Feb. 22, 2006
Baltimore, Md. - For the third straight year, Loyola and Towson begin their respective seasons against one another. This year, the Greyhounds and Tigers renew their Charles Street rivalry at Johnny Unitas Stadium on Saturday at noon. The game will be the 48th meeting between the two programs and will have more than bragging rights on the line. Live Audio
Loyola, picked 23rd nationally in the preseason coaches' poll, will have its first major test of the season against at Towson squad currently ranked No. 11 in the nation. Under the direction of first-year head coach Charley Toomey, Loyola has five seniors and 12 juniors with a great deal of playing experience. Coach Toomey, who took over the program after seven seasons as assistant coach, knows his team can only go as far as the veteran leaders will take it.
"All five of our seniors are fifth-year guys," says Toomey. "They are the ones who have been around and understand what Loyola Lacrosse is all about. They have a large impact in the lockeroom and will make sure the season goes the way we want it to go."
Those seniors include two goalies in Michael Fretwell and Trae Rodgers and three midfielders in Mike Alfone, Craig Georgalas and C.J. Sinisgalli. Having been around for five seasons, the coaching staff is comfortable with these five leaders and fully expects them to step up and take responsibility on and off the field.
A very talented and very deep junior class will also be instrumental in the growth process of the underclassmen. Juniors Steven Hess and Jordan Rabidou join Georgalas as team captains while juniors Greg Leonard, Andrew Spack and Dan Bauers are the team's leading returning scorers. A new offensive coordinator in Coach Bobby Benson should help the attack, but Coach Toomey doesn't see a big change in philosophy.
"We've been growing as a team and want to build off the success we saw in the fall," says Toomey. "We're not looking to change things up, just take the next step and learn how to win games."
Going into the season, everyone knows the schedule is tough and the conference is very strong. The Greyhound midfield that was ranked the No. 1 recruited midfield two years ago is now a veteran group of juniors. Some things will be different, but for the most part, the coaches want to stay on course with what they believe to be a winner.
Here is a Loyola season outlook, position-by-position
The Greyhounds lose last season's leading scorer Matt Monfett to graduation and don't deny the impact Monfett's loss may have on the unit. Still, a well-rounded group of attackmen with some highly skilled underclassmen has the Loyola staff feeling better about the offense. Bauers, who comes off a productive season with nine goals and four assists, will be expected to lead the attack.
"Dan improves every single day," says Toomey. "He's a big, strong left-hander who plays with an ice-hockey mentality. We're expecting a good year from him."
Bauers, who played ice hockey and football at Oakton high school in Virginia, showed signs of brilliance last season. Registering back-to-back two goal games against Rutgers and Syracuse, he scored the game winner against the Scarlet Knights and became more comfortable in his role as a scorer as the season went along.
Sophomore Shane Koppens showed he had a penchant for big games as well, scoring three times, including the game-winner against Massachusetts last March. Koppens led the Greyhounds in assists with 10 and finished his excellent freshman campaign as the team's second-leading scorer with 10 goals and 20 points.
Loyola's versatile attack, however, is typified by the play of juniors Patrick Kennedy and Ryan Rabidou, each of whom will likely see time at both attack and midfield. Both are versatile players themselves and moved around during fall competition. Kennedy is the more experienced of the two, scoring four goals last season.
A trio of impressive-looking freshmen should break into the attack with sophomores Evan McAbee and Ryan Nelson nicely filling out the unit. Freshman Michael Crimmins has earned favor with the coaches with his toughness and excellent footwork. Scoring a school-record 62-goals his senior year, he expects to play a part in the offense at Evergreen, as do Patrick Lombard and Jake Willcox. Lombard, who scored over 200 goals at LaSalle College High School, is a smart player with outstanding stick skills. Willcox, on the other hand, is a big, strong right-hander. Standing at 6-6, 225-pounds, he will be a presence at the attack, and like his classmates, will push for minutes.
The midfield unit should be a strength for Loyola this season. Littered with experienced upperclassmen, the midfield accounted for 44 of Loyola's 106 goals last season and 40 of those goals return in 2006.
"The success we've had has been because of the midfield," says Coach Toomey. "I've watched them grow the past few seasons and do believe they are ready to take it to another level."
Toomey will ask his fifth-year senior Georgalas to lead the way. The son of a coach, Georgalas knows the game and makes everyone around him better with his strong work ethic. Last season, he fought through injuries and still scored five goals with 15 groundballs.
Putting points on the board is nothing new to Leonard or Spack, a junior tandem that combined for 25 goals last season. Leonard, a 6-3, 225-pound force, led the Greyhounds with 15 goals last year and finished on a tear, scoring nine goals in the team's final four games. The coaches expect big things from Leonard in the extra-man offense, and expect Spack to contribute all over the field. Spack, a "do-it-all middie", was the team's fourth leading scorer and fourth in groundballs in 2005. He played a major role in the face-off rotation and like Leonard, ended the season on a positive note with five goals in his final six games.
Junior Jordan Rabidou is another multitalented midfielder with a knack for scoring. Last season, he scored in four straight games and won 54 percent of his face-offs. A team-captain this season, Rabidou will play all over the field with the coaches loving his big heart and hustle. Like Rabidou's energy, the coaches also love junior Cory Coffman's athleticism and look forward to a good year from him.
"Cory has worked hard to develop good stick skills," says Toomey. "He's a pure athlete and has the potential to become a very good Division I lacrosse player."
Sophomore Paul Richards is also an athlete and can help the Greyhounds in a number of ways. Last season, he earned a starting job as a defensive midfielder and stayed on the field with big contributions in the man-down defense as well as winning face-offs and scoring goals.
The return of Rayland Baxter, who started for Loyola in 2003 and missed 2004 with injuries, will add more depth while freshmen Jimmy Daly, Dan Farruggio and Tyler Gale give the Greyhounds a solid unit from top to bottom. Daly, a local product from the McDonogh School, will compete for minutes while Farruggio hopes to make a successful come back after surgery sidelined him in the fall. Gale, the Syracuse Area Co-Player of the Year, has done everything asked of him in the fall and winter and expects to see time in the spring.
The defensive midfield is one of the most veteran units with two seniors and a junior providing the experience. Seniors Mike Alfone and C.J. Sinisgalli are back and healthy and are welcome additions to the squad after sitting out with redshirts last season. Both were starters before getting hurt and anticipate big years after successful rehabilitation.
After a tremendous fall from junior Carter Perry, the spring outlook is good. A good athlete with excellent speed between the lines, Perry has played in 16 games in his first two seasons and will see added responsibility entering his third year with the program.
Freshmen Brian Cullinane and Joseph Steuert will also battle for playing time and give the squad some youth to develop. Steuert is a true freshman, while Cullinane, a lacrosse savvy recruit from Southport, Conn., sat out with a redshirt last season.
Junior captain Steven Hess is the leader of his group, having played 23 games at the position over the past two seasons. Coming off an incredible sophomore campaign, Hess drew the opposition's first midfielder all season. He led the team in groundballs and has worked hard in the off-season to ensure 2006 will yield similar results.
"Steven Hess brings his lunch pail to practice every day," says Coach Toomey. "He's a very hard worker and we're going to rely heavily on him this spring."
Hess will have three freshmen behind him who will benefit from his experience and push him for minutes on the field. P.T. Ricci is one of those freshmen off to a good start after a successful fall. An all-state sprinter at Conestoga High School in Pennsylvania, Ricci's speed gives the Loyola staff options and may use him on the wings of face-offs.
Brian Gormley and Ryan Cunningham are solid options as well. Gormley, a redshirt freshman, and Cunningham, a first-year player, are both from upstate New York and bring a necessary toughness to the position.
It's hard to replace three quality defensive starters like Dan Gross, Grant Halford and Geoff Hunter, but that's exactly what the Loyola defense will have to do after the graduation of all three. Last year's unit, which allowed seven of fewer goals in seven games, will have fresh faces in 2006, but the coaches aren't concerned.
Filling the shoes of Gross, who was drafted by New Jersey in the Major League Lacrosse draft this past winter, will be junior Michael Graham, who returns after an ankle injury in last season's opening game. A big defender at 6-3, 215-pounds, Graham began last season as a starting defenseman. Now that he's healthy, the expectations are back and he's ready to fulfill them.
Helping out Graham will be his younger brother Eddie Graham and the emergence of junior David Moore. Playing his first college game last season, Moore has developed nicely, and with a good mind for the game, is ready to challenge for a starting spot. Eddie Graham saw action in Loyola's sixth-ranked man-down defense last season and plays a physical game that the coaches like.
Sophomores Matt Curran and Todd Osterman have done their best to impress their coaches this off-season and look for breakout years in the defense. Curran is a big body with a strong left hand and despite battling injuries in the fall, has improved his skills in the early spring. Osterman was asked to play up top as a pole and has moved back down low where he should get more comfortable and vie for time.
Junior Manny Batten makes the squad deep, and adding freshmen Eric Kohl and Sean Hecker to mix give the Greyhounds plenty to work with. Kohl, a defender with good feet, and Hecker, Loyola's only Ohio native, should develop into very good Division I defenders.
Last year, the face-offs were handled by committee. Rabidou, Spack and Jeff Russell took the vast majority with some degree of success. Rabidou, who won 22-of-41 (.537) did well using his speed and quickness. Spack, who had a solid year in the face-off x, winning 33-of-69 (.478), was also bothered by a bad back and saw his win percentage suffer.
This year, Rabidou and Spack are expected to lead a leading role with Perry and freshman Michael Atkinson also in the rotation. Perry worked on his face-off skills this fall and saw some action along with Atkinson, a 6-0 freshman from Kensington, Md.
The perfect mix of veteran leadership and young talent is on display in Loyola's goalie unit. A pair of fifth-year seniors mentors two freshman goalies and all four make each other better every day, making the squad as deep as its ever been."The chemistry between goalies has allowed this unit to develop," says Coach Toomey. "They help each other out at practice and on game day. We have four good goalies."
Fretwell returns as the starter, garnering ECAC Goalie of the Year honors last season. Posting an 8.31 goals against average in 2005, the third-year starter has taken on the responsibility and ownership of the defense. Last year, Fretwell posted 19 saves in the season opener with Towson and continued to serve as the team's backbone the whole year.Rodgers, another fifth-year leader, played very well in the fall. He closed out last season with a career-high five saves against Johns Hopkins and also saw solid minutes against Syracuse. Having been around the program and played in many big games, Rodgers and Fretwell will work with Connor Locke and Alex Peaty as the season goes on.
Locke took a redshirt last year and has already soaked up a lot of knowledge from his seniors and coaches. His competitiveness and desire to get better has made him a good Division I goalie. Peaty, a true freshman from Victoria, British Columbia, continues to develop and impress. Rated one of the nation's Top-10 college recruits by Inside Lacrosse magazine this past summer, Peaty had a good fall and has the potential to become a great goalie at Loyola.