Talk has been circulating around the Loyola boys lacrosse team this season that the defense could go down as one of the all-time best.
Even Loyola head coach Rob Snyder said the unit is on pace to have a special place in program history.
“It’s very, very good,” he said. “Our athleticism, and the pressure we can put on teams makes us good. The guys are fast and fly around the field. They make it very difficult for teams to score.”
The easiest indicator of a defense’s effectiveness is how many goals it allows. Through eight games, the Ramblers (5-3) have surrendered 47 goals or an average of 5.9 per game. But 38 of those goals came against three top-tier teams on the East Coast. Against five in-state opponents, Loyola has given up an average of 1.8 goals.
“Our goal as a defense is to make a team work to score goals, to pass it six, seven, eight, nine, 10 times before they think about taking a shot,” Snyder said. “We want to make it ridiculously hard to score against us.”
Senior Bryan Giella said he considers what the defense is doing a product of the team’s success as a whole.
“[Assistant] coach [Brian] Rynes has told us we have something special,” Giella said. “I think it comes down to our team chemistry. Our defense feeds off of how well are offense does, how well they possess the ball. They help make us look good.”
An example of that occurred during Loyola’s 13-1 win over Lake Forest on April 8. While the Ramblers allowed one goal, the Scouts rarely had the ball.
Nevertheless, Loyola’s defense has made it difficult for opposing offenses to create scoring opportunities. It’s a guiding principle of Snyder’s defensive philosophy.
“An offense wants to work the ball around and wait for the defense to get lazy,” said senior and Marquette-bound Kyle Koch, a four-year varsity starter and two-time All-American. “We take it to them first. We don’t allow a team into its offense. We want to dictate what they do.”
Giella said the defense’s best preparation is Loyola’s offense, which averages 12.4 goals a game.
“If we get complacent in practice, they will whoop our butts,” he said. “That we have to go hard every day in practice makes playing in games easier.”
Loyola has used a rotating cast of players on defense that include Giella and Koch (pictured above) — both of whom are close defensemen — senior close defenseman Graham Repp, senior close defenseman Ian Swenson, junior long stick middie Luca Lazzaretto, sophomore long stick middie Cooper Prawdzik, senior defensive middie Phillip Ellerman and junior defensive middie Kyle McGarvey.
Securing a spot in Loyola lore isn’t on the minds of Giella and Koch, at least not right now. They are more focused on the present. The rest will take care of itself, according to Giella.
“Any time you’re on the field, you always want to be great, you want to succeed,” Giella said. “That’s our goal every time we go out to play.”
Photo credit: Melissa Krein/Loyola