After opening the season with a six-game unbeaten streak, the Loyola men’s soccer team is now headed the other way.
The Greyhounds have dropped their last three games, losing, 3-1, to then-No. 21 UMBC on Sept. 21; 2-1 to Holy Cross last Saturday; and 3-0 to James Madison on Wednesday.
Despite the losing skid, though, coach Mark Mettrick said he is not terribly concerned about the team’s morale.
“UMBC obviously played very well and deserved to get that result,” he said Friday as the team traveled to Hamilton, N.Y., before a game Saturday at Patriot League rival Colgate. “In the Holy Cross game, I thought we were pretty unlucky. We got back in the game and had a better second half, and I think nine times out of 10, we win that game. But we had a couple issues at the end of the game there and we kind of shot ourselves in the foot a little bit. So our team was disappointed with that. And against James Madison, they’re a good team, and it was a difficult game. It was a game that kind of escaped us a little bit, but I think these are all the growing pains of a team that is pretty young.
"I think half the squad is freshmen and new players. So I think even though James Madison was a defeat, I think we learned about ourselves and we’re going to use those things in our next game against Colgate because right now, it’s all about the Patriot League.”
The offense has scored just two goals during the past three games, but Mettrick pointed out that sophomore forward Larry Ndjock, whose seven goals lead the team, sat out two of those losses as he served a suspension for earning a red card in a 2-1 win against Princeton on Sept. 18.
Also, sophomore midfielder Dominic Marshall missed the loss to James Madison and is questionable for Saturday’s contest.
Mettrick’s bigger worry is a defense that has surrendered eight goals in the past three games. Mettrick said the unit is still getting comfortable with senior Zach Kane, who replaced senior Thurman Van Riper as the starting goalkeeper after Van Riper suffered major facial injuries against Princeton.
“Obviously, we’re getting used to a new goalie with Zach starting,” Mettrick said, adding that freshman goalie Jordan Watson recently returned to his native England to attend to family matters. “So we’re adjusting to that. I think that back four is getting together, and just getting more experience and more familiar with each other is going to help. And with our midfield five, just making sure that they do the defensive side of it [is important]. We’ve got players that like to go forward, but we’ve got to make sure they play both sides of the ball as well.”
Loyola (5-3-1 overall, 0-1-0 Patriot League) begins the second half of the season with eight games against conference foes. The Greyhounds will have to navigate a field that includes Army (6-1-1, 1-0-0), Navy (4-3-2, 1-0-0) and Bucknell (5-3-0, 0-1-0) to qualify for a spot in the six-team Patriot League tournament.
“It is an important time in the next few weeks,” Mettrick said. “We’ve got some difficult games. We play Colgate, which has not lost a game at home in the Patriot League since 2009. Our goal is to first make the Patriot League playoffs, and six teams out of 10 make it. So we play Colgate away, Bucknell away and then Army, which is one of the top teams in the Patriot League. That’s the next three games, so it’s an important stretch for us.”Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun