Nike/LM NCAA Preview: No. 12 Loyola (Men)
Loyola suffered through a rare losing season in 2015, finishing 7-8. That was only part of the pain. Six one-goal losses resulted in a lot of sleepless nights along Charles Street.
An experienced lineup returns in 2016 and will be determined to turn those nightmares into pleasant dreams.
Loyola at a Glance
2015 Record: 7-8
3 Big Things
1. The Greyhounds will be more hard-nosed on defense.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS
Although the starting midfield yielded three of Loyola’s top four returning goal scorers, shot selection and accuracy are issues that need to be rectified this season. Brian Sherlock (29g, 19a, 25.4% shooting) brings incredible energy to the field, but he forced too many of his 114 shots. Romar Dennis has a cannon-like shot, but only 18.1% of his 94 attempts were on target.
Loyola’s youthful defense had trouble protecting second-half leads in 2015. Loyola surrendered 11 or more goals in eight games and lost seven of those. Toomey sees a group – including defensive midfielders Brian Begley and Jared Mintzlaff – that is a year older and better. He also sees David Manning’s mean streak making a difference. Toomey said, “We’ve got to be tougher,” Toomey said. “[Manning] is vocal and physical. He’ll slide to hit you.”
2. Graham Savio is very good, but he needs help.
Toomey thought Savio wore down in the late stages of 2015, and he will be spelled by freshman Jake Shriner and sophomore Mike Orefice. But the faceoff wing play will be an area of heightened emphasis, with Brian Sherlock, Ryan Fournier, Begley and Tyler Albrecht among the players responsible for making the unit more dependable. “We didn’t develop our wing guys last year as well as we should have,” Toomey said.
3. Zack Sirico is a natural feeder who needs to be more selfish.
As a sophomore last year taking over for Justin Ward as the quarterback of the offense, Zack Sirico had no trouble deferring to his teammates, as his 18 assists suggested. But the 6-foot-1 junior will need to hunt for more shots in 2016. Sirico shot 42.3 percent during an 11-goal season in which he attempted only 26 shots. “Zack needs to take the next step this year,” Toomey said.
Grant Limone (So.)*
* returning starters
Herreweyers scored 47 goals to lead the Patriot League and was seventh in Division I with an average of 3.13 goals per game. The Canadian lefty recorded hat tricks in nine of 15 games.
Over his last two high school seasons at Boys’ Latin in Baltimore, Spencer produced 79 goals and 81 assists. He looked like Loyola’s quarterback of the future last fall. “He just makes people better around him,” Toomey said.
An assortment of injuries ruined two of his seasons, but Chase, a graduate student, is back to make another go of it as the possible leader of the second midfield line. His explosiveness and confidence should help the extra-man unit.
Biggest Question Mark
It’s not a question of Manning’s skills or drive. His presence is a welcome sight on Loyola’s close defense, which struggled mightily at times in 2015. After recovering from a knee injury suffered in the fall of 2014, the question is can Manning hold up physically?
LSM Ryan Fournier caused 14 turnovers, scooped up 58 groundballs and also added nine points to help Loyola's transition game in 2015. (John Strohsacker)
What rival coaches say about the Greyhounds
"Top line of midfield is as good as anyone. Herreweyers is excellent. The defense is going to improve from last year and they’ll be a tough team to beat."
"Very talented in the midfield, should certainly compete for the title in the Patriot League. Interested to see how some of their young attackmen develop and also will be interesting to see their goalie situation in 2016 as it was a major problem for them last season."
"Outstanding first midfield. Really solid all over. Need to win the Patriot League, will improve as season goes on."
Number of regular-season home games the Greyhounds lost last year. That matches the number of losses Loyola suffered at Ridley Athletic Conference in the previous three seasons combined.
13 @ Virginia
20 Johns Hopkins
19 @ Navy
February 20 Johns Hopkins
Winning the Patriot League is top priority at Loyola, but this nonconference rivalry is renewed after the schools did not play each other in 2015. Since Johns Hopkins should have one of the game’s most potent offenses again, this should serve as an early measure of Loyola’s defensive improvement.
In an effort to keep the Greyhounds fresh and maintain momentum heading into the season, Toomey started the fall season in early October and scrimmaged Penn State a week later. Loyola will also begin its preseason on Jan. 14, nearly a week before spring semester begins – another first under Toomey.
The Greyhounds are equipped with enough offensive weapons to play with anybody – especially if the defense cooperates by covering and sliding more efficiently and protecting leads with more of a mean streak. If Manning restores order in the close defense, and the rope unit, led by Fournier, improves with age, Loyola will contend for the Patriot League title.
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