Feb. 24, 2004
Baltimore, Md. - In its last year as an Independent, the men's lacrosse team enters 2004 with one thing on its mind - the NCAA tournament. Head Coach Bill Dirrigl and the Greyhounds will play another top-notch schedule and come into the season with abundant excitement and much guarded optimism.
The 2004 Greyhounds will be athletic, strong and primed for success; however, with 17 new faces on the roster, a lot of questions need to be answered before Dirrigl and 'Hounds know just how good of a team they'll be.
"Anytime that you have so many new faces, although there is talent there, you wonder what type of leadership, what type of commitment you have to be able to mold this team as quickly as possible," says Dirrigl. "We have to use all of these pieces of the puzzle to give us our best chance to win."
The infusion of so much talent has intensified positional competition at each and every practice. Fourteen freshmen and three transfers complement a number of solid returning players whom the Greyhounds will look to for leadership. With some starting positions seemingly filled and others wide open, healthy rivalries are building, making practices better and team much stronger.
"One thing that has been established at Loyola College is the tradition and commitment to playing at the highest level of lacrosse," says Dirrigl. "That's exactly what we plan on doing this year."
Here is breakdown, position-by-position
It's easy to be happy with your attack when you return a two-time All-America senior like Loyola does. Stephen Brundage is a tri-captain who has started every game in his collegiate career. He will lead the attack with two transfers, three freshmen and three returning attackmen all ready to make an impact.
Among the transfers is Matt Monfett, an attackman who scored 19 goals and added 15 assists in a Duke University uniform last season. A junior in eligibility, Monfett brings outstanding speed with both right- and left-handed skills that earned him a starting spot on the Blue Devils' attack the past two seasons. There is also Ryan Small, another ACC transfer, who comes from the University of Maryland. Small is a sophomore at Loyola and brings a great skill set for Dirrigl to work with. Both transfers are eager to play and each will get a shot to make immediate contributions to the Greyhound attack.
Both Chris Einhorn and Pat Shek enter their junior year ready to establish themselves in the Greyhound lineup. Shek scored four goals in five games while Eihorn registered two points playing in all 13 contests.
The Greyhounds have three freshmen listed at attack in Dan Bauers (Oakton, Va) and Ryan Rabidou (Somers. N.Y.). Each will make his own case for playing time and will look to Brundage, who led Loyola with 23 goals and 13 assists last season, for senior leadership.
"Stephen Brundage is a leader," says Dirrigl. "He makes players around him better and will help with the development of our younger guys."
The midfield is young as evidenced by the fact that there are no seniors listed at the position. Although it's young, the midfield does have depth with 16 players (plus shortsticks) whom Dirrigl can go to. The veterans, or juniors in this corps are Parker Adams, Mike Alfone, Craig Georgalas, John Halip, Nino Othman, Jeff Russell and C.J. Sinisgalli.
Adams comes off a serious knee injury that put an abrupt end to the 2003 season. A big, strong, physical player, Adams returns healthy and is expected to contribute after scoring seven goals his freshman season.
Othman's speed and strength contributed to his productivity last season. A transfer from Nassau Community College, he scored seven goals on 13 shot attempts. He played in 12 games last year and looks to be even more productive as his minutes increase.
One Greyhound who has played a lot of minutes over the past two years is Halip, who continually develops into a better player for Dirrigl. The Greyhounds are looking for big things from him his junior year, just as they are with Russell at the faceoff.
Sophomore Rayland Baxter will redshirt due to injury, but classmate Carter Perry will compete for time with Craig Georgalas, who plans on keeping the starting spot he won as a freshman last season. The son of a lacrosse coach, Georgalas' brother was a former All-America at Loyola while his twin is a starting defenseman at Cornell.
Coach Dirrigl calls Craig Georgalas an "old-school Middie," and knows that with Georgalas and company, the Greyhounds will be solid at midfield. Add in the freshmen class, rated as the top recruited midfield classes in the country by Inside Lacrosse Magazine, and Dirrigl's midfield looks to be solid for years to come.
Nine freshmen at midfield include Greg Leonard, a 6-3, 215-pound left- and right-handed player out of Broomall, Pa. who can create offense. Andrew Spack is an explosive, powerful and extremely athletic recruit from Lafayette, N.Y.
Big, strong recruits like Mark Stevenson (Greenwich, Conn.) and Matt Cassalia (Camillus, N.Y.) bring more an old-school feel to the midfield. Cassalia may see some time at faceoff while Joe Landry (Troy, Mich.) and Patrick Kennedy (Huntington, N.Y.) look to get on the scoreboard. Both bring good stickwork and have great hands.
Jordan Rabidou (Somers, N.Y.) is one-half of a twin combination. His brother Ryan is listed at the attack. Jordan's speed and knowledge of the game help him create offensive while Tony Ferreira (Shorham, N.Y.) mixes in offense, defense, groundballs and so forth to his all-around game. Cory Coffman, also out of North Carolina (Durham), has outstanding feet and athleticism that could help him pick up more minutes as the season goes on.
Close to the midfield, at defensive midfield, is a unit that Dirrigl feels could be one of the better units in Division I lacrosse. C.J. Sinisgalli and Mike Alfone are both juniors and bring a lot of athleticism to the table. Sinisgalli was a starter at midfield last season, but has moved to short stick and has brought his speed, endurance and toughness with him. Alfone, in a very impressive stat, has started every game he has dressed at Loyola.
Returning at longstick is Damian Hall, a starting captain with a drive and commitment to be the best. At 6-6, Hall makes his presence known on the field, while off the field he serves as president of the Student Athlete Advisory Council. Hall will direct a pair of redshirts on the field with Geoff Hunter being a redshirt sophomore and Steven Hess a redshirt freshman.
Hunter and Hess both have the potential and work ethic to make them successful on the Loyola defense. Hall, Hess and Hunter will all see time on a regular basis with freshman David Moore (Glenmoore, Pa.), also known for a tremendous work ethic and solid stick work, getting time as well.
Loyola returns three starters at close defense in seniors Bernie Cannon and David Shortt, as well as junior Matt Dupuis. The Greyhounds moved captain Grant Halford from midfield to close defense and sophomore Michael Graham's ability to contribute gives Dirrigl at least five viable candidates for starting jobs.
Cannon is the most established, being a two-year starter and an All-America candidate. Probably Loyola's best defensive player, he gets help from returning starters Shortt and Dupuis. Shortt, a very intelligent player, plays extremely well on the inside while Dupuis, just like Halford, was a former midfielder, who made the transition to close defense.
Halford gives Dirrigl's squad a great emotional lift. "He just competes," says Dirrigl. Now a captain, he will help aid in the development of Graham, sophomore Ryan Kelaher and freshman Manny Batten. With senior Sean McCloskey and junior Dan Gross competing for time, the close defense will once again be strong, particularly in man-down situations.
The goalie position is wide open with some strong candidates for Dirrigl. Junior Trae Rodgers has backed up the position for last two years and will put up a good fight to claim the starting position as his own. Mike Fretwell and Dan Glazer are both sophomores who will compete for time. Fretwell returns after a semester absence while Glazer was redshirted as a freshman. The Greyhounds also add transfer T.C. Behm into the candidate pool. Behm comes from the University of Maryland and expects a shot at the starting job.
"We have four goalkeepers who can all play," says Dirrigl. "We did lose a senior starter, but we're definitely deeper."
If the fall is any indication, the Greyhounds will be solid in goal. Rodgers was the starter until he broke his hand. Fretwell came in an did an excellent job while each goalkeeper has been productive when given the opportunity to play.
Ready To Roll
Coach Dirrigl knows that it will be dogfight for playing time and staring roles. With abundant athleticism and a commitment to excellence, this Greyhound squad is prepared for all of the challenges that 2004 will bring. Last season, Loyola's schedule was ranked the third toughest schedule in the nation, featuring seven playoff teams. This season it's just as tough, but Dirrigl believes in the old clich? "You have to beat the best to be the best."
The season begins this Saturday at Towson. Two television games (vs. Pennsylvania and vs. Johns Hopkins) and a return to Dirrigl's alma mater (at Syracuse) highlight the schedule. The Greyhounds are also a shared host of the 2004 Final Four and hope to be playing, not watching, at M&T Bank Stadium on Memorial Day weekend.
Blending talented youth with established All-Americas may not seem like much of a problem, but the speed at which chemistry is developed will be crucial in a season where every game counts. The Greyhounds aren't looking past anyone, but like what they see in Loyola's lacrosse future.
"Loyola has always prided itself as a top program," says Dirrigl. "The goal is always to get to the NCAA tournament and compete for a national championship. With only five seniors on our roster and a very strong underclass, we plan to continue to that strong tradition of excellence for quite some time."