By Todd Karpovich
The Loyola men's lacrosse team is playing with swagger in the Patriot League.
With an 18-7 win against struggling Navy March 18, the No. 19 Greyhounds moved to 3-0 in the conference, tied with Army for first place. The Greyhounds have a relentless attack, especially when they get into transition, and have challenged opponents to keep pace.
"That's our identity," head coach Charley Toomey said. "We want to be able to run. In order to run, you need to either pick up a ground ball on the defensive end or make a clean save. We're at our best playing in those unsettled situations."
Loyola is ranked sixth in the nation, averaging 14 goals per game. While the Greyhounds have buried several opponents, they lost a couple of shootouts to Virginia Feb. 11 and Johns Hopkins Feb. 18. Duke has been the only team to corral the Greyhounds' attack, with a 15-7 victory March 11.
Despite that setback, Loyola bounced back with a complete performance against Navy. The Greyhounds are at their best when they keep a fast pace to the game. Loyola jumped out to a 5-2 lead against the Mids in the first quarter and methodically pulled away.
Loyola's high-powered offense has at least 10 goals in 16 of the team's past 18 games dating back to last season. The Greyhounds have several weapons on offense, which has forced opponents to alter their defensive strategies.
Senior faceoff specialist Graham Savio has been key to helping Loyola control possession. He has won 106 of 178 (.596 percent) of his faceoffs this season. Sophomore attackman Pat Spencer (Boys' Latin) has recorded two or more points in all 25 of his collegiate starts.
"We had a lot more flow today on the offensive end," Spencer said after the Navy game. "We wanted to push transition today. The defense made a lot of saves, and we were able to get out and get some early offense, which made it a lot easier on us. After that we really settled in."
The Greyhounds host Georgetown March 22.
AROUND THE CREASE
The No. 16-ranked Blue Jays (4-3) are in a slump, and at this point, they simply need a win to restore some confidence.
After a quick start to the season, which had the Blue Jays ranked as high as No. 3 in the country, Johns Hopkins has lost three straight games, including an 8-7 overtime setback to Syracuse March 18. The Blue Jays turned a 5-2 second-half deficit into a 7-6 lead with five goals in a 17-minute span. However, the Orange regrouped and junior midfielder Brendan Bomberry provided the winner just more than a minute into overtime.
The schedule does not get any easier for the Blue Jays, who host high-powered, No. 15-ranked Virginia March 25.
One bright spot for Johns Hopkins was graduate senior goalie Gerald Logan. One week after being benched during a 13-8 loss to Towson March 11, Logan was solid against Syracuse and finished with 10 saves.
Still, Blue Jays head coach Dave Pietramala will need to find a way to turn things around, especially entering the Big Ten schedule beginning against Rutgers March 31. Including Johns Hopkins, the Big Ten currently has six teams in the top 20.
The No. 9 Terrapins (4-2) endured one of the biggest upsets this season with a 13-12 overtime loss to unranked Villanova March 18.
The game might be a wake-up call for Maryland, which travels to North Carolina for a rematch of the 2016 NCAA championship game March 25. The Terps lost to Notre Dame March 4 and are winless since Feb. 25, as their game against Albany was postponed due to inclement weather March 11.
Maryland has the talent to make a deep run in the NCAA Tournament, but head coach John Tillman is still looking to strike the proper balance for the offense and defense. Both units struggled against the Wildcats, who beat Maryland for the first time in 10 games dating back to 1994.
On the bright side, senior attackman Matt Rambo scored four goals and moved into fourth place on Maryland's all-time goal-scoring list with 128. Rambo needs three more points to become the fifth player in program history to reach 200 career points.
Maryland also got a boost from senior faceoff specialist Jon Garino Jr., who won 15-of-18 faceoffs against Villanova. That was the most he has won since taking 17 against Robert Morris April 2, 2014.
Mount St. Mary's
The Mountaineers (2-4) are playing their best lacrosse of the season. After dropping their first four games, Mount St. Mary's has now won two straight matchups, including a 6-5 victory against Bryant in the Northeast Conference opener March 18.
The victory against Bryant provided a confidence boost to the Mountaineers' offense, which has struggled to score goals this season. Sophomore midfielder Jack Mangan's goal with 1.8 seconds left in the game provided the victory against the Bulldogs.
The Mount (2-4) travel to Robert Morris March 25.
Early in the third quarter and with his team trailing, 10-5, against Loyola, Navy head coach Rick Sowell pulled the cap off of his head, slapped it against his knee and stared down at the turf for a few seconds, appearing to search for answers.
It's been a frustrating season for the Midshipmen, who have lost three of their past four games and are looking to salvage their season. With the 18-7 loss to Loyola, Navy fell to 2-6, including 1-3 in the Patriot League, and faces an uphill climb to reach the NCAA Tournament.
"It's tough, because one area helps all the other areas," Sowell said. "If we're winning faceoffs that helps everything. If we're playing well on offense that helps the defense and vice versa. If we're getting great goaltending that helps everything. Unfortunately, we're not playing well in any area."
Looking to give his team a much-needed boost against the Greyhounds, Sowell replaced starting freshman goalie Ryan Kern with junior Nick Ramsey (DeMatha) early in the second quarter. However, the Mids had no answer for Loyola's high-powered attack.
Navy was completely taken out of its game trying to keep pace with the Greyhounds and their quick transition. This forced the Midshipmen to make several mistakes, and they were penalized six times. Loyola scored three goals during those extra-man opportunities.
"For the season to unfold the way it has been going is definitely very frustrating and very disappointing," Navy defenseman Chris Fennell said. "Especially when you put the tape on and see it's so close. Everything is one play away. The pieces are there for us to be successful. The most frustrating thing is not being able to put it all together on game day."
Navy will look to bounce back with a home game against Dartmouth March 21.
The Tigers (4-2) still appear to be a work in progress.
After winning two straight games, including a signature win against Johns Hopkins, No. 14 Towson dropped a 6-3 decision to then-No. 18 Ohio State March 15. On a cold, blustery day, the Tigers' offense found no rhythm. And for the first time this season, Towson lost the ground-ball battle, by a 25-20 edge.
Towson head coach Shawn Nadelen has put together one of the nation's toughest schedules, and his players should be primed for Colonial Athletic Association league play. But first the Tigers have another challenging matchup, when they host former No. 1 Denver (currently ranked eighth) March 25.
The Retrievers (3-4 overall, 1-0 conference) have found their footing under first-year head coach Ryan Moran and can be a force in the America East.
Sophomore midfielder Billy Nolan (Arundel) had a career-high five goals, as UMBC won its conference opener with a 12-9 victory against host Stony Brook March 18. The Retrievers have won three of their past four games.
UMBC's offense, which struggled during the early part of the season, has finally found some life. The attack is complementing a defense that has been stellar all season. The Retrievers have allowed 10 or fewer goals in each of the past five games.
Moran and his squad face another big challenge when they travel to Ann Arbor, Mich., to take on Michigan March 25. The Wolverines, who play in the Big Ten, entered the national top 25 for the first time in program history earlier this season and are currently ranked No. 17.
LOCAL POWER RANKINGS
1. Maryland (4-2)
2. Loyola (4-3)
3. Johns Hopkins (4-3)
4. Towson (4-2)
5. UMBC (3-4)
6. Navy (2-6)
7. Mount St. Mary's (2-4)