College Lacrosse

Preston's observations: If Loyola beats Penn State, could Pat Spencer finally win the Tewaaraton Award?

The Penn State-versus-Loyola Maryland NCAA Division I men’s lacrosse game Sunday will not only determine one semifinalist, but probably the Tewaaraton Award winner as well.

The award is given annually to the nation’s top college lacrosse player, and the requirements, though unofficial, are that he is an offensive player and that he takes his team far into the postseason.


Two of the top candidates are junior attackman Grant Ament, of the top-seeded Nittany Lions, and Loyola senior attackman Pat Spencer. Ament has 26 goals and 83 assists and quarterbacks the nation’s top offense, which is averaging nearly 18 goals a game.

Spencer has 43 goals and 60 assists as he set a school record this season, becoming the first player in Loyola history to post 100 or more points in a year.


Spencer, a four-time Patriot League Offensive Player of the Year, has won just about every award there is, except the Tewaaraton. The knock on him was that he didn’t take his team deep into the playoffs, and he didn’t play big in big games.

That changed in the opening round last weekend when the Greyhounds defeated Syracuse, 15-13, as Spencer had three goals and nine assists.

If he plays well and the No. 8 seed Greyhounds upset Penn State, then he’ll probably add another award to his collection.

Orange crushed

As soon as the Orange lost to Loyola last week, it was only a matter of time before some Syracuse fans demanded that coach John Desko be fired.

It’s the same stuff heard around Baltimore every year about Johns Hopkins coach Dave Pietramala when the Blue Jays struggle or get eliminated from the playoffs.

As the sport of lacrosse has grown, so has the power base. Traditional favorites such as Hopkins and Syracuse no longer dominate, and that’s good for the sport.

Desko has been the coach at Syracuse since 1999, and has won five national championships. He also won six as an assistant under legendary coach Roy Simmons Jr. Overall, Desko has a 253-86 career record.

Syracuse isn’t what it used to be, but there is still a special magic associated with the name.


Notre Dame connection

Junior midfielder Bryan Costabile has 40 goals and four assists for No. 7 seed Notre Dame this season.

Costabile is a resident of Sykesville and played at Mount Saint Joseph, where he was also a quarterback for the Gaels. When the Fighting Irish need a goal in crunch time, Costabile is on one of their go-to players.

He is an excellent shooter on the run and one of the team’s most versatile performers.

Terps upset might not be in the cards

It will be hard for Maryland to upset No. 3 seed Virginia this weekend. The Cavaliers have had their own defensive problems, but they can score goals in bunches.

The Terps don’t appear to match up well with the Virginia offense, which is averaging 14.29 goals a game and is paced by midfielders Matt Moore (38 goals, 39 assists) and Dox Aitken (38 G, 6 A) and attackmen Michael Kraus (34 G, 28 A) and Ian Laviano (43 G, 11 A).

The assumption here is that Maryland will be deliberate on offense to slow the Cavaliers, and hopefully goalie Danny Dolan can produce another strong game, as he did against Towson in the first round.


Facing faceoff woes

After Penn State junior Gerard Arceri won 25 of 27 faceoffs in Penn State’s 25-10 win over UMBC in an opening-round game last weekend, it’s safe to conclude that the Retrievers won’t argue about finding faceoff specialists in the offseason.

Earlier in the season the coaching staff was defensive about their faceoff guys. Hmm…

Developing midfielders

When Duke midfielder Nakeie Montgomery is on the field scoring goals, I wonder what it would be like if more high school and college coaches invested time in working with African-American midfielders instead of just playing them on the defensive unit.

In this age of specialization, few coaches want to take the time to develop players. If they don’t have offensive skills before they get into high school, there is a good chance they won’t ever have them. Montgomery is a sophomore middie for Duke out of Dallas. He has started 10 of 14 games this season and contributed 20 goals and 12 assists. Blue Devils coach John Danowski started inserting Montgomery into the starting lineup last year and has continued to work with him and build his confidence.

It’s called investment and development, and it works.