Loyola Strong at Penn Fall Ball
|Loyola finished a strong fall on
Saturday by topping Penn, Princeton and Albany (though by close
margins) at Penn's fall event.
© John Strohsacker/LaxPhotos.com
Last year, the Loyola women's lacrosse team reached the second round before losing to eventual champion North Carolina.
With several key players returning this season, including All-Americans Marlee Paton and Taryn VanThof, the Greyhounds are attempting to use that experience to propel them even further in 2014.
"They want to contend for a national championship," Loyola head coach Jen Adams said. "Having played against UNC last year and them beating us and going on to win the championship, we got a little taste of what it could be like. I think, for our girls, that stuck with them, especially the returners. I think they're playing and practicing and training and everything else they're doing is with that mentality of I want to be an NCAA national champion."
Loyola participated Saturday afternoon in the Penn Fall Scrimmages along with the University of Pennsylvania, Princeton and Albany. It was the final fall date for the Greyhounds, and they showed how hard they have been working since the start of the new school year. Loyola was the only team who did not suffer a loss on the day.
Unlike many other fall scrimmages, the teams kept track of the score in all games Saturday afternoon. Loyola won its three games by a combined four goals.
"To end on such a high note, playing against such high caliber [opponents], is something as a coach that you look for in a fall schedule," Adams said. "One thing I really, really tried to echo to them is that we want to make these games count so that when we do hit Virginia [in the season opener] it's not something completely new and we haven't played a game. I want them to take these and learn from them and grow from them."
Loyola was losing by one goal in each of the first two games they played – against Albany and Penn – before coming from behind and winning by one in each of those contests. They beat Princeton by two in their final match-up of the game.
The Greyhounds looked particularly strong on offense. They moved the ball around the cage swiftly and hit cutters in front of the goal with very few mishaps. Not many balls landed on the ground, something hard to do in an area with a lot of pressure and a lot of traffic. The players, particularly Paton who scored several goals on the day, finished with great efficiency.
"That's been a fall focus of ours, the sharpness of our stick work and keeping everything clean," Adams said. "In general, the amount of errors of our own turnovers has really been limited in the fall. Just through the consistency in practice of getting it right and getting it right the first time and really taking good opportunities and good options rather than throwing it in there and hoping it will land in."
The Greyhounds are now finished until the second semester starts back up. As she now leaves them to continue to prepare on their own, Adams feels good about where her team is at.
"I can honestly say, as a coach, from the start of fall to today we're a better team and that's all you can ask for," she said.
The Quakers started off the day with a 7-4 loss to Princeton but it would be false to say that the team started off slow.
Penn showed off a very quick team. They changed directions well and were able to get up and down the field rather quickly.
"I think speed is huge," Penn head coach Karin Corbett said. "We play some teams that have tremendous speed so we're trying to recruit that as well."
Penn would lose its next game against Loyola before bookending the day with another 7-4 score, this time a victory over Albany.
Like all the coaches, Corbett rotated her lineup to see what all her different players had to offer. Penn has 10 new freshmen on the team that it needs to incorporate. It was her first glimpse of what her team looks like as a whole.
"It's really just kind of a gauge to see where we are after seven practices," she said. "That's what's so nice about the fall. There's no pressure. You really can get your kids out there and see what they can do. And we can tape it and help them with that."
Unlike the other teams, this was the first set of scrimmages for the Quakers. They still have another week to work on things before heading to a play date at Delaware against the Fightin' Blue Hens, Georgetown and Penn State.
One thing Corbett wants to see is that her team continues to use its quickness to its advantage, particularly in transition on the defensive end.
"There's some teams we'll be able to push it a lot on, other teams we can't but hopefully we can slow them down a little bit," she said. "I think when we were at our best we had a really good trap. It was something that teams knew was tough to beat and I'd like to get back to that."
The Tigers opened up the day with a victory over Ivy League rival Penn. Then they had two hours off before losing back-to-back games against Albany and Loyola.
Wins and losses weren't what were important for any team though, including Princeton. Tigers head coach Chris Sailer was excited to have her team get a look at different teams and their unique styles
"It's great competition. You find yourself in a lot of different situations," she said. "Everybody might play a different defensive system so you have to make adjustments in the game. And the same thing offensively, they may do things different than you do. It's just really great for your kids to get a lot of different looks in the course of one day of play."
In addition to seeing how her team responded to other squads, Sailer said it was vital for her team to gain different game experiences against someone other than themselves.
"You're hoping to give your kids an opportunity to compete, see how they do, test different kids in different combinations and just give them more of that game experience, especially for the younger kids," she said. "The freshman coming in, it's critical. For the older kids, it's really putting their leadership into action on the field."
Three of the four teams in Saturday's play date went to the NCAA Tournament. The only one that didn't was Albany, who fell a game shy after losing in the America East Conference finals. The Great Danes had won the previous two conference tournaments and head coach John Battaglino was disappointed to not make it a three-peat.
Despite not making the NCAA Tournament last season, however, Battaglino knew his team could hang with three very competitive squads.
"I set high standards for the kids. They adjust to them and I think they welcome them," he said. "They're not intimidated and they belong here. They're here for a reason."
Albany led Loyola at half and traded goals with their experienced team throughout the game. They topped Princeton, 12-8, scoring the most goals of any team in a game for the day. Then they were beating Penn at halftime, before falling in the second half.
Battaglino credited his teams fight, or as he said, they were, "pretty salty". The team has 14 freshmen on its roster this season. Much like how he didn't want his team to be intimidated by the opponents, he doesn't want his new players to be afraid of making mistakes.
"There's a difference between mistakes and good mistakes. I recognize a good mistake," he said. "If they're overzealous and trying to do something right and they miss something, I recognize it was a good chance. But what I don't like is when they are afraid to take a chance or they just do something to do something."
"I don't want to hear, 'I'm nervous,' out there," he added.
If Saturday's scrimmages were any indication of his team's attitude come the spring, he won't have to worry about his team's toughness.