Well Army fans, we are here. The post season.
It all comes down to this.
Last Friday we saw the Black Knights beat a tenacious, talented BU team. That spoiled Boston’s regular season sweep of the Patriot League and clinched a coveted first-round bye for Army in the League Tournament. Now it’s crunch-time. Every game from here on out is one and done. There are no rematches.
Let’s dive into Friday night’s opponent, the Loyola Greyhounds.
It seems like ages ago that the Black Knights faced off against Loyola. But here they are again, and this time they are on a roll. Attackers Davis Lindsey and Kevin Lindley have found their grooves offensively, and that’s helped this Greyhounds team get some much needed traction heading into the tournament.
Having dominated Bucknell from the opening faceoff in quarterfinals, the Greyhounds now find themselves in exactly the same position they were in last year. They face Army in the semifinals and must win to keep their playoff hopes alive. The key x-factors in this game revolve around the goal tenders and the faceoff X. If G Sam Shaffer can get off to a hot start — as he’s done a lot lately — Army might find themselves in the same kind of shootout they saw a year ago. And then there’s Loyola FOGO Bailey Savio at the X. The Patriot League all-time faceoff man will need to have a huge day to keep Army’s offense at Bay.
Let’s Pump It Up
Army beat Loyola last time by isolating short-stick defenders behind the goal, leading to wrap-around shots and/or crisp feeds to charging attackers. Army star Brendan Nichtern put up a phenomenal 10-point performance, but Loyola is too smart to let that happen again. The Black Knights will need to keep their attack balanced across all of their offensive weapons in order to keep the Greyhounds on their toes.
Brendan Nichtern is the second Black Knight to win the #PatriotMLAX Offensive Player of the Year award twice and the fifth @PatriotLeague student-athlete to win the award in consecutive seasons.#GoArmy | #FamilyToughnessTradition pic.twitter.com/ufZ3vaa6G9— Army Men's Lacrosse (@ArmyWP_MLax) May 5, 2022
On defense, the key is simple — make someone besides Lindley or Lindsey earn the points. This Loyola team has a lot of weapons, but if Army can limit the Greyhounds’ playmakers, they can at least force them out of their game plan. The key here is in how G Wyatt Schupler communicates with the defense in order adjust to whatever the Greyhounds are doing on offense.
Arguably the most intricate part of Army’s game plan will show up on faceoffs. Bottom line, the entire unit needs to execute in sync. The Black Knights can’t leave it all up to FOGOs Will Colletti or Stevie Grabher. If Army can force ground balls and then make plays coming in off the wings, they have a real chance to control this game. Against a potent team like Loyola, that kind of control is critical.
We’re seen what this Army team can do when they’re on point. When they play crisp, violent lacrosse, this team is as good as anyone in the country. They need to make good passes and take good shots on offense, and they need to bring the heat on defense. The execution is key.
Expect a gritty, physical, championship-caliber effort from both sides. Still, this is a game where Army has every opportunity to advance.
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Nichtern finished the regular season leading the League in assists per game (3.64) and points per game (6.14) for his second-straight yearly honor.
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Go Army! Beat Loyola!!!
Cover image via Donna Tomasitis (smugmug).