Scouting Loyola: The five things you need to know about Yale’s quarterfinal opponent

Courtesy Steve Musco

The No. 3 Yale men’s lacrosse team will make the program’s fourth appearance in an NCAA quarterfinal this Saturday when it takes on No. 6 Loyola in Hempstead, New York at noon.

The Greyhounds enter Saturday’s game after a 14–12 win over Virginia in the first round. The Patriot League champions share a lot in common with the Bulldogs. Both teams possess one of the nation’s best offensive players, boast defenses that give up just 8.8 goals per game and have lost one-goal games to Bucknell this season.

Loyola will be one of the most-balanced teams that Yale has faced. The News breaks down the five things Yale fans need to know about the Greyhounds:

1) They have a Ben Reeves too

Yale captain and attacker Ben Reeves ’18 has been one of five finalists for the Tewaaraton Award — college lacrosse’s Heisman Trophy for the nation’s best player — each of the last two seasons. So has Loyola attacker Pat Spencer. Spencer ranks fourth in the nation with 5.69 points per game while Reeves sits in fifth place with 5.65.

The two stars have similar playing styles. Loyola lists Spencer at six-foot-three; Yale puts Reeves at six-foot-two. They both combine an ability to post up defenders with deceptive speed. Like Reeves, Spencer has a laser for a shot, but looks to pass first — a quality that ranks the junior third in the nation in assists.

Yale first-team All-American defender Chris Fake ’21 has already faced a fellow first team All-American earlier this year in his two games against Cornell’s Jeff Teat. Fake will likely match up with Spencer, giving the rookie possibly his biggest test of the year.

2) They have never lost to Yale

Loyola has won all three of the previous meetings between the two teams. The most notable of those three meetings came in the 1990 Final Four. That year, the Greyhounds beat Yale 14–13 in double overtime before falling to Syracuse in the championship game. The 1990 Bulldogs were the last Yale team to a reach a Final Four, and it is only fitting that the Greyhounds stand in the way of the Elis’ first appearance in 28 years.

The most recent meeting between the two teams came in 2004. The Greyhounds hosted and won 12–8, although Yale did jump out to an early 2–0 lead.

3) They have big-game experience

Like Yale, Loyola has appeared in six of the last seven NCAA Tournaments. However, unlike the Bulldogs, the Greyhounds have turned those appearances into tournament success. Loyola won the national championship in 2012 and reached the Final Four just two years ago.

Loyola’s upperclassmen have been to Championship Weekend, and so has its coaching staff. Offensive coordinator Marc Van Arsdale won three national titles as an assistant coach at Virginia. Head coach Charley Toomey not only coached the Greyhounds to the 2012 title, but was also the goaltender on the 1990 team that beat Yale and reached the championship game.

4) They force a lot of turnovers

While Spencer and the offense draw much of the attention, Loyola’s defense is one of the nation’s best, ranking 13th in the country in goals against average. First-team All-American defender Foster Huggins leads the way for a unit that has few weaknesses.

The Greyhound defense is best at taking away the ball, ranking second in Division I in caused turnovers with an astounding 10 per game. A Yale team that committed 18 turnovers against Massachusetts in the first round will have to do a better job taking care of the ball on Saturday.

5) They struggle on faceoffs

If Loyola has a flaw, it is at the faceoff X. The Greyhounds rank 56th of the 69 Division I lacrosse programs in faceoff percentage, winning a meager 43.2 percent of their draws.  

With one of the nation’s top-five offenses, Loyola scores when it gets the ball — but winning possession has been a challenge. The Greyhounds lost the faceoff battle in all three of their losses this season. Against No. 4 Duke, which beat them 13–9, the Greyhounds won just eight of 25 faceoffs.

Yale’s best defense against Spencer and a prolific supporting cast that includes third-team All-American midfielder Jay Drapeau might be faceoff specialist Conor Mackie ’18. The senior has won 64.3 percent of his faceoffs this year, and might hold the key to keeping the ball out of Spencer and company’s sticks.