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UMBC freshman Alex Poma contributing to improvement in faceoffs | COLLEGE LACROSSE NOTEBOOK

UMBC faceoff specialist Alex Poma, right
UMBC faceoff specialist Alex Poma, right (Zoe Pekins/UMBC Athletics)

Since Phil Poe graduated in 2014, the UMBC men’s lacrosse program had floundered at faceoffs. A freshman is bucking that trend this season.

Alex Poma, a resident from Georgia, has won 59.7% of his draws (40 of 67), which ranks 20th among his NCAA Division I peers. As a team, the Retrievers (3-1) have won 55.0% of their faceoffs, which ranks 26th in the country.

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“It means a lot, but we’ve still got a lot of work to do,” he said of contributing to the team’s improvement at faceoffs. “I think I can definitely do a lot better, and as a faceoff unit, I think we definitely can increase our percentage and just keep getting better.”

In 2014, Poe ranked 10th in the nation with a .599 faceoff percentage, and UMBC ranked ninth with a .582 success rate. But from 2015 to 2019, those squads fell under 47% and never ranked above 48th in each season.

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Coach Ryan Moran said that Poma’s success on faceoffs has been a refreshing change of pace.

“I think it helps the offense get into a little bit more of a flow, and I think it keeps our defense a little more rested,” he said. “I think it frustrates the other team’s offense from not having the ball. There’s obviously a lot of benefits of being successful at the X.”

Poma has been aided by senior long-stick midfielder Colin Kasner (16 ground balls) and sophomore short-stick defensive midfielder Keith Dukes (10). He also credited volunteer assistant coach Craig Chick for helping him study film of opposing faceoff specialists and sophomore Andrew Hurdle (McDonogh) for pushing him during practice sessions.

Poma said that group has helped him overcome any pressure he might feel as a rookie.

“I think in the first game, there kind of was,” he said. “But other than that, knowing that my teammates have my back and knowing that I have such good wings behind me, it kind of takes the pressure off of me.”

Loyola Greyhounds head coach Charley Toomey at Ridley Athletic Complex Sat., Feb. 15, 2020. (Karl Merton Ferron/Baltimore Sun Staff)
Loyola Greyhounds head coach Charley Toomey at Ridley Athletic Complex Sat., Feb. 15, 2020. (Karl Merton Ferron/Baltimore Sun Staff) (Karl Merton Ferron/The Baltimore Sun)

Toomey-Danowski connection

Early March means two things to Loyola men’s coach Charley Toomey: a matchup between his Greyhounds and Duke, and a birthday wish to Blue Devils coach John Danowski, who turns 66 on March 12.

Toomey said he has known Danowski since the latter coached at Hofstra and welcomed the former to the Long Island area as an assistant coach on recruiting trips for former Loyola coach Dave Cottle. Toomey said he remains grateful to Danowski, who agreed to schedule games against the Greyhounds at a time when no one was sure “it was helping his strength of schedule and RPI,” Toomey said.

And when Danowski returned in November 2018 to coach the 2022 U.S. national team, he hired Toomey two months later to mentor the man-down defense and goalkeepers.

“He’s a guy that I certainly know that I can reach out to and talk about recruiting, talk about life, talk about lacrosse, talk about family,” Toomey said. “He’s just one of the best guys in our game in my opinion. So when he asked me to join that staff, it was a no-brainer. Selfishly, it gives me a chance to pick his brain a little bit and hopefully become a better coach by learning some of the tricks of the trade that he’s doing.”

No. 11 Loyola (4-1) welcomes No. 13 Duke (4-2) to Ridley Athletic Complex in Baltimore on Saturday at 1 p.m.

Wheaton Jackoboice, Notre Dame, watches his shot saved by Maryland goalkeeper Logan McNaney in the first quarter at Maryland Stadium. February 29, 2020.
Wheaton Jackoboice, Notre Dame, watches his shot saved by Maryland goalkeeper Logan McNaney in the first quarter at Maryland Stadium. February 29, 2020. (Kim Hairston/Baltimore Sun)

Trust in McNaney

Coach John Tillman is keeping his options open regarding the starting goalkeeper for No. 7 Maryland’s home game against Albany on Saturday, but freshman Logan McNaney did his best to strengthen his candidacy.

In becoming the first true freshman to start a game for the Terps since Brian Phipps on Feb. 17, 2007, McNaney made 10 saves in Saturday’s 14-9 upset of then-No. 5 Notre Dame. Before he was named the Big Ten’s Freshman of the Week on Tuesday afternoon, Tillman said McNaney had earned the right to start over sophomore Chris Brandau (Boys’ Latin).

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“He instilled a lot of confidence in us with not only what he’s done in practice all year, but what he’s done over the last few years,” Tillman said. “He played at Salisbury School, and they play a great schedule, and he’s played against some very good teams and handled them all very well. When a couple went in [Saturday], he’s always responded very well, and I think that’s one of the things that we felt good about.”

Ground balls

>> Sophomore attackman Joey Epstein became the sixth Johns Hopkins player to reach 50 goals in less than 20 games when he scored twice in Saturday’s 18-11 loss at then-No. 8 Princeton.

>> UMBC junior goalkeeper Tommy Lingner leads all Division I goalkeepers in save percentage at .646 and ranks second in goals-against average at 7.25.

>> The No. 3 Loyola Maryland women’s 22 goals in a 10-goal romp at then-No. 20 Penn State on Saturday were the most by the program against a ranked opponent since April 30, 1997 when that squad pummeled No. 14 Towson, 23-5.

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