After winning it all in 2012, the Loyola Greyhounds suffered a heart breaking overtime loss in the first round of the 2013 NCAA Tournament to the eventual National Champion Duke. Loyola regains lots of the talent that made them a great team last season. The loss of Mike Sawyer will certainly hurt, but there are some other weapons ready to make an impact.
Attack: The aforementioned Sawyer was the biggest part of the Greyhound offense last year, but he has graduated. Captain Justin Ward will now be the number one attackman on the unit. Ward has consistently played well over the past couple years, and is a great quarterback for the offense. He posted 27 goals and 35 assists last year, and is the leading offensive contributor who is returning to the team. Junior Niko Pontrello is a talented dodger who will create lots of opportunities for Loyola. Pontrello had 16 goals and 19 assists last year. Rounding out the unit is 19 goal scorer Zach Herreweyers. This Canadian shooter is extremely creative with the ball and is the best finisher on the team. EMO specialist Brian Schultz will see time on regular offense this year as well.
Midfield: Matt Sawyer (younger brother of Mike) was a reserve player his first three years but will run with the first midfield this spring. After putting up four goals last season, Sawyer will certainly improve his numbers in 2014. Jeff Chase started this fall, and will bring a deadly shot on the run to the unit. Chase has struggled with injuries in the past, but will be a big asset if he can stay healthy. Canadian Tyler Albrecht is a powerful dodger who has good vision. Also looking to contribute is senior Kevin Ryan, who had six goals last year. This is an area of inexperience for Loyola, so they’ll need some younger players to step up. Also, the upperclassmen who haven’t played much in the past will have to make the most of their opportunities.
FOGO: Blake Burkhart won 49% of his faceoffs last year, but will improve on that number this year. Burkhart earned national attention when his game winning goal against Duke was nullified by a timeout by Coach Charlie Toomey. However, Burkhart is a talented faceoff man who will need to get the Loyola offense lots of fast break opportunities.
LSM: There are three options at this position. Seniors Thomas Robinson and Derek Zook, and sophomore Jason Crane. All three played in the fall, and all three looked good. One of these poles will have to emerge as the true starter in the spring, as it is unclear who it will be going into the year.
Defense: Senior Joe Fletcher is the undisputed leader of this unit. Fletcher is the only collegiate player still on the Team USA roster, and he will likely have another great spring season after scooping up 64 groundballs and causing 17 turnovers last year. Junior Pat Frazier had 24 groundballs and 12 caused turnovers after starting 14 games last season. Frazier is a former walk-on with great speed. The third starter will likely be junior David Manning. Manning is a great crease defender, and emerged as the favorite to start during the fall. Also in the mix is sophomore Justin Verratti, but only if he can stay healthy.
Goalie: Jack Runkel has been the guy for the past couple of seasons for Loyola. Runkel is a great verbal leader for the Greyhound defense, and the six foot three keeper will look to return to his postseason success this year. Runkel stopped 54% of the shots that came his way last year, and averaged 8.78 goals against him.
Overall: Loyola will certainly miss Mike Sawyer offensively, but their attack unit looks ready to develop and rack up points. Midfield is a bit of a question mark, but the defense and goalie are solid. Led by players like Ward, Fletcher, and Runkel, the Greyhounds have a chance to make a serious run in the Patriot League.
For more NCAA D1 Lacrosse coverage, check out Alphabetical 2013 NCAA D1 Preview: Air Force, Albany, Army, Bellarmine, Binghamton, Boston, Brown, Bryant, Bucknell, Canisius,
Colgate, Cornell, Dartmouth, Delaware, Detroit, Drexel, Duke, Fairfield, Furman,
Georgetown, Hartford, Harvard, High Point, Hobart, Hofstra, Holy Cross, Jacksonville, Johns Hopkins, Lafayette and Lehigh