After watching junior attackman Pat Spencer score two goals and assist on three others in the Loyola Maryland men’s lacrosse team’s 14-12 win against Virginia in Saturday’s NCAA Division I tournament first-round game, Cavaliers coach Lars Tiffany acknowledged that a player of Spencer’s caliber causes consternation for opposing defenses.
“There are certain players that challenge your decision-making of, this is who we are and this is how we play defense,” Tiffany said. “Well, there are always some exceptions to the rule, and Patrick Spencer is one of them. … It’s a conundrum.”
Maryland, Johns Hopkins and Loyola might find themselves in Virginia’s position in the quarterfinal round. The Terps will try to limit Cornell sophomore attackman Jeff Teat, the Blue Jays will be tasked with containing Duke senior attackman Justin Guterding, and the Greyhounds will match wits with Yale senior attackman Ben Reeves.
Teat, who leads the nation in assists and ranks second in points, was shut off by Princeton, Brown and Syracuse in his past four starts and finished with one goal on two shots and three assists. But Maryland coach John Tillman questioned whether that strategy would work for his players.
“I think there’s always that concern [that] you’ve been doing something all year, and it’s what the kids know and what they believe in,” he said. “How much can you tweak what you do where it almost makes your kids a little bit slower and they’re processing, they’re not just reacting and playing fast to try to take away something that they do very well? I think that’s always the decision-making you’re going through during the week of prep.”
Johns Hopkins coach Dave Pietramala expressed similar reservations despite watching Guterding accumulate four goals and six assists in the Blue Devils’ 19-6 thrashing of the Blue Jays in last year’s NCAA tournament first round.
“You game-plan for guys, but you can’t take it to the degree where it’s confusing your guys or your guys are thinking so much that they can’t react quickly,” he said. “So you’ve got to find the balance between tweaking and adjusting as well as still keeping your guys in a position to be successful where they’re not overthinking things and they can still play fast.”
Loyola coach Charley Toomey said unequivocally that the defense will stick to its slow-to-slide philosophy against three-time Tewaaraton Award finalist Reeves, which makes sense when he can employ Patriot League Defensive Player of the Year Foster Huggins against Reeves.
“I know that there are teams that when you’re playing a special player like Pat, they might try to do it,” Toomey said. “That’s just not something that we’ve done. We believe in our system and in each other, and we’re going to work hard. We’ll switch a matchup before we do something crazy.”
Pressure on Maryland?: As the top seed and the reigning NCAA champion, the Terps (13-3) are heavy favorites to reach the national semifinals for the fifth consecutive year. With that status comes a certain amount of pressure that has not gone unnoticed by fifth-year senior midfielder Tim Rotanz.
“I think there’s always a sense of pressure for us, having been here for five years and always making it there,” he said. “That’s kind of the standard that we’ve set. I try not to play with too much pressure, and I try not to show it to the younger guys. I try to stay calm and poised, and I think [senior midfielder] Adam [DiMillo] is another guy who does that very well and with [sophomore attackman] Jared [Bernhardt], you can never tell because he’s got a great poker face. So you understand there’s a bit of pressure being that we’ve been successful the past couple years, but you try not to show it.”
Hopkins thriving in one-goal games: Sunday’s 10-9 overtime win against Georgetown in the NCAA tournament’s first round raised the No. 5 seed Blue Jays’ record in one-goal games to 4-1 in 2018 for an .800 winning percentage that is the program’s highest in one-goal games since the 2012 squad went 2-0 in similar situations. The current team’s resilience in tight games reminded Pietramala of the 2005 squad’s mentality that contributed to a 5-0 mark on one-goal games and a national championship.
“I think winning one-goal games is about details and discipline,” he said. “Obviously, there’s always some luck involved in everything, and I think luck is when opportunity meets preparation, and you get a little lucky when you work hard. So I think from our standpoint, when we won so many one-goal games in 2005, I always believed that it was attention to detail and discipline and hard work. You earn the ability to be victorious in those moments because of those things.”
Spencer not focusing on Reeves: Saturday’s NCAA tournament quarterfinal between No. 6 seed Loyola and No. 3 seed Yale is the only one featuring two Tewaaraton Award finalists in Spencer and Reeves. The player whose team wins will strengthen his case for the Tewaaraton, while the player whose team loses might be out of contention. But Spencer, the Davidsonville resident and Boys’ Latin graduate, pointed out that they will be on opposite ends of the field at Hofstra University’s James M. Shuart Stadium in Hempstead, N.Y.
“It’s not about us,” Spencer said. “It’s not about one versus one. I think it’s more about, how we’ve been so dialed in as a team with our team offense and what we’re doing as a team. So I think that’s going to be more of an outsider thing. People are going to make that story whatever they want to make it, but we’re really focused on us. I don’t play defense. So it’s not me versus Ben.”
Warren one of few anchors for Salisbury’s defense: While the Sea Gulls’ defense is headlined by senior defensemen Kyle Tucker and Will Nowesnick and senior short-stick defensive midfielder Jeremiah LaClair, sophomore goalkeeper Brandon Warren has brought stability to the team, which improved to 19-3 and will face Gettysburg (19-2) in an NCAA Division III tournament semifinal on Sunday at 4 p.m. Since replacing junior Anthony Stavrakis after the fifth game of the season, the Forest Hill resident and Calvert Hall graduate has compiled a 16-1 record, a 6.38 goals-against average and a .538 save percentage.
“He’s done a lot of good things, and he deserved the opportunity,” coach Jim Berkman said. “He’s been a good surprise, and the guys have rallied around him. He obviously has one of the best defenses in the country in front of him, so he doesn’t see a whole lot of shots. … But he’s done a great job. He’s answered the bell, and he’s given the people around him confidence. He’s had a tremendous year.”