2022 NCAA Lacrosse Preview: No. 7 Loyola (Men)

PHOTO BY JOHN STROHSACKER

Quite possibly the best long pole in the country, Ryan McNulty’s transition skills are perfectly suited for a Loyola team that relies on its rope unit to help push the pace.


The 2022 college lacrosse season is nearly upon us. As is our annual tradition, we’re featuring every team ranked in the Nike/USA Lacrosse Preseason Top 20.

Check back to USALaxMagazine.com each weekday this month for new previews, scouting reports and rival analysis.

NO. 7 LOYOLA

2021 Record: 10-6 (4-3 Patriot League)
Final Ranking (2021): No. 8
Coach: Charley Toomey (17th year)

It seemed every time he turned around in the fall, Loyola coach Charley Toomey saw a player who was a significant part of last year’s remarkable in-season turnaround.

Or a guy who was steeped in the Greyhounds’ long-running identity.

Or, most importantly, had been around Cold Spring Lane for a long, long time.

Loyola is, in a word, old. It has fifth-year starters returning on attack (Kevin Lindley and Aidan Olmstead). And at the faceoff X (Bailey Savio). And on the rope unit (long pole Ryan McNulty). And on close defense (Matt Hughes and Kyle LeBlanc). And in the cage (Sam Shafer).

Toss in midfielder Dan Wigley, a part-time starter last season, and there’s a good chance the Greyhounds will have a fifth-year player playing a prominent role on every unit when they open Feb. 12 at Maryland. In all, 10 graduate students pepper Loyola’s roster.

And unlike the juggling act of mixing in transfers who played four seasons elsewhere, which last year illustrated can prove challenging, there’s no need to integrate those veterans.

They, in fact, are the ones doing the integrating.

“I feel like those guys that had that fifth-year issues were dealing more from a transfer fifth-year situation, not guys that are matriculating and staying within your program,” Toomey said. “Those are the guys you are leaning on to maintain the culture. They’re the ones who have been through it and can articulate the importance of right and wrong and the way we do things and really hold guys that are younger than them accountable, as well as their own class.”

NIKE/USAL PRESEASON TOP 20
TEAM PREVIEWS

1. Virginia

2. Maryland

3. Duke

4. Georgetown

5. Notre Dame

6. North Carolina

7. Loyola

8. Yale

9. Penn

10. Rutgers

11. Lehigh

12. Denver

13. Army

14. Syracuse

15. Johns Hopkins

16. Delaware

17. Drexel

18. Cornell

19. Vermont

20. Bryant

All that experience means it is easy to imagine these Greyhounds going deep into May. They’ve made a pair of trips to Memorial Day Weekend in Toomey’s tenure. The 2012 team, overlooked in the preseason, played at a high level all season and won the program’s only national title.

Four years later, freshmen at both ends of the field — attackman Pat Spencer and goalie Jacob Stover — were pivotal in a push to the semifinals.

It almost happened again last year, though no one would have seen it coming when Loyola was 5-5 in mid-April. Yet it won four in a row to close the regular season, including a galvanizing defeat of Georgetown, then fended off Denver in the first round of the NCAA tournament on Shafer’s point-blank save in the closing seconds.

The run ended in overtime a week later with an overtime loss to Duke, but even that illustrated how the Greyhounds rediscovered themselves in midstream. And now, the bulk of that team is back.

Of the 15 Greyhounds who recorded at least three points last season, only midfielder Peter Swindell (19 goals, 15 assists) departed. There’s a strong case to be made that Loyola’s biggest hole to fill is ace short stick Matt Higgins, a valued part of the Greyhounds’ vaunted rope unit.

“We are a very senior-laden team,” Toomey said. “A lot of veterans out there. We were happy with just the fact we were able to take a couple months off from the Duke loss and come back and have energy but also feel like there’s unfinished business. I think it’s a group of guys that believes they have a chance to be good.”

Like so many other programs, things started to return to something closer to normal in the fall semester. The Greyhounds’ sophomores were around, unlike last year when the dorms were closed. The team took its annual retreat, an experience Toomey has come to value greatly.

He knows it isn’t precisely the same team, but couldn’t help but come away encouraged about this group’s potential.

“I liked what I saw in the practices,” Toomey said. “I liked us up at the retreat the way we talked to each other. I felt really good about what we have returning.”






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TOP RETURNERS

Kevin Lindley, A, Gr.

Already Loyola’s career goals leader (158), Lindley could make a run at becoming the fifth Division I player to hit the 200-goal plateau. The others: Penn State’s Mac O’Keefe (221), Duke’s Justin Guterding (212), Zack Greer (206) of Duke and Bryant and Maryland’s Jared Bernhardt (202).

Ryan McNulty, LSM, Gr.

Quite possibly the best long pole in the country, McNulty’s transition skills are perfectly suited for a Loyola team that relies on its rope unit to help push the pace. A sixth-year player, McNulty had 19 caused turnovers and 46 ground balls last season to go with four goals and six assists.

Aidan Olmstead, A, Gr.

Set to become a five-year starter, Olmstead set career highs in goals (31) and assists (29) in 2021 and is poised to again be the Greyhounds’ table setter this spring.

KEY ADDITION

Davis Lindsey, A, R-Fr.

After missing all of last season because of injury, Lindsey is one of several options (along with versatile incumbent Evan James and also-fresh-off-injury Joey Kamish) who could fill Loyola’s third attack slot. “I don’t think anybody in the country sees Davis Lindsey like we do,” Toomey said. “He probably has one of the better skillsets on the offensive end.”

BREAKOUT CANDIDATE

Seth Higgins, M , So.

The sophomore already started to emerge late last season, scoring nine of his 14 points in the Greyhounds’ final five games. “He kind of came back with that mindset of, ‘I can be a little more aggressive out here,” Toomey said. “We’ve kind of seen that translate from last spring into this fall. He’ll be a captain for Loyola at some point. You get that sense not only based on him as a player, but how he goes about his business off the field as well.”

ENEMY LINES

What rival coaches say about the Greyhounds:

“Isn’t everyone coming back? That’s impressive.”

“They’re one of the best-coached teams in the country. If they end up in the final four, it would not surprise me. I think they are loaded everywhere. If they get healthy with their entire offensive lineup back, they will be a bear. ”

BEYOND THE BASICS
POWERED BY LACROSSE REFERENCE

6.72

I’ll be interested to see if Joey Kamish can stay healthy and if he can carry forward his remarkable efficiency into 2022. Kamish was the second-most efficient player in the nation during his injury-shortened season a year ago. His 6.72 usage-adjusted EGA came from a 14-point effort (across five games) in which he had more ground balls (5) than turnovers (4). — Zack Capozzi

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