Since Pat Spencer’s freshman year, whenever the Loyola Maryland men’s lacrosse team needed a play on offense, they have turned to their talented attackman.
And for good reason. With the No. 9 Greyhounds clinging to a one-goal lead after three quarters Wednesday afternoon, Spencer had a hand in four of their five goals in the fourth to help cement a 12-8 victory over visiting Towson before an announced 607 at Ridley Athletic Complex.
Loyola Maryland (3-1) also got three goals from freshman attackman Kevin Lindley and two goals and one assist each from senior midfielder Jay Drapeau and freshman attackman Aidan Olmstead. But much of the talk after the game centered on Spencer.
The Davidsonville resident and Boys’ Latin graduate — a finalist for the 2017 Tewaaraton Award who figures to be among the first pool of candidates announced Thursday for the 2018 honor — was at his best when his team needed him most. After compiling two goals and one assist through the first three quarters, he scored twice and added two assists in the final frame.
Spencer, who moved into third place in program history in career points with 190, said he thrives on being the catalyst in tension-filled situations.
“Yeah, I want the ball,” he said with a smile. “In that situation, I feel like I can control the game and get guys in the right spots and make the right reads. My shots weren’t falling in the beginning, but these guys stuck with me and said, ‘Keep shooting the ball. You’re getting good looks.’ Eventually, guys started making plays for me as well.”
With the Greyhounds nursing a 7-6 lead, junior midfielder John Duffy drove the left alley before flipping the ball to Spencer, who drove from behind the net and around the right post to beat redshirt freshman goalkeeper Shane Brennan with 6:55 left.
After Towson (1-3) scored two of the next three goals, Spencer curled around the left post and passed to Lindley in the slot for a goal and a 10-8 lead with 3:33 remaining.
With Tigers freshman long-stick midfielder Koby Smith serving a one-minute penalty for slashing, Spencer skipped a pass from behind the right post to Drapeau on the left side of the crease for a dunk and an 11-8 advantage with 2:10 left.
Spencer scored the final goal of the game into an empty net with 1:01 remaining after Brennan vacated the cage to try to pressure Loyola into turning the ball over.
Spencer, who said he was matched up against all three of Towson’s starting defensemen and its top long-stick midfielder, is on pace for 111 shots, which would be 30 more than he took last spring.
“I think the way teams are playing me, last year, I think they just slid really early, which is fine,” he said. “This year, they’re pressing out and really trying to take me away, and it’s kind of led to their looking away from my matchup. If I catch it, then they’re just going to try to play one-on-one and force me to different spots. But nothing’s changed. It’s just the way teams are playing. If I scored four this game, next game they might slide. I just take what the defense gives and hopefully will put a few more in the net.”
While joking about the number of postgame questions directed toward Spencer, coach Charley Toomey acknowledged the comfort level a player of Spencer’s caliber provides.
“He’s our offensive leader, and to be honest with you, as a staff, it’s nice to go into a game where he can play and they weren’t just pressing him out all over the place and it wasn’t a game where we were just standing him on the endline,” Toomey said. “It’s fun to watch him be a part of the offense and watch him lead the offense. People have tried that, and we’ve needed other guys to step up and to their credit, they have. We’ve gotten to the 12-, 13-, 14[-goal] mark a lot of different ways. Obviously, as a coaching staff, when you know you can dodge that alley and throw it through to Pat, probably something good is going to happen and very rarely do we make bad decisions when the ball’s in his stick. So yes, it’s very settling to know that he’s out there in the fourth quarter.”
The Tigers had that type of player in attackman Ryan Drenner for the previous three seasons, so coach Shawn Nadelen was not surprised to see the Greyhounds lean on Spencer in the fourth quarter.
“I mean, why wouldn’t you? He’s pretty good,” Nadelen said. “For as much improved team defense as we played, I still feel like we got out of sorts, especially when they got us behind the cage with some pick plays. We just had poor communication, it looked like. Poor communication. We let them get an edge and get topside and get easy looks, and we had done a decent job on that up to that point.”
Towson 1 3 2 2 — 8
Loyola 3 2 2 5 — 12
Goals: T— Monahan 3, Chetner 2, Sunday 2, Maloof; L — Spencer 4, Lindley 3, Drapeau 2, Olmstead 2, Duffy. Assists: T — Monahan 2, Chetner, Mazza; L — Spencer 3, Drapeau, Duffy, Olmstead. Saves: T—Brennan 14; L — Stover 7.