February 25, 2012

Loyola's Offense Heats Up Against Crosstown Rival

by Matt Forman | LaxMagazine.com | Related: Live Blog Replay

Loyola coach Charlie Toomey said the speed of the Greyhounds' offense even surprised him in a 13-6 win over Towson.
© John Strohsacker/LaxPhotos.com 

BALTIMORE — Loyola coach Charley Toomey didn't show his team tape of last year's Charles Street corridor rivalry game against Towson.

You couldn't fault Toomey if the reason he didn't dust off that DVD was because of the game's result: a low-scoring, 3-2 defeat of the Tigers last February — the same score, by the way, of the men's soccer game between the two schools a season ago. But Toomey didn't rely on that tape because he knew how different the 2012 meeting would be; Towson has a new identity under first-year head coach Shawn Nadelen, and Loyola's starting lineup features six new players, including four at midfield or attack, allowing the Greyhounds to play "a little bit faster."

Loyola's win Saturday afternoon in blustery Baltimore at Ridley Athletic Complex in front of 1,384 proved Toomey right. Behind four goals each from Mike Sawyer and Sean O'Sullivan, No. 13 Loyola rode a dominant offensive performance to a 13-6 victory over crosstown foe Towson, winning its fifth straight over the Tigers in the schools' 54th meeting all-time.

"We talk about Towson week at Loyola an awful lot. I've got a lot of alumni in my ear every year at this time, because this is a huge game on our schedule. It used to be the biggest game on our schedule. I probably came down [the players'] road a little bit more than I normally do, but I'm very proud of them," Toomey said. "We knew we had to win the war at the faceoff X, we knew we had to be very disciplined and focused. I was a little caught off guard myself by the speed of our play offensively. We came our with guns-a-blazing on the offensive end."

For Nadelen, there was no sugarcoating the loss. After walking into the media room after the game, he sat down, took a deep breath and offered a straightforward opening statement.

"That was a beat down," he said. "Loyola just beat us at every aspect of the game, hands down."

The stats tell the story...

Shots: Loyola 49, Towson 22

Ground Balls: Loyola 32, Towson 23

Faceoffs: Loyola 14, Towson 7

Loyola pushed an incredible offensive pace Saturday, moving the ball around the outside with efficiency and then pouncing aggressively. A week after taking 44 shots against Delaware, the Greyhounds managed nearly 50 against Towson, applying pressure from the opening faceoff and not relenting until midway through the fourth period when Toomey worked in several reserves.

Sophomore attackman Justin Ward's five assists, two of which set up scores by O'Sullivan, headlined Loyola's offensive production by faces who didn't factor into last year's contest. Fifth-year senior Eric Lusby, healthy after missing most of 2011 while recovering from a torn ACL, and North Carolina transfer Chris Layne, a junior midfielder, also provided a spark. Ward played sparingly as a freshman, while O'Sullivan sat out last year after transferring from Army. Despite that host of new players, the Greyhounds were clicking on all cylinders Saturday.

"Playing with Justin is great," said Sawyer, one of two returning starters on the offensive end and the team's leading scorer with 31 goals in 2011. "Justin always got his head up. He's a feeder-type, will push a corner, always looking to get the ball to you. Everything flows for us. I just love the attack crew that we have. It makes it real fun to play."

The Greyhounds' offensive output started at the faceoff X, where senior captain J.P. Dalton won 13-of-18 draws, many of which were clean, though play on the wings and the ground ball advantage also aided Loyola. There were some questions coming into the season about how Dalton would fill in for All-American John Schiavone, one of the top specialists in the country, but those have been all but eliminated.

"The real surprise for us has been J.P. at the faceoff X, losing John Schiavone," Toomey said. "Having as many possessions as we did early, with J.P. at the X, has been a blessing or us. We know we're very talented on the wings. But for J.P. for to step up like he has in his senior year and really just give us that opportunity where we thought it might be a 50-50 ball or less, we're winning the battle there."

Back to the story of the tape. Toomey said the coaching staff relied on film of Loyola's meeting with Navy last year, "knowing that every time the ball went through point, they were going to try to get a cross-screen for [Sean] Maguire."

The senior attacker led Towson with two goals, while freshman midfielder Justin Mabus added a goal and two assists. But the Tigers couldn't generate consistent offense, and had two scoreless stretches of nearly 15 minutes.

Since holding a 3-2 lead against Johns Hopkins with 11 minutes remaining in the first half last weekend, the Tigers have been outscored 23-9. How does that happen?

"If you've got the answer, I'd love to know," Nadelen said with a slight chuckle, then returning to a more serious tone. "It's nothing to joke about. It's frustrating.

"We thought we were pretty prepared coming into the game. We did not put any sort of effort onto the field, and lacked execution that is needed to play against a team like Loyola. They proved it against us today. I will 100 percent take credit for it. I've got to better prepare our team and make sure that we understand the difference day-to-day that's needed to get the job done."

Towson likely will watch the film from this one, learn from it and prepare for its home opener against Mount St. Mary's. But a year from now, it wouldn't be surprising if Nadelen gives Saturday's tape the Toomey treatment.

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