When queried earlier in the season about what appeared to be the team's inability to settle on either sophomore Jake Hagelin or senior Alex Peaty as the starting goalkeeper, Greyhounds coach Charley Toomey would -- without fail -- point out that the defense had to give either goalie a chance to succeed.
Toomey and Hagelin got that wish Saturday in No. 19 Loyola's 12-7 rout of the visiting Stags. Fairfield took just 29 shots (16 were on net) and was shut out for a span of 21 minutes, 29 seconds in the second half -- during which the Greyhounds turned a slim 7-5 lead into a 12-5 advantage.
Loyola was especially tough against the Stags' top three scorers of freshman midfielder Brent Adams, senior midfielder Chris Ajemian and freshman attackman John Snellman. Senior long-stick midfielder P.T. Ricci didn't surrender a point to Adams, who entered the contest as Fairfield's most productive player with 23 points on 13 goals and 10 assists, until he scored with 1:04 left in the fourth quarter.
Snellman, who led the team in goals with 14, scored just once and added an assist as junior Steve Layne didn't seem affected by giving up six inches and 30 pounds to the 6-foot-3, 220-pound Snellman. Ajemian scored twice, but one was on an extra-man opportunity.
While predicting that Adams would develop into a dangerous player, Ricci said the game plan entailed forcing the midfielder to get rid of the ball. "We shut him down in the first half and caused them to do a lot of inverts," said Ricci, who recorded a game-high four caused turnovers and six groundballs. "I think that really took away from what he could do because if I took him away on his first few dodges, they would go to someone else."
* Although Ricci and several teammates knew before the game about Georgetown's upset of No. 13 Massachusetts, guys like Shane Koppens and Collin Finnerty said they didn't know about the result until it was announced during a timeout in the first quarter. After running out to a 5-1 lead at the end of the first quarter, the Greyhounds were outscored 3-2 in the second period, and Toomey was understandably displeased. "We made an effort not to tell our guys," he said. "At one point in the game, I told them that this is going on right now and they need to re-focus."
* Loyola's strength has been its attack of Koppens, Finnerty and junior Cooper MacDonnell, but the Stags curiously did not try to force the ball out of their stick and make the midfielder initiate action. On a couple occasions, Koppens found himself in a one-on-one situation behind the net or Finnerty was able to catch a pass on the left wing and work his way into position for a high-percentage shot. "A big part of our game plan is to play as fast as we possibly can," said Koppens, who posted three goals and two assists. "It helps when everyone is moving at once because it gets everyone open. We got good looks off good passes. The goalie made some great saves, but we canned 12 of [our shots]. I'll take that any day."
* After thumping Fairfield, the Greyhounds are in the curious position of rooting for the Stags, who play Massachusetts on Tuesday. If Fairfield can beat the Minutemen, Loyola will play Hobart on Saturday at Diane Geppi-Aikens Field with first place in the Eastern College Athletic Conference and the automatic qualifier to the NCAA tournament on the line. "It is funny," Koppens said. "One moment you're trying to beat up on a team, the next thing you're shaking their hands and wishing them good luck next week." Said Toomey succinctly: "We're Fairfield's biggest fans next week."