`A full test'

ON LACROSSE

'Hounds can make statement by defeating Hoyas

Loyola vs. Georgetown

April 09, 2008|By MIKE PRESTON

The "other game" is down the street a mile or two, and for the two participants, it has just as much significance.

The Georgetown at Loyola game won't draw the crowd of the storied Maryland-Johns Hopkins series at Homewood Field on Saturday, but there will be a lot of anxious moments at Loyola's Diane Geppi-Aikens Field.

Georgetown is 7-2 overall, 3-0 in the Eastern College Athletic Conference. Loyola is 5-4, 4-0 in the conference. The winner takes sole possession of first place and the lead for an automatic bid for the NCAA tournament.

"Big game coming," Loyola coach Charley Toomey said, whistling to emphasize the importance. "Everyone knows the conference championship has gone through Georgetown the last four years. This game will result in the clear-cut leader at this point of the season."

Besides playoff ramifications, it's also interesting because the two teams have done 180-degree turns.

Before Dave Urick became the coach at Georgetown 18 years ago, Loyola dominated the series with a 16-2 record. Toomey remembers some of those days. He was an All-America goalkeeper on the Loyola teams in the late 1980s and early 1990s that smacked around those Georgetown teams.

But Urick has gained ground on Loyola and the rest of the top teams in the sport. He has a 172-67 record at Georgetown and has made it to the playoffs 10 straight years, advancing to at least the quarterfinal round in seven of those.

He is 5-8 against Loyola, and one of the classiest men in the game. The teams have split their past two meetings.

"[He] has done a great job with that program," Toomey said of Urick, who has a .752 winning percentage in 25 years of coaching. "They are a perennial quarterfinal team every year, and they're looking forward to taking that next step.

"I've told our guys how we used to dominate them, but not anymore. I have told them that the last time we played them here that we won, so I think we will have some confidence."

Toomey, in his third season, is trying to get the Greyhounds back to national prominence on a regular basis. Loyola was 6-6 in his first season, and 7-5 last year while earning a postseason berth.

In the past two seasons, Toomey has watched his team beat national powers such as Duke, Syracuse and Georgetown, but the Greyhounds lack consistency.

So far this season, Loyola hasn't beaten any of the traditional favorites on its schedule, such as Notre Dame, Duke and Syracuse. The only close game among the three was a 7-6 loss to Notre Dame in the season opener.

Against Georgetown on Saturday, the Greyhounds have a chance to make a statement.

"Against Georgetown, we're going to have to bring our `A' game," Toomey said. "Right now, we're playing smart defense, as good a defense as any team I've been around. We're matching up well and limiting the shots on our young goalie.

"Offensively, we've played well in spots against top-10 teams, but not well enough. This is a chance to see where we fall. We're going to have to play at full tilt."

For Loyola to win, the Greyhounds have to stop Georgetown attackmen Brendan Cannon (16 goals, 19 assists) and Andrew Baird (21, 7). Cannon, a senior, is an outstanding dodger who can also pass. When he is on, the Hoyas are hard to beat. He is their clutch performer in the last five minutes of a game.

Georgetown also has one of the game's best defensemen in Jerry Lambe, a senior from North Massapequa, N.Y., who has twice shut down Duke attackman Matt Danowski during their college careers. Lambe doesn't mind engagement and is a takeaway specialist.

Loyola should be able to stay with Georgetown's offense, but the key will be manufacturing goals. The Greyhounds will get big games from attackmen Shane Koppens (10 goals, 18 assists), Cooper MacDonnell (18, 3) and Matt Langan (11, 3) but will need increased production out of attackman Jake Willcox (8, 2) and midfielder Paul Richards (7, 2).

"This will be a full test, from top to bottom for us," Toomey said.

mike.preston@baltsun.com

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