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Preston: Loyola conjures memories of championship team as it outruns and outhustles Hopkins

The old-school Loyola Maryland men’s lacrosse team was back Saturday afternoon.

We’re referring to the Greyhounds team that won the Division I national championship in 2012. That team had strong midfielders such as Davis Butts, Josh Hawkins and Pat Laconi.

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The 2018 group might not be as good yet, but it has the potential, and that’s a good sign for No. 12 Loyola.

After scoring just six goals in a loss to Johns Hopkins, No. 19 Towson men’s lacrosse used a 7-0 run in the second quarter to hold off Mount St. Mary’s.

Midfielder Jay Drapeau scored three goals and fellow middies John Duffy, Alex McGovern and Brian Begley each added two as the Greyhounds routed No. 8 Johns Hopkins, 12-5, on Saturday before a crowd of more than 4,000 at the Ridley Athletic Complex.

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Finding a quality group of midfielders has been a problem for Loyola since winning the championship. They’ve had some good ones, but never a dominant group. A year ago, they had one of the best around in Brian Sherlock and a pure but erratic shooter in Romar Dennis.

But the present Greyhounds can play on both ends of the field. They can stalk you on defense with Begley and Jared Mintzlaff, both seniors, and blow by you transitioning from one end of the field to another.

They’re fast.

“They keep their personnel on,” Johns Hopkins coach Dave Pietramala said. “Their offensive middies get off when it’s time to play defense and their defensive middies stay on when it’s time to play offense. Give them credit. They bring pressure.”

As complicated as some try to make it, lacrosse is a simple game. Most of the time, if a team wins the ground-ball battle they win the game. The Greyhounds held a 28-23 advantage in ground balls against Hopkins and forced 22 turnovers.

Their relentless pace can wear other teams down. And that translates into more opportunities on the offensive end.

Loyola named longtime Virginia assistant coach Marc Van Arsdale the offensive coordinator during the offseason, and the Greyhounds always pushed the pace. They just push it faster now.

They’ve scored 24 goals in the first two games.

“This year, we’re trying to play a little bit faster, trying to stay more poised,” said Drapeau, a senior from Westford, Mass. “We want to get into our sets more fluently but limit our turnovers.”

Getting goals from the midfield was a concern entering the season for Loyola head coach Charley Toomey. The Greyhounds had experience on defense and one of the best attackmen in the country in Pat Spencer.

But everyone knew opposing teams were going to attempt to shut down Spencer. Where were the other goals going to come from?

It seems simple now. Drapeau can play attack or midfield, which means the Greyhounds can use him from behind the goal. Duffy is also good off the wing and McGovern, who played attack last year, has a good outside shot.

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Begley can play on either end of the field and Mintzlaff has surprising speed despite being 6 feet 3 and 200 pounds. Long-pole midfielder Ryan McNulty is not small either at 6-2 and 210 pounds.

As a group, they share the ball and play within themselves. It’s only been six years since Loyola won the title, but these midfielders are throwbacks.

“If opposing teams are going to press out, it creates more space and allows us more opportunities,” Spencer said. “We’ve given them the green light to go, and they are going to go by them if they press out.”

Said Toomey: “I guess one of our biggest concerns was how quickly Loyola was going to grow up on the offensive end. We came in knowing other teams were going to try to take Pat out of the offense. Coach Van Arsdale came in and has done what he has been doing for a long time.”

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