Loyola D saves the day

No. 1 Greyhounds stifle Syracuse, 10-8

April 11, 1999|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,SUN STAFF

How many teams would like their chances of victory if they scored only 10 goals against high-powered Syracuse?

Loyola would bet its top ranking on it.

Carried by the nation's stingiest and most underappreciated defense, the Greyhounds smothered the sloppy No. 4 Orangemen, 10-8, before an overflow, standing-room-only crowd of 5,154 at Curley Field yesterday.

How incredible was this defensive feat?

Loyola (7-0) halted Syracuse's three-year, 23-game streak of double-figure scoring and held the Orangemen below 10 goals for only the eighth time in 170 games. The Greyhounds relied on a group effort to continually collapse on Ryan Powell and Matt Cutia, the country's highest-scoring duo, holding them to a combined total of two goals -- nearly five below their season average.

So while "defense wins championships" might be a cliche, Loyola's defensemen certainly paved the way for a second consecutive No. 1 seed for the Greyhounds in next month's NCAA tournament. The Greyhounds, winners of 18 straight regular-season games, face only one Top 10 team in their five remaining games.

"When you look at our schedule in the preseason, there were two games that were circled: Hopkins and Syracuse," Loyola coach Dave Cottle said. "For us to get a good seed in the tournament, we had to win these two games. We felt like if we got this one and take care of business the rest of the way, it would be hard to remove us [from the top seed] being 2-0 vs. top four teams."

And Loyola put this one away in almost mocking fashion.

Changing its isolation plays to offset the Greyhounds' defensive double teams, Syracuse (5-2) rushed back from a five-goal deficit by scoring four times in a 7 1/2-minute span to slice the lead to 8-7 just a minute into the fourth quarter.

Only 2 1/2 minutes later, the Orangemen looked to tie the game, but Matt Caione saw the Loyola slide coming at him and threw the ball into the middle of the defense. Greyhounds defenseman Tim O'Hara picked up the ground ball and found fleet-footed midfielder Mark Frye, who sprinted the ball upfield and gave way to Tim O'Shea.

O'Shea one-timed a pass across the defense to Gewas Schindler, who shoveled it off from his knees to an unmarked Tim Goettelmann on the crease. Making one high fake, Goettelmann beat goalkeeper Rob Mulligan to the near post to put Loyola ahead, 9-7, with 11: 03 remaining and the Orangemen never got within a goal again.

It marked the Greyhounds' third fast-break goal, a statistic underscored by the fact that Loyola shut out Syracuse's run-and-gun transition game.

"We talked all week that our biggest concern was their defensive middies do a great job breaking out and going on the fast break," Syracuse coach John Desko said. "After our offensive middies dodged and turned the ball over, we stood there and Loyola didn't. That could have been the difference there."

Ah, turnovers. Syracuse consistently couldn't rotate the ball to the open man, turning the ball over 24 times. Part of the fault goes lies in the Orangemen's lackadaisical play, but don't discount Loyola's plan of fastening down on Powell and Cutia.

The Greyhounds freely switched defensemen David Metz and Joe Rodrigues on them and always had O'Hara lurking behind, waiting to back up with a quick slide. The Orangemen, a strong dodging team who have received nearly 50 percent of their goals from the Powell-Cutia tandem, were forced to look for other options, which resulted in three times more turnovers than goals and countless perimeter shots.

That bided time for an up-and-down Greyhounds offense, which was paced by three goals from Frye and two goals each from O'Shea and Goettelmann, to increase a 4-1 first-quarter lead to an 8-3 advantage midway through the third quarter. So when Syracuse charged back to within a goal, the Loyola defense responded with a run of its own, allowing just one even-strength goal in the final 18: 15.

That's a common trend for Loyola, which appears to be undaunted by the task of having to replace three starting long-stick defenseman from a year ago. The Greyhounds, who have allowed an average of 6.3 goals per game, have held six of its seven opponents this season to eight goals or less.

But was keeping Syracuse to single digits a realistic expectation?

"That was the goal we had," said Loyola goalie Jim Brown, who recorded 17 saves. "We knew we could do it, though we weren't sure how we were going to get it done. But hey, we got it done."

Syracuse 1 1 4 2 -- 8

Loyola 4 1 3 2 -- 10

Goals: S -- Darcangelo 3, Cutia 2, Coffman 2, Solliday; L -- Frye 3, Goettelmann 2, O'Shea 2, Campbell, Vizcarrondo, Schindler. Assists: S -- Cutia 3, Caione, Powell; L -- O'Shea 3, Haas, Frye, Schindler. Saves: S -- Mulligan 15; L -- Brown 17.

Pub Date: 4/11/99

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