Since Virginia wooed Lars Tiffany away from Brown on June 21 to replace Dom Starsia as head coach, the excitement over Tiffany's brand of fast-paced, track-meet-style lacrosse that the Bears employed to make a run to the NCAA tournament semifinals in May has been building in Charlottesville.
No. 5 Loyola Maryland, which welcomes the No. 15 Cavaliers to Ridley Athletic Complex on Saturday at 1 p.m. in the season opener for both teams, is looking forward to matching Virginia's up-tempo philosophy.
"We've been playing that way for three years," coach Charley Toomey said Wednesday morning. "So a lot of people are saying that Virginia's going to play this fast-paced game that we're pretty comfortable with. We pride ourselves on pushing some transition as well. What it really comes down to for both teams is, who's making saves and who's winning faceoffs? You have to make clean saves to be able to run or you've got to get defensive stops, pick up the ground balls and push the pace. So we're ready for the pace. That's something that we've talked about, but I think our guys see that every day."
Pace has been an emphasis for the Greyhounds since their 18-13 loss to eventual national champion North Carolina in the other NCAA semifinal; the Tar Heels leaped out to early leads of 3-0, 7-1 and 12-2 in the first half. After a sluggish opening in a January scrimmage against Villanova, Loyola has fared better in preseason exhibitions against UMBC and Richmond.
"We addressed it in the offseason," Toomey said. "We talked about getting off the bus and being ready to play and focusing on what you need to do to put your best foot forward in that first quarter. And I think the guys have heard the message. I liked how we reacted to it on Saturday [at Richmond], and with a team that's going to play as fast as Virginia wants to play, you'd better not play sluggish, because all of a sudden, you can look up and you're down by three."
Perhaps a greater concern for Loyola is the status of the starting attack. Sophomore Pat Spencer and seniors Zack Sirico and Jordan Germershausen did not practice Tuesday. Toomey said he was planning to meet with the school's medical staff to find out their availability for the remainder of the week, but he said he is not worried about them missing Saturday's opener.
"I think they'll be back," he said. "We're dealing with things that every team is dealing with. It's not unique to Loyola. Every staff is kind of figuring out where the chemistry is going to be best. I feel very good after playing Richmond that we were able to settle into some roles."