No Spencer, No Scanlan, No Problem at Loyola?


Aidan Olmstead returns to Loyola as one of its offensive leaders, pouring in 25 goals and 21 assists last season.

There were few surprises woven into Loyola’s offense the last four seasons, and for good reason. The Greyhounds could place the ball in attackman Pat Spencer’s stick, and good things would usually happen.

Many times, really good things would happen.

Spencer capped his time in college lacrosse with a Tewaaraton Award last spring, a capstone to one of the greatest careers of his generation. He’s off playing basketball at Northwestern this fall. For its part, Loyola is doggedly moving on.

“I can tell you we like what we’re seeing early,” coach Charley Toomey said. “We’re really sharing the ball. It’s fun to coach again. You can’t just roll the ball out and expect one guy to dominate it.”

You would expect no other sentiment from Toomey, the Loyola alum who led the Greyhounds to a national title in 2012 and has largely kept them tethered to the top 10 ever since. His experience — along with that of veteran coordinators Marc Van Arsdale and Matt Dwan — makes Loyola well-equipped to adjust to life without Spencer. A staff as tested as Loyola’s knows there is nothing new under the sun.

It helps, too, to field a pair of proven commodities on attack in juniors Kevin Lindley and Aidan Olmstead. Lindley scored 60 goals as the Greyhounds’ top finisher last season. Olmstead collected 25 goals and 21 assists despite missing two games.

Sure, both Lindley and Olmstead benefited from playing with Spencer. But Toomey believes they will still be difference-makers, especially given their familiarity with each other over the last two seasons.

“Right now, it’s about creating the culture we want and embracing what is right and what is wrong and how we do the little things and how we handle things off the field,” Toomey said. “I need vocal leadership from those two guys. I think both sides of the field are looking for an identity but also looking for leaders. Those two young men are guys that coach Van is going to lean on.”

Loyola knew all along it would need a seasoned attack unit to make up for Spencer’s departure. It didn’t anticipate midfielder Chase Scanlan’s transfer to Syracuse after his freshman year, leaving a 43-goal hole in the midfield.

Yet even that might not completely trip up the Greyhounds as they adjust their scheme to account for Spencer’s departure.

“With Chase, you had a very talented player who really scored a lot of goals that were created out of the two-man game with Pat,” Toomey said. “I don’t know if we’re built to play like that, anyway. We don’t have a Pat to run pick-and-rolls with. We have to ask our middies to be unselfish with the ball and find the right look for Loyola.”

While the transfer market taketh from Loyola, it also giveth. The Greyhounds added former Bellarmine midfielder Riley Seay, who earned the Southern Conference’s freshman of the year honor while scoring 30 goals for the Knights last season.

How well those numbers translate to the Patriot League and Loyola’s arduous nonconference schedule remains to be seen. But Toomey was impressed with Seay even as they toured campus over the summer and believes the newcomer will be a significant plus in the locker room.

“He’s a very unselfish kid that is another lefty that can get down the alley and plays a lot like Danny Wigley — almost being the same, with one a righty and one a lefty,” Toomey said.

Yet the external question hanging over the Hounds isn’t about who’s new, but who is gone. Loyola went 49-19 with four NCAA tournament appearances, three trips to the quarterfinals and a spot in the 2016 semifinals during Spencer’s career.

It’s worth noting that in the four years prior to his arrival, Loyola was 51-15 with three NCAA trips and a national title. That’s not to say Loyola will not need time to adjust. At the same time, it is a program built on more than one player.

“Pat’s not the only Tewaaraton finalist we’ve had,” Toomey said. “We’ve had them on the defensive end and the offensive end. The fact is that we’ve been to the final four twice, once with Pat and once we won a championship without Pat. We feel like we have the players in our locker room to help us win a lot of games this season but also going forward."


Goalie Battle

There is an early favorite to step in at goalie. And it would be junior Sam Shafer, who played in three games over the last two seasons, compiling a 7.83 goals-against average and a .700 save percentage in little more than 23 minutes of work.

Understandably, playing time was scarce behind Jacob Stover, a first team all-America selection last season. But Shafer started both games in Loyola’s trip to Portugal in early June, and Toomey said he played well.

“He is, in my opinion, the next guy,” Toomey said.

Two others figure to push Shafer for the job. Sophomore Freeman Whitaker is out for the fall with a knee injury, while freshman Colton Teitelbaum has made an early impression. “There’s a strong desire for him not to wait his turn and earn time,” Toomey said.

Midfield Depth

Loyola could rely on depth rather than a single star in the midfield. While Spencer’s graduation understandably is viewed as the biggest departure on offense, Loyola also must replace its entire starting midfield. Scanlan transferred, while John Duffy and P.J. Brown graduated.

Scanlan and Duffy combined for 63 goals and their production won’t be easily replaced. The leading scorers among the returnees are senior Peter Swindell and junior Dan Wigley, who both had seven goals last season.

“I feel like Peter Swindell and Danny Wigley are two guys that have played a lot of lacrosse for Loyola,” Toomey said. “We’re going to ask those guys to lead that group. Coming into the office after only three practices, we feel like we have eight or nine guys who can compete for the top six. That’s a real positive.”

Strength of Schedule

Expect the same schedule in the spring. Toomey, a former member of the NCAA lacrosse committee, understands the value of strength of schedule for tournament selection purposes. Little surprise the Greyhounds will take on the same slate — Georgetown, Johns Hopkins, Rutgers, Towson and defending national champion Virginia — outside the Patriot League.

“Wouldn’t change a thing,” Toomey said. “Kids want to play the best teams. We didn’t play that schedule because of Pat Spencer. We play it because we want to recruit to it.”

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