Depth helps Loyola rise up

Lacrosse: No. 1-ranked Loyola doesn't have a player in the top 20 in scoring nationally, but its offense is as feared as any team's, thanks to its depth and balance.

April 09, 1999|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,SUN STAFF

Let's try to shut down Loyola's offense. Well, let's be realistic and at least attempt to slow it down.

Should teams look to slide early to the Greyhounds' dodgers and gamble they won't find the open man? Or should opponents play zone and pray Loyola's shooters have an off day?

Or how about rotating an extra long-stick defensemen up top on one of its midfielders? Or

So many proposals, too few solutions.

"The reason why they're so effective is that you can come up with a positive and negative with every defensive scheme," Notre Dame coach Kevin Corrigan said. "Anything you come up with that gives you a point, they have a counterpoint."

It's all about balance.

Top-ranked Loyola doesn't have a player in the nation's top 20 scorers. The Greyhounds don't have the endless list of overwhelming offensive statistics and aren't threatening any school scoring records.

Nevertheless, no one in the nation can match Loyola's offensive depth and complementary talent. Not even No. 4 Syracuse, which clashes with the Greyhounds at Curley Field tomorrow.

When Loyola coach Dave Cottle jokingly asked Syracuse coach John Desko not to let the Orangemen score 20 goals Saturday, Desko responded, "Yeah, only if you don't score 21."

Desko wasn't laughing; Loyola has that kind of potential. Just look at its options.

Five of the six players on the starting attack and first midfield are returning All-Americans and have started together since 1997. And the lone outsider of that group, attackman Tim Goettelmann, is the most improved player on the team.

So don't try to clamp down on any individual since Loyola has had a different leading goal scorer in five of its six games and its top six weapons have scored at least six goals.

"The most effective defense against Loyola is to win faceoffs, control the ball on offense and score," Brown coach Peter Lasagna said. "You have to pick your poison and get very hopeful that you won't get beat."

"We've seen a lot of defenses, and we've played through them," Cottle said. "Funny thing about older guys, they think less and just play."

The Greyhounds initiate most of their offense from the midfield, where Mark Frye and Mike Battista burn through man-to-man defenses to create unsettled situations. Opponents are forced to assign a short-stick defender on Loyola's third midfielder, Todd Vizcarrondo, the Greyhounds' most skilled player who has made many rethink that philosophy by scoring a team-leading 14 goals.

If teams try to double team the midfielders, that leaves the attack of Tim O'Shea, Gewas Schindler and Goettelmann wide open with their hands free to finish the ball in each of their different styles.

O'Shea uses his quickness to find space before unleashing his notorious sidearm shot. His left-handed counterpart, Schindler, hovers around the right side and relies on his crafty, box lacrosse skills to disrupt defenders.

But entering this season, Loyola still needed a dodger to complete its attack and banked on Goettelmann, who lost his starting job early last year and scored just nine times in 12 games. Now Goettelmann has watched his confidence grow as big as his 6-foot-3, 205-pound frame, powering his way around the crease to score on 58 percent of his shots and surpass last year's total by two.

"We have so many high scorers, you can't cover everyone," Schindler said. "A lot of teams might have three or four good defenders. But how many have five or six? We take advantage of that."

Loyola ranks fifth nationally in scoring at 13.7 goals per game, but first in pressure situations.

When faced with its first test of the season against Johns Hopkins a month ago, the Greyhounds controlled the game offensively, scoring 14 goals against first-team All-America goalkeeper Brian Carcaterra in the school's first win at Homewood.

When faced with its biggest deficit of the season on Saturday, Loyola's offense erased a three-goal, fourth-quarter Towson lead by scoring four times in a matter of 1: 37. That's a goal every 24 seconds.

"We all know when we need a goal or a big play, one of us will do it," said Frye, who scored twice in the six-goal fourth quarter against Towson. "It's not like we're not relying on one guy to do it. All six of us can do it."

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