Tuesday's entry is the seventh and final installment of a week-long series taking a look at each of the seven Division I programs in this state according to their order of finish from last season. Check back Wednesday for the start of another series previewing each of the eight Division III programs in Maryland, and The Sun's lacrosse preview is slated to be published on Friday, Feb. 8. This is
Overview: The bar has been set. After finishing 2011 with an 8-5 record and an absence from the
Reason for optimism: An offense that ranked eighth in Division I in scoring by averaging 12.1 goals returns five of six starters. But the biggest hole was created by the graduation of attackman
Reason for pessimism: Hit the rewind button as faceoffs are once again an area of concern for Loyola. With J.P. Dalton (206 of 394 for 52.3 percent and 57 groundballs) gone, the competition has boiled down to sophomore Blake Burkhart and junior Brendan Donovan, a former specialist at Robert Morris. Toomey and volunteer assistant coach Steve Vaikness, who has overseen faceoffs since 2007, are open to a rotation, which could include senior midfielder Davis Butts and senior long-stick midfielder Scott Ratliff. "I think that's something that remains to be seen, but I would probably say that Blake Burkhart is probably going to get the majority of them, and Brendan Donovan would be coming off the bench when he needs a spell," Toomey said. "And when we couldn't win meaningful draws last year, we're not opposed to putting Ratliff or Butts up there."
Keep an eye on: The void created by Lusby's departure is a significant one, but that doesn't mean that the team won't fill it. Junior Brian Schultz and freshman Zachary Herreweyers have been solid, but sophomore Nikko Pontrello is poised to build on the four goals and six assists that he registered last season. "Nikko's been the guy who has been down there, and I'd be hard-pressed to say that Nikko won't be starting for us," Toomey said. "I would say that's he's probably our guy. I think you see it in terms of his confidence. He was running out of the box as a second-line middie, and this year, the ball's in his stick an awful lot. We're asking him to attack that left side. We recognize that he's going to be very different from Eric Lusby, who was a pure shooter. Nikko's a guy that can break you down, and he gives us another dodger to go with."