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Review & preview: Loyola Maryland men’s lacrosse

Here is the fifth installment of a series that checks in with the seven Division I programs in the state to give a glimpse into the past and the future. Teams are scheduled to appear according to the chronological order in which their seasons ended. Thursday's visit was with Johns Hopkins. Friday's visit is with Loyola Maryland, which finished with a 10-6 overall record and a 6-2 mark in the Patriot League.

REVIEW

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The good: There was no 10-game winning streak a la 2016, and the campaign opened with back-to-back one-goal losses to Virginia and Johns Hopkins. But the Greyhounds still managed to right the ship and march to their third Patriot League tournament championship in the last four years. Despite the team's first-round exit from the NCAA postseason by No. 3 seed Ohio State, coach Charley Toomey was heartened to see the players bounce back from setbacks to conference rivals Bucknell and Boston University and defeat Army in the regular-season finale to capture the No. 1 seed and the right to host the league tournament at Ridley Athletic Complex in Baltimore.

"That's a way to the [NCAA] tournament, and our league is a competitive league," he said. "We easily could have been on the road defending the Patriot League. It's a league that I think starts preparing you for the NCAA tournament. While we won't go out and buy rings or watches or anything like that because we don't believe in that, we do think that it prepares us to play."

>>The defense surrendered a combined 30 goals in those losses to Virginia and Johns Hopkins. But after that, only two opponents – Georgetown and Boston University – reached double digits against Loyola, which ranked 12th in Division in fewest goals allowed per game at 8.4. In its last four contests, the unit limited Army to six goals, Holy Cross to three, the Black Knights again to four, and Ohio State to seven. The defense's growth from the beginning of the season delighted Toomey.

"I thought that we grew up defensively," he said. "I thought that we probably played our best game on that side of the field at the very end. I was real proud of our efforts, and I was real proud at the end that it was a cohesive unit and just kept getting better."

>>The individual performances are almost too long to list. Sophomore attackman Pat Spencer (28 goals and 55 assists) set a program record for assists in a single season and became the third player to be named a Tewaaraton Award finalist. Sophomore attackman Alex McGovern (24 G, 20 A) and junior midfielder Jay Drapeau (20 G, 6 A) exploded in their debuts as full-time starters. And junior Zac Davliakos (38 ground balls, 15 caused turnovers, 2 G, and 3 A) emerged as a reliable long-stick midfielder. But Toomey heaped praise on senior faceoff specialist Graham Savio, who became the school's and Patriot League's all-time leader in faceoff wins with 710 and finished the season ranked 18th in percentage (57.8 on 204 of 353) and 14th in ground balls per game (6.4).

"Graham Savio is probably one of the most unheralded, unsung heroes of our team," Toomey said. "I think he's terrific. He just battles. He's taken the most faceoffs in the history of the Patriot League and has had a lot of success in doing that."

The bad: Ohio State ensured that Loyola would not make a repeat run to the Final Four by securing a 7-4 win in the first round of the NCAA tournament on May 14. The loss dropped the team to 3-5 on the road and left Toomey wondering what might have been if those setbacks to Virginia, Johns Hopkins, Bucknell, and/or Boston University had been victories. Toomey speculated that two wins in that group might have earned the Greyhounds a Top 8 seed and a postseason game at home, where they were 7-1 this spring.

"What was most frustrating was that we could have played a game at home," he said. "So before you start with Ohio State, we really look back at the one-goal losses where we were leading in the fourth quarter against Johns Hopkins or had tied the game against Virginia and had an opportunity to win or BU or Bucknell. You've got to start there, and you've got to fix that."

>>Still, the setback to Ohio State hurt. The defense harassed the Buckeyes into their second-lowest output of the season, and Savio and his teammates on the wings battled senior Jake Withers and his teammates to a near 50-50 split at the faceoff X. But the offense scored only four goals, the unit's lowest production since March 28, 2015 in an 11-4 loss against Colgate. The offense's troubles were somewhat mystifying to Toomey.

"On the offensive end, the teams that go forward don't hit pipes, and they finish their shots," he said. "We had a stat line that allowed us to win a game – 100 percent clearing, 50-50 on ground balls, a very good guy at the faceoff X, but we go roughly 50-50 against him, we outshot them 44-22. If I look at those stats minus the final score, I'm thinking that Loyola has a real good opportunity to win that game. It just didn't happen."

>>Just by the nature of their potential, seniors Brian Sherlock and Romar Dennis and Drapeau took a majority of the runs as the starting midfield. Another factor was the inconsistency of the second line. Sophomore John Duffy (13 G, 4 A) was the one constant on that midfield, which included a revolving door of players in senior Mike Perkins (8 G, 2 A), sophomore P.J. Brown (2 G, 3 A) and freshman Peter Swindell (2 G, 1 A). Even senior attackman Jordan Germershausen (11 G, 4 A) ran out of the box with the second line.

"That's a unit that kind of changed throughout the year," Toomey conceded. "John was really the consistent guy on the second midfield, but then you throw in a guy like Mike Perkins in and out of the lineup because of injury, Swindell, P.J. Brown, Jordan Germershausen ran out of the box. … So the constant was Duff, and he was playing every other week with new guys around him, and that's always a challenge."

PREVIEW

Personnel changes: The offense graduated three starters including Sherlock (24 goals and six assists) and Dennis (17 G, 8 A) from the first midfield. Duffy is almost a surefire lock to join junior Jay Drapeau (20 G, 6 A) as starters with Brown and Swindell battling for the third spot. But Toomey said moving McGovern (St. Paul's) from attack and junior Brian Begley (7 G, 1 A) from short-stick defensive midfield could be possibilities for offensive coordinator Marc Van Arsdale to consider.

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"That's probably one of the biggest questions that we as a staff have been talking about," Toomey said of the vacancies created by the departure of Sherlock and Dennis. "We feel like we've got a lot of options. … Coach Van Arsdale has a lot at his disposal to figure out what is going to be best for us on the offensive end."

>>The other hole to fill on offense involves attackman Zack Sirico (22 G, 14 A). If McGovern stays on attack, the unit could go with sophomore Richie Easterly or freshman Logan Devereaux to round out the unit. The coaching staff is also tantalized by the potential of incoming freshman Aidan Olmstead, who was recently named an Under Armour High School All American.

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"We also watched Richie Easterly and Logan Devereaux really develop their skill sets throughout the year, and they will easily be in that mode for competition," Toomey said. "So whether or not it's an incoming freshman or guys already in our locker room, we're just going to have to use the fall to evaluate that righty side, the midfield, and even the lefty side if we move Alex up. What's going to be the right combination of guys?"

>>While the graduation of defenseman Jack Carrigan (51 ground balls and 29 caused turnovers) will have an impact, sophomore Paul Volante (7 GB, 5 CT) or freshmen Ryan McNulty (4 GB) and John Railey could move into that spot. The greater question is whether junior Mike Orefice (40.7 percent on 11 of 27 and 8 GB) can succeed Savio at the faceoff X. There will still be a Savio on the roster as Bailey Savio, Graham's younger brother and another faceoff specialist, will be a freshman next year who can learn from volunteer assistant coach Steve Vaikness.

"You're going to be mentioning the name 'Savio' because his little brother is coming in, and he's wearing the same number," Toomey said. "I think a lot of coaches are going to look and ask, 'That kid hasn't graduated yet?'. So it's exciting for us. … But that's Mike's spot, too. He's earned those minutes, he's the guy that is next on the depth chart, and we think that Coach Vaikness will have him ready to go next year."

Outlook for 2018: Sunny. A first-round exit from the NCAA tournament was painful, but Loyola should remain in next spring's conversation for contenders for the national championship. Of course, the discussion begins with Spencer, the program's first first-team All-American attackman since 1990 who will run the offense with McGovern, Drapeau and Duffy as complements. Sophomore goalkeeper Jacob Stover (7.74 goals-against average and .547 save percentage) and junior defensemen Foster Huggins (36 GB, 17 CT) and Ryder Harkins (11 GB, 11 CT) anchor the back end of the defense with Begley, junior short-stick defensive midfielder Jared Mintzlaff (17 GB, 15 CT) and junior long-stick midfielder Zac Davliakos (38 GB, 15 CT) spearheading the defensive midfield. Winning faceoffs and developing two midfield lines loom as question marks in the offseason and preseason, but there's enough firepower on the roster for the Greyhounds to retain their Patriot League championship.

Twitter: @edwardleesun

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