Freshman goalkeeper Jacob Stover got the word sometime between Monday and Wednesday that he would make his first career start when No. 17 Loyola Maryland traveled to Georgetown Wednesday afternoon.
The Reisterstown resident and McDonogh graduate was understandably nervous about his play, but he didn’t bother his father, former Ravens kicker Matt Stover.
“He knew I was ready,” the younger Stover said after he made nine saves in the Greyhounds’ 10-7 victory over the Hoyas at Cooper Field in Washington, D.C. “He said, ‘We’re going to be praying for you.’ God gave me a great opportunity and I thank Him for everything He’s given me, the great ability. [My dad] just said, ‘You know how to play. Play your game.’”
Stover had replaced sophomore Grant Limone for the final three quarters of Saturday’s 10-9 loss at No. 14 Navy, making four stops while allowing five goals. But Stover said he was prepared to return to his usual backup role before coach Charley Toomey informed him of his decision.
“He gave me the word and he said, ‘I’m looking for consistency,’” Stover said. “He trusted in me. I’m a freshman, and that takes a lot of trust. So I thank him for the opportunity, and my goal is to go out there and make every single save. If I don’t make the save, then I make the next one. That’s my mentality.”
Toomey said Stover gives the defense the best chance to make a stop and get the ball to the offense. But even he acknowledged that picking one starter from Stover, Limone and junior Sam Beazell is a difficult proposition.
“I don’t know that we started the right guy, but I know that we started the guy that in my opinion has been the most consistent in practice,” Toomey said. “Grant’s won a lot of games for us, but knowing that I’ve got Beazell, knowing that I’ve got Stover, knowing that I’ve got Limone, I feel like I can look at them, and as long as we can stay together as a family, then I look at them and say, ‘All right, let’s go today.’ And if somebody’s not on it, then the next guy has got to be ready to go. I’ve never been a coach that wants to pull a goalie. I’m not looking to do that. I want somebody to take ownership. But when you’ve got three guys, hopefully, you can continue to work with all three, and we can go with the hot hand.”
Circling back to “Three Things to Watch” …
1) Loyola’s defense. Georgetown (1-7) juggled its starting lineup, moving freshman Daniel Bucaro from attack to midfield, shifting sophomore Craig Berge from midfield to attack, and promoting sophomore Matt Behrens to attack. But Berge was shut out by Greyhounds sophomore defenseman Foster Huggins, and Bucaro and Behrens were limited to one goal and one assist each. Redshirt senior defenseman David Manning, who shadowed Behrens, said the key was aiding the short-stick defensive midfielders in their matchups with junior midfielders Devon Lewis (zero points) and Eduardo White (one goal and one assist).
“We wanted to support our short-sticks as soon as we can,” Manning said. “[Lewis] is a great dodger, [White] is a great dodger. We wanted to go early to them and force them to pass it around.”
2) Loyola’s faceoffs. The Greyhounds’ struggles on draws have been well-documented, but they found their antidote in Georgetown. Junior Graham Savio won 14 of 19 faceoffs (going 8-for-9 in the second half) and picked up a game-high five ground balls to consistently feed the offense. Savio’s prowess helped Loyola win the time-of-possession department, especially in the last two quarters when the Hoyas attempted to make a comeback.
“But just the possession battle in the second half kind of hurt us a little bit,” Georgetown coach Kevin Warne said. “When they’re winning eight of nine, it’s a little bit of a make-it, take-it.”
3) Loyola’s clears. Georgetown’s opponents had cleared the ball just 79.8 percent (91-of-114) of the time. And the Greyhounds were at 75 percent after succeeding on just six of eight clears in the first half. But Toomey said the coaches asked the team’s short-sticks to come forward and get the ball from Stover and the defensemen.
“We felt like if we didn’t hunt the ball, we were going to allow them to get into their 10-man [ride],” Toomey said. “So we wanted to clear it more quickly. We asked them to kind of stay down within the box and let’s make sure we could get it to them and they could leg it out.”