Spencer shows he’s em­brac­ing chal­lenge

Baltimore Sun Sunday - - COLLEGE LACROSSE -

Early in the fourth quar­ter Satur­day, Loy­ola Mary­land se­nior at­tack­man Pat Spencer took a pass near the top of the re­strain­ing box and got pushed to the left by Vir­ginia de­fense­man Lo­gan Greco.

Greco got sev­eral nice body shots on Spencer, who ap­peared to be past the right goal post. There was no way he would get a shot off.

And then Spencer, with the flick of his left wrist, hurled a low bounce shot by goalie Alex Rode with his off-hand. It seemed ef­fort­less on Spencer’s part, so much that a frus­trated Greco walked over to his left with his hands on his hips. Then he looked up at the sky.

Yes, it was that kind of day.

We’ve seen these kinds of per­for­mances be­fore by Spencer, and some­times they get over­looked. But on the first day of the 2019 lacrosse sea­son for No. 4 Loy­ola, Spencer scored five goals and con­trib­uted two as­sists as the Grey­hounds de­feated No. 6 Vir­ginia, 17-9, be­fore a crowd of 2,541 at Ri­d­ley Ath­letic Com­plex.

Spencer (Boys’ Latin) was al­ready con­sid­ered by many to be the best col­lege lacrosse player in the coun­try af­ter last sea­son, but he has got­ten bet­ter. He is big­ger, stronger and now the quar­ter­back of the Grey­hounds’ of­fense.

“The big­gest chal­lenge is

Spencer him­self,” Greco said. “He gen­er­ates so much of­fense. You have to game plan for him and then game plan for the rest of them. Spencer does ev­ery­thing well. His field IQ might be the best in the game.

“The way he sees the field, he sees ev­ery slide, knows ev­ery scheme. One of his big strengths is his nat­u­ral strength. He is about 6-3, weighs about 205 [pounds], but he plays big­ger than that. He has been good for four years, but he is re­ally in com­mand of the en­tire of­fense, call­ing out plays. Last year, a lot of that came from the side­line. This year, a lot came from him.”

Spencer has the good type of se­niori­tis. Some se­niors get that dis­ease and be­come lazy, com­pla­cent and big-headed. There are oth­ers who know that this will be their last sea­son and want to go out on top. The key now is for him to take over in crunch time.

That’s one of the rare crit­i­cisms of Spencer. In some big games, he hasn’t come up big.

“He knows we need him to be more ag­gres­sive and Pat has looked back on the last two games of the last sev­eral years,” Loy­ola coach Charley Toomey said. “It was Ohio State two years ago and Yale last year when we needed him to win games for us. He has to play the game that is given to him. If he is re­quired to win a matchup, then that’s what he is go­ing to do. If they are go­ing to come to him early, then he has to find the other guys.”

A na­tional cham­pi­onship is the only thing miss­ing. He has been a Te­waara­ton Award fi­nal­ist the past two sea­sons given to the na­tion’s top player. He has been on just about ev­ery All-Amer­i­can team and holds al­most ev­ery Pa­triot League scor­ing record.

Now, there’s one big goal left.

So on Satur­day, Spencer helped launch his team’s cham­pi­onship bid.

Vir­ginia made the mis­take of al­low­ing Spencer to han­dle the ball off the wings sev­eral times and the Cava­liers were slow to dou­ble team him. Big mis­take.

There were times when Spencer just backed in Greco like he was a power for­ward get­ting the ball in the paint on a bas­ket­ball court. He some­times just bul­lied Greco for goals and other times, he would turn one way, plant, cut back the other way and dodge the dou­ble or triple teams in­side for goals.

When Vir­ginia tried to dou­ble team him off restarts out­side the box, the Grey­hounds would swing the ball quickly and find the open player for a goal or two.

At times it was a clinic. Spencer was the fin­isher, yet as the same time the player who shut down Vir­ginia’s come­back at­tempts. His two as­sists were neat lit­tle passes across the crease to team­mates who were hang­ing out­side the far post.

His vi­sion is un­be­liev­able.

Now he wants to see him­self with a na­tional ti­tle.

“We’ve chal­lenged him, but Pat chal­lenges him­self,” Toomey said. “We need him to take over games. He is the big­gest com­peti­tor in our locker room. He loves to com­pete. He wants to go out with high marks.”

Pat Spencer

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