delaware, 13-8, in their season opener a week ago. The Tigers (1-1) are trying to rebound from a 12-6 loss to then-No. 4 Johns Hopkins eight days ago. Here are a few factors that could play a role in the outcome at Ridley Athletic Complex in Baltimore on Saturday.
1) Getting more production from Loyola’s midfield. Coach Charley Toomey had few qualms about the play of the starting midfield of juniors Davis Butts, Chris Layne and Sean O’Sullivan. But that trio combined to score just one goal on 14 shots. Still, Toomey said that first line deserves some patience. “I think they’re starting to gel as a group, and I don’t think we’ve seen the best from that group,” he said. “I feel like every day in practice, one of the three of those guys walks off the field, and we raise our eyebrows and say, ‘Wow, he had a great day.’ I think as they continue to play together, they’re going to be a more potent group. But we certainly like the ability that all three of them can play offense and then we’re very comfortable with the fact that they might have to run back and defend. That’s something we haven’t had here in a long time.”
2) Taking advantage of Loyola’s slow starts. The Greyhounds were victorious last week, but a familiar trend raised its ugly head as they fell into a 3-0 hole in the first quarter. Loyola dug itself into a deficit in seven games last season, and although the team won four of those contests, two were one-goal decisions (9-8 vs. Navy and 6-5 vs. Georgetown in four overtimes). Towson coach Shawn Nadelen said he “would love to” see the team get off to a fast start. “We want to make sure that we always start out strong and with good tempo and pace within our offense and defense,” he said. “Anytime you can get a lead, that’s always a positive. It’s what we do with that lead that is going to be more instrumental, and Loyola is a veteran team that knows how to come back. That’s going to be a battle for us if we do have that fortunate opportunity.”
3) Faceoffs. Both offenses tend to place a value on premium possessions rather than looking for fastbreak chances, which means that faceoffs are equally as important. The Tigers have been paced by senior Matt Thomas, who has won 52.9 percent (18-of-34) of his draws and leads the team in groundballs (12) thus far. The Greyhounds will lean on senior J.P. Dalton, who won 56 percent (14-of-25) of his faceoffs against Delaware. Toomey said Thomas has impressed him and the rest of the coaching staff. “I really believe that there’s going to be a battle at the X,” Toomey said. “Their faceoff kid, Matt Thomas, we have a tremendous amount of respect for him. If you watched him against Hopkins, he’s very athletic, and that’s going to be a real challenge for us. … That battle at the X is going to be a good one to watch this weekend.”