March 19, 2011

Dominance 'Between 30s' Keeps Loyola Unbeaten

by Clare Lochary | | Live Blog Replay

Grace Gavin scored three goals Saturday in No. 6 Loyola's 11-7 win over No. 9 James Madison. The Greyhounds 6-0 start is their best since 2003, the year they went to the final four.

BALTIMORE, Md. -- Two undefeated teams entered; only one could leave.

Thanks to a hard-riding midfield and 14 caused turnovers, the No. 6-ranked Loyola women's lacrosse team was able to hold off a challenge from No. 9-ranked James Madison and secured an 11-7 victory Saturday at Ridley Athletic Complex. The Greyhounds' record now stands at 6-0, the best start for the program since 2003, when Loyola won 14 straight with a team that eventually went to the final four.

"It was a huge game for us. The hustle all over the field was the difference," said head coach Jen Adams. "We're very athletic, and we played a good game between the 30s. We put a lot of pressure on James Madison. We wanted to put pressure on them and fluster them."

The Dukes (6-1) struck first on a goal from sophomore Casey Ancarrow (4g) at 28:08, but the Greyhounds responded with six goals in less than eight minutes to gain a lead they never relinquished. Seniors Grace Gavin and Abby Rehfuss led the Greyhounds with three goals each. Two of Gavin's three goals came just 1:13 apart early in the second half and were part of a four-goal run that squelched any comeback hopes for James Madison.

"We've really been emphasizing everyone pushing [in transition], not just the girl with the ball," Rehfuss said.

The steady, disciplined victory was a welcome relief to Loyola, which had to rally to win an ugly game over unranked Delaware, 14-13, on Wednesday. The Greyhounds committed 40 fouls against the Blue Hens; they had just 22 against the Dukes, thanks to a reliance on speed and athleticism in the midfield and positional defense, rather than takeaway checks.

"We were not looking for the big play. We were looking for the smart play," Adams said.

The Dukes had 18 turnovers and just 12 shots. James Madison's attackers tried to force one-on-ones, but had trouble penetrating Loyola's balanced defense. Nine different players contributed to the Greyhounds' 14 caused turnovers; no player had more than two.

"We wanted to get back to basics, support everywhere around the 8-meter, and that contributed to them making mistakes," said Greyhounds junior defender Ana Henneberry.

James Madison's defense struggled to stem the tide of Loyola's attack, committing 25 fouls and giving the Greyhounds 10 free position opportunities, four of which were converted for goals. In addition to the turnover differential (18-10), Loyola worked the ball around for long possessions, starving the Dukes for offensive opportunities.

"Our goal was possession. It's not a track meet -- it's a lacrosse game. We held the ball and worked it around," said senior midfielder Meg Decker (2g).

James Madison head coach Shelley Klaes-Bawcome attributed the loss to bad communication between the players and coaching staff that prevented the team from making adjustments quickly enough to catch up with Loyola.

"The game was a product of James Madison not playing its best," Klaes-Bawcombe said. "The first run we stopped. The second one, we didn't."

Alex Menghetti made seven saves for James Madison; Kerry Stoothoff had three stops for Loyola.

With James Madison's loss, there are now seven remaining undefeated teams in the nation – Maryland, Northwestern, Penn, Stanford, Albany, Louisville and Loyola. The Greyhounds next face crosstown rival UMBC on March 23.

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