This past Saturday down at Loyola University, the Villanova men's lacrosse team scrimmaged the defending NCAA champion Loyola Greyhounds to wrap up their fall ball schedule. Although only a scrimmage, it doesn't hurt to face off against the reigning champs. Getting the freshman some college lacrosse experience on the field before the season starts in the spring is crucial for any program. Inside Lacrosse contributor Matt Kinnear attended the scrimmage and wrote up some of his thoughts on the contest.
Villanova and Loyola both closed their fall scrimmage schedules with a matchup Saturday at the Hounds' Ridley Athletic Complex on a sunny but brisk fall day in Baltimore. Unofficially, Loyola won 14-10, but as in all exhibition competition in the fall, the game was more about teams seeing where they are and what they need to work on.
Here are a few impressions:
Wildcats coach Mike Corrado called the scrimmage a good "measuring stick" game against top-tier performance in Division I lacrosse. Villanova is replacing a good chunk of its offensive production from 2012: Kevin Cunningham (43 points, team lead), C.J. Small (32), Matt Bell (23), Michael Vigilante (22).
That's not to say the cupboard is dry at Villanova. The offense still had a similar look as it did last year, once the Wildcats get into the six-on-six, there's quick ball movement and action, always looking for the open man and mixing in inverts. The attack of Jack Rice (on the crease), Will Casertano and Nick Doherty comprises all seniors, so they've been building a chemistry for four years, Corrado said after the game.
Also impressive on attack was freshman Tim Mulrenan, who saw time on man-up and had at least one goal. Villanova's man-up was impressive, with the quick ball movement that defines the team . There were a few shots from bad angles, but they were backed up and allowed the Wildcats to restart quickly with no problem. Cunningham's role will be difficult to replace, but the options at attack could give Corrado more go-to-the-goal options.
Christian Bennardo, another senior attackman, was not playing with what Corrado called minor tweaks and injury.
Another freshman impressed in Jack Curran, a midfielder out of New Jersey. Curran provided a legitimate dodging threat from up top (though Loyola has some great d-middies; I'm curious to see him dodge against a different team). Max Hart stood out as impressive on the midfield as well.
The Wildcats biggest struggles came in the middle of the field. Loyola dominated face-offs in the first half. I counted one Villanova win in the first half. This isn't a surprise, because Villanova's main draw man, Thomas Croonquist, is sidelined after shoulder surgery. Developing a second face-off guy is something Corrado said would be necessary going into the season. Michael Tsiang, a sophomore, took most of the draws for Villanova. There were many instances he won the draw, but Loyola won the groundball war and quickly pounced on the loose ball. This improved for the Wildcats as the game went on.
The defense struggled against Loyola's attack behind the net, but I'm weary to put blame on the Wildcats: Loyola's attack is just very good and athletic.
My lasting impression from Villanova is that the future looks bright. The freshman that played seemed collegiate ready. Cunningham's loss hurts, but not as much as I expected. Goalie Greg Stamatov, a freshman, started the game and though he gave up five goals, he had a solid performance while being peppered with Loyola shots early. I could see Stamatov starting and giving Villanova a solid option in net, a place where they have struggled in recent years. If the Wildcats can clean up things in the middle of the field, improve a bit on clearing and riding, they should be fine this season.