February 15, 2016
Freshman attackman Pat Spencer has become a key cog in Loyola's offense, helping the Greyhounds stay in the Patriot League hunt. (Kelsey Grant)
Freshman attackman Pat Spencer has become a key cog in Loyola's offense, helping the Greyhounds stay in the Patriot League hunt. (Kelsey Grant)

Weekend Takeaways: Loyola Grew Up in a Hurry

by Patrick Stevens | LaxMagazine.com | Twitter

Loyola's early-season series with Virginia was a welcome addition to the college lacrosse schedule the last two years, producing a pair of one-goal games and offering both teams a decent chance for a quality triumph to open the year.

It wasn't so welcome for Loyola coach Charley Toomey, who wound up on the wrong end of both of those tight games. But the series (and its probability of a strength of schedule boost) worked perfectly for the Greyhounds as they dominated Virginia in an 11-4 triumph Saturday in the weekend's most notable game.

Here are four takeaways from the first big weekend of NCAA Division I men's lacrosse:

1. Loyola grew up in a hurry.

A little more than 10 months ago, Loyola fell apart in the fourth quarter of a Patriot League tournament loss to Army. It fell to 7-8 and its season was over on April 21, a harsh finality for a transition year filled with more bumps than expected.

Even that day, Toomey discussed how the Greyhounds would respond. And it was lost on few who saw Loyola last season just how many underclassmen who found themselves in prominent positions — among them defensive midfielders Brian Begley and Jared Mintzlaff and goalie Grant Limone. Collectively, the entire defense was exposed while giving up seven goals in the fourth quarter of the finale to Army.

"You don't want to forget," Toomey said. "You have to remember last season and you have to use those experiences as building blocks. We threw a lot of freshmen to the wolves last year and we grew up. Right or wrong, they were on the field and learning with a baptism by fire."

Viewed through that prism, Loyola's showing in Charlottesville is a reflection of defensive growth as much as anything. Virginia never led, never got closer than three goals in the final 45 minutes, never managed to get midfielders Greg Coholan and Zed Williams (combined 1 for 19) going.

Begley and Mintzlaff played a role in that, and so too did Limone, who made 14 saves against the Cavaliers and also appears to have taken a step forward in his second season.

"When we got into April, we saw some good things," said Toomey, whose team plays host to Johns Hopkins on Saturday. "Now, what has happened is his save ability is better but so is his leadership. The game is slowing down for Grant. It's all you can hope for in a goaltender."
And, it turns out, the young players in front of him as well.

2. Hampton made history.

From a general-interest standpoint, no game was more significant than Hampton's program debut Saturday.

The Pirates became the first historically black college and university (HBCU) to field a Division I men's lacrosse team, and the first such school to field a men's lacrosse program in any division since Morgan State in 1981. In a sport determined to grow its demographics, it was a meaningful moment.

It certainly wasn't ignored nationally. ESPN broadcast live from the Virginia school the morning of the game. The result — a 20-3 loss to Division II Roberts Wesleyan — isn't the important part, though it does illustrate the Pirates have plenty of work ahead of them in constructing a Division I program. Ask several of the start-ups of the last decade, and some early lumps are usually part of the growth of a new team in the sport.

Four more games this spring (the next a Feb. 27 trip to Thiel College) await Hampton, but Saturday planted the seed for more memorable moments in the years to come.

The Hampton men's lacrosse team after its varsity debut Sunday against Division II Roberts Wesleyan. Click here for the full photo gallery. (Hampton Athletics)

3. Winter wallops the weekend.

News flash: It's cold in February at the large majority of Division I schools. And just like last year, winter snarled the early-season schedule.

But that's a common enough observation, and there's no reason to linger on it. But the upshot of two of Saturday's postponements — Johns Hopkins-UMBC and Navy-Maryland — into spring slots warrants a deeper dive.

The prevailing notion is coaches don't care to play midweek games, particularly once league play arrives. That's how those kinds of regional (or even neighborhood) contests wind up set for a mid-February weekend rather than a Tuesday or Wednesday later in the year when Hopkins heads to UMBC on March 30 and Navy makes the short trip to College Park on April 19.

Hopkins will be just days away from the start of Big Ten play when it visits Catonsville. Navy will be a mere three days removed from facing Army when it heads to College Park, and Maryland will jam in its longtime rival between Rutgers and Ohio State.

Even in a midweek situation, here's guessing those games draw more fans than they would have on Feb. 13, too. For those hoping for a little more scheduling sanity, root for those makeup contests to go well in terms in crowds and quality just to provide a little evidence the world won't come to an end if good teams play midweek games deep into the season.

4. Syracuse sizzles in debut.

Offense usually isn't a problem for Syracuse, so the Orange's 18-5 triumph over Siena on Saturday isn't out of place for a typical opener in the Carrier Dome. Still, John Desko's team has a considerably new look on offense with five starters gone off a team that earned the No. 2 seed in last year's NCAA tournament.

The first real glimpse of the Orange confirmed what was anticipated in the preseason: Dylan Donahue is the central figure, and his role will be especially large early in the season. The senior had four goals and five assists in the opener, starting alongside Jordan Evans and Brown graduate transfer on attack. Both of them had a pair of goals.

The midfield has a new look as well: Tim Barber, Nick Mariano (a Massachusetts transfer) and Sergio Salcido, who combined for five goals and four assists. The Orange was sloppy at times (18 turnovers, including 10 in the first half), but it also shot 43.9 percent.

There's still plenty to learn about Syracuse, but a stress-free opener was a solid first step .

Three Stars

Scott Bieda, Rutgers: Produced five goals and four assists, having a hand in nearly half of the Scarlet Knights' goals in a 19-11 rout of St. John's

Grant Limone, Loyola: The Greyhounds' goalie made 14 saves as Loyola rolled to an 11-4 defeat of Virginia.

Patrick McMenamin, Wagner: Scored six goals at the Seahawks blasted Manhattan 15-8.

Game of the Weekend

Denver 10, Air Force 9

The defending national champs sprinted to a five-goal lead in the first half, only for Air Force to claim a 9-8 lead late in the third quarter that held up until the final five minutes. Freshman Nate Marano then scored twice, the latter goal with 1:53 to go off a Jack Bobzien feed, to allow the Pioneers (1-0) to escape Colorado Springs with a 10-9 triumph. Marano finished with four goals in his first career game.

Numbers of Significance

Goals for Virginia in its 11-4 loss to Loyola, the Cavaliers' lowest output since a 17-2 loss to Duke on April 16, 2005.

Of the 21 Division I games scheduled for Saturday, 13 were either moved up to Friday or postponed because of inclement weather.

Mount St. Mary's 14 goals in a 14-11 defeat of Delaware on Friday was the Mountaineers' largest scoring total since a 14-6 rout of Georgetown on March 12, 2013.

Army outshot Massachusetts 43-16 on Friday, including 26-8 in the second half. The Black Knights scored the last four goals to earn a 9-5 triumph in the opener for both teams.

Quote of the Week

"We'll be big Virginia fans moving forward, but we have to handle what is in front of us and not worry about anyone else." — Loyola coach Charley Toomey on his team's 11-4 victory at Virginia

How the Nike/LM Top 20 Fared

1. Notre Dame (0-0): Did not play; next: vs. Georgetown (Saturday)
2. Denver (1-0): Beat Air Force 10-9; next: vs. Duke (Saturday)
3. Duke (2-0): Beat High Point 17-6 and beat Lehigh 13-11; next: vs. Denver (Saturday)
4. Maryland (0-0): Postponed vs. Navy; next: High Point (Saturday)
5. Syracuse (1-0): Beat Siena 18-5; next: Albany (Sunday)
6. Johns Hopkins (1-0): Beat Navy 12-11 (2OT); postponed at UMBC; next: at Loyola (Saturday)
7. North Carolina (2-0): Beat Furman 14-6; next: Hofstra (Saturday)
8. Yale (0-0): Did not play; next: at UMass Lowell (Saturday)
9. Virginia (0-1): Lost to Loyola 11-4; next: at Drexel (Saturday)
10. Brown (0-0): Did not play; next: at Quinnipiac (Saturday)
11. Georgetown (0-0): Did not play; next: vs. Notre Dame (Saturday)
12. Loyola (1-0): Beat Virginia 11-4; next: Johns Hopkins (Saturday)
13. Ohio State (2-0): Beat Detroit 16-3; next: at Massachusetts (Saturday)
14. Cornell (0-0): Did not play; next: Penn State (Saturday)
15. Navy (1-1): Lost to Johns Hopkins 12-11 (2OT); postponed at Maryland; next: Delaware (Sunday)
16. Towson (1-0): Beat Mercer 11-2; next: Mount St. Mary's (Saturday)
17. Albany (0-0): Did not play; next: at Syracuse (Sunday)
18. Marquette (0-0): Did not play; next: Bellarmine (Saturday)
19. Stony Brook (0-0): Did not play; next: Sacred Heart (Tuesday)
20. Harvard (0-0) Did not play; next: Villanova (Saturday)

Five to Watch This Week

Notre Dame vs. Georgetown (Saturday, 11 a.m.): The Fighting Irish, who have become Memorial Day weekend regulars this decade, open 2016 in the Atlanta suburbs against Kevin Warne's much-improved Hoyas.

Johns Hopkins at Loyola (Saturday, 1 p.m.): After conference realignment forced a one-year hiatus for this Charles Street rivalry, the Baltimore neighbors renew acquaintances with matching 1-0 records.

Denver vs. Duke (Saturday, 2 p.m.): It's a matchup of the most recent national champions, and one likely to produce plenty of scoring. The Pioneers' Trevor Baptiste was 25-for-34 against the Blue Devils in last year's game, which was also played in Kennesaw, Ga.

Penn State at Cornell (Saturday, 3 p.m.): Former Cornell coach Jeff Tambroni leads Penn State into Ithaca for his first game against the Big Red since departing the Ivy League power after the 2010 season.

Albany at Syracuse (Sunday, 4 p.m., ESPN3): The post-Lyle Thompson era commences for Albany, which heads to the Carrier Dome to meet another team reconfiguring itself a bit after the graduation of several major offensive components.

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