Feb. 17, 2005
Baltimore, Md. - With the 2005 men's lacrosse season fast approaching, spring has unofficially arrived in Baltimore. Head Coach Bill Dirrigl saw his Greyhounds grow up rather quickly last season and with 10 freshmen playing significant minutes on both offense and defense, a very young team in 2004 quickly becomes an experienced squad in 2005. Although still young, Loyola enters the season with confidence and is ready to battle for national attention with another brutally tough schedule.
"I think our schedule gives us a wonderful opportunity to compete," says Dirrigl. "Joining a good conference like the ECAC, we'll be playing some of the best teams in the country on a weekly basis."
Loyola joins the Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) this season and will continue to play one of the nation's strongest schedules with conference teams like Georgetown, Massachusetts, Penn State and Rutgers on the regular slate. Non-conference home games against defending national champion Syracuse as well as local powers Towson and UMBC bring obvious challenges that the Greyhounds are eager to face.
"I'm confident that we can compete at the highest level of collegiate lacrosse," says Dirrigl. "This team has a great deal of athleticism and passion for the game. They work hard on and off the field and their dedication has made us a much better program."
The Greyhounds return 95 percent of its team from last year and although the leadership of captains Stephen Brundage and Damian Hall will be missed, the pieces are in place for a very successful 2005. This season's captains are seniors Grant Halford and Pat Shek - two experienced veterans with proven leadership ability. Halford and Shek will establish the character of the Greyhounds, but the team's ultimate success will depend on all its parts and the contributions of all 44 roster spots.
Here is a position-by-position breakdown
Graduated senior Stephen Brundage left big shoes to fill at the attack, but a little positional shifting by the coaches and a plethora of young talent give the Greyhounds several weapons to start the year. Among the moves include moving sophomore Greg Leonard from first midfield to starting attack. Leonard, at 6-3, 225-pounds, brings tremendous skill and athleticism to the unit. He will look to senior Matt Monfett, who transferred from Duke prior to last season, to provide guidance and points. Monfett is Loyola's leading returning point man with 14 goals and nine assists in 2004.
Shek, a local product from the McDonogh School, has probably made the most strides in this unit and is expected to be a major contributor. Leader of the extra-man offense, Shek started seven games last season and scored seven goals on 20 shots. In the same way, senior Chris Einhorn, who scored eight goals in 2004, has received considerable playing time at Evergreen and looks for a big senior campaign. Sophomore Patrick Kennedy joins Leonard at the attack after playing with him in the midfield last season. Kennedy is another strong athlete for Loyola with good hands and has the coaches excited with the progress he has already made in his new position.
Returning to the attack are sophomores Dan Bauers and Ryan Rabidou. Bauers won himself a starting job towards the end of last season and held on to that spot this past fall. Rabidou started at extra-man in the fall after seeing increasing minutes at the end of his freshman year. Both have worked hard in the weight room this off-season and are ready to contribute.
Dirrigl solidified the attack with freshman Shane Koppens, the Albany area Player of the Year. This true freshman from Clifton Park, N.Y. comes to Loyola with polished skills and has the potential to make an immediate impact on the offense and in extra-man situations.
Last season's freshman-filled midfield is now loaded with sophomores and although the unit is still relatively young, it does have real-game experience. The Greyhounds return every minute of every game last season and expect big things from this group.
Sophomores Jordan Rabidou and Andrew Spack are coming off very solid freshmen seasons. Rabidou was third on the team in scoring while Spack was tied for fourth with eight goals and two assists. Both posses a great amount of athleticism, allowing them to play offense, defense and take faceoffs.
"Spack and Rabidou are warriors," says Dirrigl. "They are athletic, do-it-all type of players."Senior Craig Georgalas is another "do-it-all" type of player that the Greyhounds need in the midfield. Coming off an injury, Georgalas enters the season with high expectations and will help develop sophomores like Tony Ferreira, who will move into more of an offensive role after playing defense last season.
Also in Dirrigl's talented sophomore class are the likes of Cory Coffman and Joe Landry. Both have worked extremely hard to get themselves ready for the season and are developing into leaders on the field. Sophomore Matt Cassalia, who took half of last season's faceoffs, led the team with 61 groundballs while winning 61 percent of his faceoffs. Cassalia, like classmates Leonard and Spack, finished the year with eight goals and two assists.
Senior Jeff Russell got a shot at the faceoff at the end of last season and was very successful, winning 12-of-21 attempts. Seniors Parker Adams and John Halip have the experience and must provide leadership in the midfield.
"Our seniors are very important," says Dirrigl. "The seniors in the midfield are going to give us the maturity and game experience necessary to be successful with so many young players beneath them."
New additions to the midfield include three freshmen - Paul Richards, Ryan Nelson and Even McAbee. For the second year in row, Loyola coaches nabbed the Syracuse area Player of the Year in Richards, a Baldwinsville, N.Y. native. Nelson is a 5-8 freshman from Christian Brothers Academy while McAbee is a 5-11 freshman from Scottsdale, Ariz.
The Greyhounds return a pair of veterans at longstick with senior Geoff Hunter and junior Steven Hess. Hunter has worked hard, especially in the weight room and brings a good stick to the table. He can go down low in clearing situations and is looking forward to a good senior year.
Hess, who started as a freshman, is now ready to lead this unit. The coaches are happy with his work ethic and believe that if he continues to improve, he could be an All-America candidate. Hunter and Hess will guide a trio of freshman, including David Moore, a redshirt who sat out last season. True freshmen Brian Gormley and Todd Osterman will also work with the long poles, giving the unit a little depth to work with.
Junior Carter Perry, who runs well between the lines, made the switch to shortstick last season and will remain there this year. Seniors Mike Alfone and C.J. Sinisgalli are both recuperating from injuries that forced them to miss the fall, while junior Peter Schwan returns from his redshirt season. Being coach Dirrigl's most experienced shortstick defenders, he'll all three to help along the maturation process of freshman Brian Cullinane, a Southport, Conn. product.
Loyola's close defense, with four seniors and a junior, is its most experienced group. Co-captain Grant Halford is ready for his second year at close defense after moving from the midfield at the start of last season. Halford was also a co-captain in 2004 and the coaches are expecting him to be a leader on defense.
"Grant [Halford] is a big, strong and rough athlete," says Dirrigl. "He loves to compete and will make us a lot better the more comfortable he becomes at close defense."
Also returning at close defense is junior Michael Graham, who started four games last season. Graham brings great feet and hands and is talented enough to make a difference in every game. Senior Dan Gross should also make an impact after a great offseason.
"It was quite obvious at the end of last season how much Dan Gross cared about the program," says Dirrigl. "At the defensive end, nobody has made bigger strides to get Loyola College back to where it needs to be."
Seniors Matt Dupuis, David Shortt and Sean McCloskey will all see a lot of time at close defense and will need to demonstrate their game knowledge and experience to sophomore Manny Batten as well as freshmen Matt Curran and Eddie Graham. Curran is a Naval Academy Prep product while Eddie Graham is the younger brother of junior Michael Graham.
The Greyhounds enter the season with three goalies on the roster and the coaches all know that stability in goal is essential to the success of the team. Junior Michael Fretwell earned the starting nod at the end of last season, but has junior Trae Rodgers and freshman Connor Locke ready to step in and help out the team.
"We have great chemistry between our three goalies," says assistant coach Charley Toomey, who was an All-America goalie at Loyola. "These are three good guys who know how to push each other as well as pick each other up."
Fretwell had some monster games in goal for the `Hounds, including a 20-save performance at Syracuse and nine second-half saves against Towson to preserve a season-opening win. He started the final six games of the season and led the team with 105 saves. He comes into 2005 as the favorite to win Loyola's starting job and is playing with a tremendous amount of confidence.
Rodgers is back after taking a redshirt last season. A very team-oriented player, Rodgers has six saves in five games played his first two seasons. He will compete for the starting job along with Locke, the biggest surprise of the fall. The coaches are high on both Rodgers and Locke, not only for their play in goal, but also for their example in the lockeroom and in the classroom.
Loyola finished the 2004 season with eight losses and seven of those came to ranked teams. The schedule won't get any easier, but the best thing about having a young team is that in a few years they'll be an experienced team. With a year under their belts, the Greyhounds are ready to fight for respect and are anxious to play in the ECAC.
Coach Dirrigl will have Toomey back for his seventh season as one of the top assistants in the country. Matt Dwan, who served as a volunteer assistant last season, is now the second assistant and will help the defense with his All-America and professional lacrosse experience.
The season officially begins at home on February 26 when local-rival Towson visits Diane Geppi-Aikens Field. The Greyhounds know it will be a long season, but expect to play more than the scheduled 14-regular season games.
"As head coach of a tradition-rich program like Loyola, I embrace the expectations," says Dirrigl. "I think we're ready to play."