Spencer shows he’s embracing challenge
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.”