The Loyola Greyhounds are going to face a familiar script this season.
Opposing teams will try to shut down junior attackman Patrick Spencer and force other players to beat them.
However, the opposition might need to rethink that game plan.
Just ask Johns Hopkins.
The Blue Jays prioritized shutting down Spencer during the "Battle of Charles Street" Feb. 17. This opened up opportunities for senior midfielder Jay Drapeau, who finished with a game-high three goals during Loyola's (1-1) 12-5 win.
Drapeau is a versatile player who helps lead Loyola's transition game. His style of play fits perfectly with head coach Charley Toomey's philosophy of pushing the ball up and down the field.
"We're trying to play a little faster, but at the same time we're trying to keep it poised," Drapeau said. "We want to get into our sets a little more fluidly, have solid possessions and limit turnovers."
Drapeau, a Westford, Mass., native, took over a starting role prior to last season and never relinquished his spot. He finished 2017 with 20 goals and six assists. Drapeau also had five multi-goal and eight multi-point games.
So far, Drapeau has five goals on 13 shots during two games this season.
His speed also makes him effective playing on the wings of faceoffs. Loyola's midfield was dominant against the Blue Jays, who committed 22 turnovers.
Johns Hopkins head coach Dave Pietramala was impressed by the Greyhounds' performance. He admitted his players had trouble matching the intensity.
"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," Pietramala said. "Give them credit. They bring pressure."
Drapeau was a highly prized recruit from Westford Academy in Massachusetts. He finished his high school career with 302 goals and 143 assist for 445 career points, the fifth-most in state history. He also set Westford's single-season scoring record with 142 points (86 goals and had 56 assists) as a senior.
That success has translated perfectly at Loyola. The Greyhounds bounced back from a disappointing, 13-12, double-overtime loss to Virginia in the regular-season opener with a solid performance against the Blue Jays.
Now, Loyola can begin its march to the postseason when it begins league play against Lafayette College at the Ridley Athletic Complex Feb. 24. The Greyhounds are the favorite to win the league title, according to a poll among the conference's coaches.
In addition to Drapeau, the Greyhounds are getting a significant boost in the midfield by senior Brian Begley, who was named to the United States Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association Team of the Week for his performance against Johns Hopkins. Begley had two goals and two assists for a career-high four points, in addition to grabbing five ground balls.
Begley's dedication on the defensive end of the field allowed Drapeau to push forward. Loyola's midfield could create the same type of matchup problems all season.
"That's been our identity the last couple of years … running from defense to offense," Toomey said after the Johns Hopkins game. "I was so impressed with the defensive midfield. The number of contested trail checks we got, we played good defense. It wasn't about our defensive middies getting shots. I thought they were phenomenal."
No. 3 Maryland vs. No. 17 Penn, 5 p.m. Feb. 21
The Terps (3-0) are coming off a 16-14 win against High Point Feb. 17. Penn (1-0) defeated Michigan, 12-9, Feb. 17.
Johns Hopkins vs. North Carolina, 5 p.m. Feb. 23
Coming off its loss to Loyola, Hopkins (1-1) hosts an undefeated North Carolina (3-0).
Towson vs. Georgetown, noon Feb. 24
The Tigers (1-1) earned a hard-fought 15-13 win against Mount St. Mary's Feb. 13. Georgetown (2-0) is coming off a 12-11 win against Robert Morris.
Navy at Boston University, 1 p.m., Feb. 24
Navy (1-2) snapped a two-game losing streak with a 7-5 victory against UMBC Feb. 17. The Midshipmen travel to Boston University (2-1) for a Patriot League matchup.
UMBC at Mount St. Mary's, 3 p.m. Feb. 24
One week after upsetting No. 20 Richmond, the Retrievers (1-1) could not get much going offensively during the 7-5 loss to Navy. Meanwhile, one week after losing, 16-12, to Delaware, Mount St. Mary's (0-2) dropped another 15-13 decision to Towson. Both teams are looking to get back on track.
Stevenson vs. Denison, 1 p.m. Feb. 25
The Mustangs open their 2018 season when they host Denison.