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Georgetown at Loyola lacrosse: Three things to watch

John Trainor, Navy, watches Jay Drapeau, Loyola, as Drapeau looks to pass the ball in the second quarter.of a game on March, 18, 2017.
John Trainor, Navy, watches Jay Drapeau, Loyola, as Drapeau looks to pass the ball in the second quarter.of a game on March, 18, 2017. (Kim Hairston / Baltimore Sun)

Loyola Maryland has won 32 of 39 meetings in this series, including a 10-7 decision at Georgetown on March 23, 2016. The Hoyas are 1-1 on the road, while the Greyhounds are 2-1 at home.

Georgetown (2-5) has won two of its last three games after opening the year with four consecutive losses. The defense has given up an average of 11.8 goals in its five losses, but only 6.5 in its two victories. Senior long-stick midfielder Michael Mayer (St. Paul's) leads the team in ground balls (27) and caused turnovers (13).

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No. 18 Loyola (4-3) bounced back from a 15-7 loss at No. 11 Duke on March 11 with an 18-7 rout of Patriot League foe Navy on Saturday. An offense that ranks sixth in Division I at 14.0 goals per game also boasts the No. 3 ranking in assists per game at 10.1. Sophomore attackman Pat Spencer (Boys' Latin) leads the country in total assists (27) and assists per game (3.9).

Here are a few factors that could play a role in the outcome at Ridley Athletic Complex in Baltimore on Wednesday at 3 p.m.

1.) Turnovers. Since turning the ball over more than 12 times in each of its first five games, Loyola Maryland has committed fewer than 10 giveaways in its last two. The team registered a season-low eight turnovers in the victory over the Midshipmen, and coach Charley Toomey said that number was as impressive as the 18 goals and 15 assists the offense put up.

"I think we've kind of cut that number down, and we need to continue with that," he said. "We've got to keep the ball on the offensive end, get the ball in Pat's stick, let him make some decisions, and run clean sets once we've got it down there with our first and second middies. I think you saw the result of that on Saturday, and we've got to continue with that."

2.) Wing play. Georgetown junior Peter Tagliaferri ranks 12th in the nation with a 60.9 faceoff percentage, but has picked up only eight ground balls. To Toomey, that suggests that Tagliaferri can win the ball initially and push it to an area of the field for one of his teammates on the wings to collect and start possession. That means that long-stick midfielders Ryan Fournier and Zac Davliakos and short-stick defensive midfielders Brian Begley and Matt Higgins must be aggressive to get to those spots before the Hoyas wing players do.

"So it becomes an athletic contest," Toomey said. "He definitely wins it and gets it to an area where it's advantageous for Georgetown to pick it up. So that's a new focus for us, to really make sure that we have custody of the wings as they're coming in and not getting boxed in and allowing them to throw it to an area for easy ground balls. It's going to be a different game for us because we're typically used to watching faceoffs where the guys are scrapping and come out of it clean."

3.) Defense. Sophomore Daniel Bucaro (21 goals and seven assists) and junior midfielder Peter Conley (15 G, 9 A) lead Georgetown in scoring. Not surprisingly, they also lead the offense in shots, with Conley launching a team-high 71 and Bucaro adding 68. The next highest on the list is freshman Jake Carraway (St. Mary's) with 41, which would seem to simplify Loyola's defensive focus. But Toomey said the players cannot afford to concentrate solely on Bucaro and Conley.

"You can get lulled into saying, 'We need to stop these two guys,' and then all of a sudden, Carraway is turning the corner," Toomey said. "I think what we have to do is just understand that sometimes it's on the ball that we need to slide to them because they're looking to score and that sometimes off the ball, they're setting you up to be the slider and they chuck into that guy and he's looking for his shot. So we've got to be aware on the ball to not let them get easy looks at our goalie, and off the ball, we've got to make sure that we've got second slides that we are filling to a guy that feels very comfortable about catching and shooting right away."

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