March 20, 2009

Adams: 'We Can Put It To These Teams'

by Brian Delaney | Special to Lacrosse Magazine Online

Meg Taylor (21) Cara Filippelli celebrate a Loyola goal during Wednesday's 16-9 rout of No. 14 Cornell. The No. 20 Greyhounds (5-1) are off to their best start since 2004 and host No. 16 James Madison on Saturday.

Loyola women's lacrosse coach Jen Adams sees things like her team's depth, its efficiency on draws and, after Wednesday's 16-9 rout of No. 14 Cornell, its rapidly growing confidence and thinks, "Why not us?"

The answer to that question -- who will win the Big East? -- will be borne out in late-April, when the conference championship is decided at Georgetown. But after Wednesday's win, the 20th-ranked Greyhounds (5-1) are suddenly thinking big thoughts under the direction of their first-year coach after a 6-10 showing in 2008.

"I do believe it's possible," said Adams, a former star at Maryland and member of the Australian national team readying for the Women's World Cup in Prague. "If we can come out and play our game, we can put it to these teams."

Those teams include the likes of No. 4 Georgetown, No. 8 Syracuse and No. 10 Notre Dame, and last week Loyola joined the "teams to watch" list by cracking the national rankings for the first time since 2005.

The Greyhounds' first win over a ranked team this season came Wednesday, when they jumped out to an 11-2 halftime lead in handing the Big Red its first loss. They can pick up their second such victory Saturday's at home against No. 16 James Madison.

"It's definitely a confidence-booster for the season, but one of the things that Jen had said to us was to not play against a jersey, or the school, but to play against yourself and the team," sophomore midfielder Cara Filippelli said. "That's what we've been focusing on."

Loyola's 5-1 start is its best since the 2004 team went 12-1 and finished 14-4, and a balanced offense is, in part, to thank.

The Greyhounds' 95 goals through six games are the most since the 1994 team opened 6-0 and netted 96 goals. Most important, at least 11 players have scored in two of Loyola's games this season. No other team in Division I has had more than 10 players score a goal in a game this year.

In Wednesday's win, it was sophomore Grace Gavin filling the net seven times. Gavin, Abby Rehfuss, Colleen O'Keefe, Emily Gibson and Elizabeth Weber have combined for 78 points so far.

Adams also has multiple options at her disposal on draw controls, where Loyola is above 50 percent through six games. Defensively, she has a rising star in Filippelli to anchor a maturing unit that includes a two-goalie platoon in sophomore Meg Steffe and freshman Kerry Stoothoff.

Last week, Adams brought in former Maryland All-American goalie Allie Buote as a volunteer assistant coach to work with her keepers.

"I feel like we have a lot of potential, a lot of room to grow, and one of the nice things is every single game I've seen them grow and learn as a team," Adams said. "The confidence and mental side is improving every day.

"The confidence level is up there, which is also very, very helpful," she added. "On top of that, we've got a solid defensive unit that has come up with big plays. Our defense is kind of like our offense right now."

Loyola's Big East schedule opens at Rutgers on March 27, followed by a visit two days later to South Bend. Aside from the conference schedule rigors, Loyola will play No. 9 Princeton on April 29.

"For us right now, six games in, we still have a lot of season left," Adams said. "Seeing the progress and improvement has been great."

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