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Thanks to Pat Spencer, Loyola lacrosse leads country in assists per game

After Loyola Maryland registered assists on all 16 goals Saturday in a big win over Patriot League foe Holy Cross -- including a conference-record nine helpers by sophomore attackman Pat Spencer -- it should hardly be a surprise that the team leads Division I in assists per game at 11.0.

After all, the No. 9 Greyhounds (3-2) have finished a season ranked in the top 15 in assists per game in four of the previous five years.

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"I think that's something we've always tried to do," coach Charley Toomey said Wednesday. "We have a term around here called 'spiking,' and that means you pick a ground ball up and you move it two passes, and a lot of times after you move a ball two or three times, you're going to get the defense to work. What we have found this year is when we get the ball down to Pat and he's got the ball in his stick, our guys have learned how to play with Pat. They move off the ball, and they kind of put themselves in spots where Pat can get the ball. It's a formula that's been working. As a coach, I don't think I've been part of a program where if they were 16 goals scored, all 16 goals were assisted. That's pretty impressive."

Toomey noted that offensive coordinator Marc Van Arsdale and the rest of the coaching staff have stressed sharing the ball over lodging assists. The line of thinking is that quick movement of the ball puts a defense under duress.

"When you score assisted goals, it puts a lot of pressure on the defense," Toomey said. "It's a much more difficult thing to fix. It's easy to fix sliding to somebody. It's harder to fix all the off-ball breakdowns, and Coach Van has done a terrific job of getting these guys to buy into the off-ball movement that not only allows Loyola to be better, but also allows Pat to be at his best."

Of course, the Greyhounds have benefited from the presence of Spencer, the Davidsonville resident and Boys' Latin graduate who now leads the nation in total assists (22) and assists per game (4.4). While the program has had prolific offensive quarterbacks in the past, such as Justin Ward (Old Mill) and Gary Hanley, Spencer is a unique talent.

"It's the same way that a good point guard in basketball is revered," Toomey said. "The game slows down for him, he sees how the slides are happening, he sees the mismatches and exposes the opponents' weaknesses. That's what Pat has been able to do."

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