Loyola breathing easier

Greyhounds: Despite having a number of questions coming into the season, the No. 7-ranked 'Hounds have scored 30 goals in starting 2-0, but they will have their hands full against No. 6 Duke today.

March 11, 2000|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,SUN STAFF

One of their top defensemen has been unable to play because of a broken hand. The heart of their midfield is gimpy with a sore hamstring. Their goalkeeping situation is unsettled at best. They are discovering some new offensive weapons after losing their top four scorers from last year's team.

Yet business as usual goes on for the Loyola Greyhounds men's lacrosse team.

The No. 7 Greyhounds have scored 30 goals in their first two games, rolling to a 2-0 start on the road. They are looking to extend their NCAA Division I-best, 25-game regular-season winning streak in today's home opener against No. 6 Duke at Curley Field.

And to think Loyola coach Dave Cottle was the picture of anxiety two weeks ago, before the Greyhounds opened their season at Delaware.

Back then, defenseman Joe Rodrigues was three weeks removed from having a cast placed on the hand he had broken in practice. Midfielder Peter Haas had barely practiced because of a hamstring problem. And who was going to step forward to replace all of that scoring from last year's 12-1 team?

Then Loyola opened with a 14-3 rout at Delaware, before dropping Hofstra on the road, 16-12.

Not that Cottle is relaxing. Duke is 3-0, looking like potential Final Four material and averaging 13 goals a game.

Rodrigues, one of the team's leaders, still is doubtful for the game. Haas, who recorded a goal and an assist at Hofstra after missing the Delaware game, also might sit out against the Blue Devils. And between junior Jason Born and freshman Mark Bloomquist, the Greyhounds have yet to find a top goalie. They split time last week, after Born suffered a back injury.

"We've definitely improved since our scrimmages, and we've answered some questions offensively [since the season began]," Cottle said. "I'm surprised by the scoring, because we've had some guys in strange positions or playing multiple positions. That's tough [for the opponent] to guard, but it's also tough to organize.

"This is not a great matchup for us right now. Duke has good size and athleticism at the offensive end, and we're small on defense. But our middies can really run, and we're tough to beat at home. We need the ball [against Duke]. We can't play the game in our defensive end."

Cottle has reason to worry about that part of the field. For starters, Loyola has yet to find a full-time replacement for graduated goalie Jim Brown, a four-year starter. For the time being, the starter will be determined by which goalkeeper wields the hotter hand in practice.

Whoever gets the nod today will he hard-pressed to neutralize Duke's attack trio of T. J. Durnan, Jared Frood and Greg Patchak. They already have combined for 36 points. Durnan leads the Blue Devils with 10 goals and five assists.

Born or Bloomquist will need help from a patchwork defense that has gotten considerable help in Rodrigues' absence. Bryan England, normally a defensive midfielder, drew praise from Cottle on close defense. Freshman Jim Fink has given the Greyhounds some excellent minutes at defensive midfield, and middies like Michael Sullivan and David Mascarella have put their increased minutes to effective use.

When the season opened, Cottle was counting heavily on Tim and Gunnar Goettelman to carry the scoring, along with Haas and midfielder Mike Battista. But the standout of the young season has been junior Gavin Prout, a former midfielder.

A week ago, Prout carried Loyola with six goals and three assists.

"We weren't figuring on Prout going six and three against Hofstra, but he's a clever inside player," said Cottle, who also has shuffled Bobby Horsey between midfield and attack. Horsey has three goals and four assists.

The game could come down to the goalies and the faceoff men. Duke's Matt Breslin is coming off Atlantic Coast Conference Player of the Week honors after getting 13 saves in a 9-8 victory over Maryland. Breslin stopped the Terps on three of four extra-man chances.

Duke's Scott Bross is one of the nation's top faceoff specialists. He has won 33 of 55 attempts (60 percent). As a team, the Blue Devils have won 62 percent of their faceoff chances. Loyola counters with Joe Maier.

NOTE: For updates on national college lacrosse scores after today's games, click on www.sunspot.net/sports.

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