February 22, 2013

MD1 Notebook: Ward, Loyola Attack Falling into New Roles

by Gary Lambrecht | LaxMagazine.com

"[Metzbower] has really built my confidence," Loyola junior attackman Justin Ward said of new Greyhounds offensive coordiator Dave Metzbower.
© Kevin P. Tucker

Loyola junior attackman Justin Ward made his mark last year as the undisputed, designated feeder of the Greyhounds' offense. With a pair of 50-goal scorers around him in attackmen Mike Sawyer and Eric Lusby, that role perfectly suited Loyola's quarterback throughout the school's drive to its first Division I championship.

A year later, Lusby is gone, and Ward is already showing he is ready to assume more goal-scoring responsibility for Loyola, which plays host to Maryland at 1:30 p.m. Saturday. The contest features the nation's highest-ranked teams nine months after the Greyhounds whipped the Terps in the NCAA title game.

Ward, who showed his dodging and scoring ability at key times in 2012, already has scored four goals during the Greyhounds' 2-0 start. That includes his first, career hat trick in Loyola's season-opening, 9-8 victory at Delaware.

"Our offense needs a different angle this year," said Ward, who is second on the team with four goals — on just 11 shots — and leads the Greyhounds in assists (five) and points (nine).

"Mike [Sawyer] can stretch the defense. We've got some great [midfield] shooters like Sean O'Sullivan and Davis Butts. Nikko [Pontrello] and I bring the ability to dodge. My mindset since the fall has been to step up for this team [as a goal scorer]."

Ward did pick some timely spots while finding the back of the net in 2012. Although he scored only 12 goals, Ward was the one who sent the game into overtime in the closing seconds, before the Greyhounds suffered their only loss to Johns Hopkins. Ward was the one who dodged from behind the goal and scored to get Loyola rolling in the second half of its 9-3 rout of Maryland in the championship game.

Ward said first-year offensive coordinator David Metzbower, a former attackman at Delaware and long-time Princeton assistant who replaced Dan Chemotti — now the head coach at Richmond — has urged Ward to take advantage of his inevitable, one-on-one chances by going to the goal more often.

"[Metzbower] has really built my confidence. Teams normally don't want to slide to me, so I need to use that," said Ward, who led the Greyhounds with 31 assists last year. "I think they will start sliding to me more. I hope so, because it's going to open up other guys. I'm still all about the assist and the hockey assist."

Pannell, Cornell Get Going

Cornell is all set to open its 118th season, and the Big Red will travel to the Carrier Dome in Syracuse to meet its oldest rival on Sunday evening. For the 134th time, Hobart will clash with Cornell.

It seems like the rest of the lacrosse world is way ahead of Cornell and its Ivy League brethren. By the time the Statesmen and the Big Red face off, 82 Division I games will have been played or scheduled.

That's because more schools are starting earlier than ever (Hopkins really did open on Feb. 8 against Siena, for example) while the Ivy League still prohibits its teams from practicing before Feb. 1.

"There is some anxiety, with so many teams playing so many games already. You feel like you're behind the eight ball a little bit," Cornell coach Ben DeLuca said. "We try to frame it in a positive way. We think about having fresher legs."

Cornell has much reason to feel good, starting with the much-anticipated return of the great Rob Pannell at attack. Pannell, who returns after missing most of 2012 with a foot injury and being granted a rare, Ivy League redshirt season, might be the most talked-about, fifth-year senior in Division I men's history.

Cornell is healthy and is loaded on offense. With Pannell down last spring, players such as Matt Donovan and Connor English increased their value by necessity. English, who moved from midfield to attack in Pannell's absence, scored 20 goals as a junior. He is moving back to his comfort zone at midfield.

Donovan, the unanimous choice as Ivy League rookie of the year after scoring 32 points (18g, 14a) as a freshman, could form a monster attack unit with senior Steve Mock (23 goals) and Pannell.

Hopkins' Midfield Shooting Woes

By Saturday afternoon, expect Johns Hopkins to be 3-0 after smacking around visiting Michigan, following easy wins against overmatched Siena and Towson.

Yet, by the time March comes around — and with it the ramped-up schedule that includes Princeton, Syracuse and Virginia — the Blue Jays' first midfield would probably be best-served by morphing into the Gang That Shoots Straight.

Through its first two games, the starting midfield of seniors John Ranagan and John Greeley and junior Rob Guida had scored a total of four goals on 35 shots. That's ice-cold, 11.4 percent shooting.

Patriot League Warming Up

The Patriot League has its share of storylines cooking as the conference schedule approaches. Can Lehigh repeat as league champs and make some NCAA tournament noise? Will Navy show some resurgent life after falling backwards in recent years? Will Colgate average nearly 14 goals with that high-octane offense?

Watching Colgate star and Tewaaraton Award incumbent Peter Baum and Army attackman extraordinaire Garrett Thul taking turns lighting up the scoreboard will be a treat. Heading into this weekend, Baum is second in league history with 135 career goals, while Thul is just off that pace with 134. The all-time record of 138 by Bucknell's Justin Zackey is toast.

My money is on Thul coming out on top — not because he's a better player than Baum. He's not. But there is no team that runs more offense through a single player than Army runs through Thul.

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