The first half of Sunday’s NCAA Division I men’s lacrosse tournament in East Hartford, Conn., will pit top-seeded Penn State (15-1) against No. 8 seed Loyola Maryland (12-4). The other storyline involves the presence of two of the five finalists for the Tewaaraton Award in the Greyhounds’ Pat Spencer and the Nittany Lions’ Grant Ament.
Ament and Spencer rank first and third, respectively, in the country in both assists and points per game, and the Tewaaraton usually goes to the player who plays well enough to spark his team to a deep run in the postseason. But Spencer, the senior attackman who hails from Davidsonville and graduated from Boys’ Latin, said he will not worry about what Ament, a redshirt junior attackman, does.
“To be completely honest, I’m not focused on any individual stuff at all right now,” he said Tuesday. “It’s all about what we need to clean up as a team, and obviously, we’re going to have to be really efficient against a very powerful offense. It’s not between Grant and me at all. It’s between us and Penn State.”
The 6-foot-3, 205-pound Spencer totaled three goals and six assists in Saturday’s 15-13 win against Syracuse, dominating his matchup with 5-9, 185-pound redshirt junior defenseman Nick Mellen. On Sunday, he could see a lot of 6-2, 200-pound senior defenseman Chris Sabia, who noted he marks Ament during every practice.
“I feel like he prepares me every day to really not be surprised by the things I see,” Sabia said. “Pat Spencer’s an amazing player, and he does a lot of things that you don’t really see anyone really do, but I feel like Grant has prepared me for him, and I’m very thankful to Grant for that.”
Spencer praised Sabia for being a defender who “does a little bit of everything well.” But he said last year’s 8-5 loss to eventual national champion Yale in the quarterfinal round drives Loyola.
“We’ve been using all of that motivation in the offseason,” he said. “Guys put in a lot of work to get bigger, stronger and faster, and we’re right back where we want to be. We’ve got another shot in the quarterfinals, and obviously, we want to get to the final weekend and a little bit more than that. So it’s definitely been a motivation for us all season.”
For the past two seasons, two of the four starters for the Virginia women’s defense have been anchored by a pair of Baltimore private school products in Sophie Alecce and Allison Shields.
Shields, a Phoenix resident and Notre Dame Prep graduate, ranks second among the Cavaliers (13-6) in caused turnovers (24) and third in ground balls (30). Meanwhile, Alecce, a Baltimore resident and McDonogh graduate, ranks fifth in caused turnovers (15) and eighth in ground balls (16). But the best part has been the shared journey for the lifelong friends.
“It’s the best,” Shields said. “She’s been my best friend for a long time. So it’s pretty cool to have reached this point in our careers together.”
Alecce said since they first met as 10-year-olds at the Lutherville-Timonium Recreational Council, they have competed in lacrosse and soccer, which has increased their appreciation of each other.
“Coming in our freshman year, as much as you are good friends, you’re fighting for playing time,” she said. “So with us, we’ve sort of always been neck-and-neck from that point of view. But at the same time, we’ve always been supportive of one another, and now to be here both starting and both making a huge impact has been really meaningful.”
‘Dream’ for Bernhardt
Jared Bernhardt, a junior attackman for the Maryland men, called being named one of the five finalists for the Tewaaraton Award “a great honor” even if he admitted that he had not anticipated being in the running for the distinction given annually to college lacrosse’s top player.
The more pressing matter is how the Terps (12-4) can get past No. 3 seed Virginia (14-3) in Saturday’s NCAA quarterfinal matchup — a game that would not have been possible without Bernhardt’s game-tying goal with three seconds left in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s eventual 14-13 overtime win at No. 6 seed Towson.
“People kind of dream of moments like that,” he said. “But it’s definitely exciting. I was just happy for the older guys and to give us a little bit of life going into overtime. I’m excited for them that we get another week together and still be together as a team.”
No worries for Giles
Jen Giles did not get much attention during the Maryland women’s participation in the Big Ten tournament primarily because the senior midfielder was limited to zero goals on 10 shots and a lone assist in two games.
The Ellicott City resident and Mount Hebron graduate quickly returned to her customary ways, scoring three goals in the top-seeded Terps’ 17-8 victory over Stony Brook in Sunday’s NCAA tournament second-round game. Giles still leads the offense in points (75) even if she is tied with graduate student midfielder Erica Evans for the team lead in goals (53), but she dismissed the notion of being concerned about her personal numbers.
“I’m just so proud of my teammates,” she said. “It doesn’t matter who scored. In the past few games, everyone has contributed. I’m happy no matter who scores as long as it’s Maryland.”
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Notes: Senior attacker Hannah Powers capped her career as the Loyola Maryland women’s all-time leader in points (317), breaking Grace Gavin’s previous record (311). Senior midfielder Taylor VanThof will graduate as the program’s draw controls leader in a career (392), season (146) and game (21). And sophomore attacker Livy Rosenzweig finished the year setting single-season marks in assists (70) and points (116) and is the third player in school history to total 100 goals and 100 assists in only her second year. … Senior defender Marie Valenti finished her career as the first player for the Navy women to amass more than 100 caused turnovers (114) and the program’s all-time leader in ground balls (181). … Sophomore attacker Aurora Cordingley’s five goals in the Johns Hopkins women’s 16-9 loss to Florida on Friday were the most in program history in an NCAA tournament game. … By forcing three turnovers in the Stevenson men’s 19-4 loss at Tufts in an NCAA Division III tournament third-round game on Saturday, senior defenseman Dominic DeFazio finished with 142 caused turnovers, eclipsing the program record of 139 set by Kyle Holechek from 2011-14.