Loyola Maryland is clinging to a 30-28 series record against Towson, which ended an eight-game losing skid with a 10-8 win on March 2. Curiously, the two sides have met only once in the NCAA tournament with the Tigers scoring a 16-11 victory in the first round in 1996.
Towson (16-2) has won 11 of its last 12 games including Sunday's 10-9 decision over No. 2 seed and 2015 national champion Denver in the NCAA tournament first round. The offense's attack boasts three starters who have each logged 100 career points. Juniors Ryan Drenner (Westminster) and Joe Seider (Hereford) have 109 points each, while senior Spencer Parks (St. Paul's) has 101 points thanks to a four-goal, two-assist showing against the Pioneers.
No. 7 seed Loyola (13-3) is riding a nine-game winning streak capped by Saturday's 16-11 victory over Duke in the first round. A defense that has given up just 7.2 goals per game during the team's streak has been anchored by goalkeeper Jacob Stover (McDonogh). The freshman owns a 7.05 goals-against average and a .607 save percentage for the season.
Here are a few factors that could play a role in the outcome at Ohio Stadium in Columbus, Ohio, on Sunday at 2:30 p.m.
1) Scoring on Towson's Tyler White. The Tigers got four goals and one assist from Seider, but it could be argued that White powered the team to that regular-season win against Loyola. The redshirt senior goalie made a season-high 16 saves and currently ranks first in Division I in goals-against average (6.71) and 11th in save percentage (.563). But the Greyhounds scored 19 goals in two previous contests against White, and coach Charley Toomey said they have to find a way to be as productive.
"We feel like we have to make him make tough saves," he said of White. "We can't have step-down shots where he's really tracking the ball. We can't shoot bad shots. We have to work for a better shot, and sometimes that becomes a real challenge because when a goalie's in your head, you might double-clutch a little bit and that buys more time for the defenseman to get to your gloves. … We haven't figured out where to shoot on him. He's been good low, we've seen him terrific high, he catches the ball, he does all the things you want in a goaltender. "
2) Cuffing Loyola's offense. White had some help in that first meeting. Although Greyhounds freshman attackman Pat Spencer scored two goals, Towson senior defenseman Mike Lowe shut him out in the assists department. And senior defensemen Andrew Cordes and Nick Gorman limited senior attackman Zach Herreweyers and junior attackman Zach Sirico, respectively, to zero goals on 12 shots and two assists. But Tigers coach Shawn Nadelen is fully aware that Loyola's offense – which has averaged 12.1 goals in its last nine games – has changed substantially since that contest.
"They know how to play with each other, and they know how to play in these situations, these types of games," he said. "We know who they are, and we've got to continue to understand their systems, how they may have tweaked them over the last couple months and seeing what they're doing recently. But they're a good, balanced group. You can't just focus on one guy."
3) Getting the edge on faceoffs. Both teams endured dismal performances on draws last weekend. Loyola's duo of junior Graham Savio and sophomore Mike Orefice combined to win just 8-of-31 (25.8 percent) faceoffs and pick up four ground balls against Duke's Kyle Rowe. Towson's trio of junior Alec Burckley, sophomore Steven Stillwell and senior Patrick Conroy totaled 2-of-22 (9.1 percent) draws and two loose balls against Denver's Trevor Baptiste. Burckley won 12-of-21 faceoffs and collected five ground balls in the regular-season meeting, and Toomey said the Greyhounds have to gain an advantage at the X so that the Tigers don't dominate time of possession.
"If you're losing faceoffs and you're defending for one-and-a-half or two minutes every time, it can shrink the game pretty quickly," he said. "So I think that's going to be really important for us. We've got to be prepared with a couple different plans a la Towson. You saw them have two faceoff guys and then they went to their pole against Trevor Baptiste, and they stand up and muck it up in the middle of the field. I think you'll see both teams have multiple plans ready for each other."