Last year, Loyola flirted with the possibility of unseating Palos Verdes as the top team in the LA/Ventura area. Voted No. 2 in the preseason coaches poll, the Cubs even took over the No. 1 spot for a time, before losing a regular-season game to the Sea Kings. A surprising loss in the second round of the playoffs denied Loyola a possible rematch. But with a loaded roster returning, the Cubs once again open the season at No. 2 in the coaches poll. Will this season end differently? Here is our Loyola 2016 preview:
Coach: Seth Cohen
Assistant coach: Brett Tietjen
Last season: 15-4 overall; 8-0 Mission League (first place).
2015 playoffs: No. 2 seed; beat Palisades in first round; lost to Crespi 9-8 in overtime in second round.
2015 recap: A stellar 2015 campaign produced a 15-4 overall record, a perfect 8-0 record in the Mission League championship and the No. 2 seed in the playoffs. Still, the Loyola Cubs won’t soon forget how last season ended — a 9-8 overtime loss at home in the second round of the playoffs to a Crespi team they already had beaten twice. Loyola’s other three losses at least made some sense: to Foothill, the eventual Southern Section champion; to Palos Verdes, the eventual LA champion; and 13-12 to Aliso Niguel over spring break while missing a number of key players. But after reaching the LA semifinals in 2014 and rolling through the 2015 regular season, the playoff loss to rival Crespi stung.
“There aren’t a lot of secrets about our team this year,” Coach Seth Cohen said in an email about his squad. “We have good depth, with eight All-Mission League players (including two All-Americans) returning. We’re hungry after last year’s disappointing early exit from the playoffs. This group is highly motivated!”
Top players: Coach Cohen provided the following info and analysis:
- Sean Smith, senior, attack: “I’m expecting big things from Connecticut College commit Smith,” Cohen said. “Last year he was first-team all-league, All-American and our team’s Offensive MVP. He’s always been a technician out there. He’s always had great heart. This year, expect to see him go into beast mode! He’s done a ton of work in the offseason, and he’s playing with a lot of confidence.”
- “Junior Garrett Smith, junior Mason O’Hanlon, sophomore Henry Hasenberg and sophomore Wes Priestly are battling it out for the remaining attack positions. Whoever it is, it should be a strong unit.”
- Jonathan Partamian, junior, middie: Committed to Syracuse. “Jonathan is a downhill dodger with great size and speed. Once he gets a head of steam going, it’s hard to stop him! He’s a player that can create his own shot but also know how to draw and dump.”
- Ryder Mora, junior, middie: Committed to Maryland. “Ryder is an old-school, two-way middie. He can D you up, run the break and can hit the big shot. He’ll beat you to the groundball; he can shake-n-bake; and he can score from inside or out.”
- “Midfield is a strength for us. Loyola could easily run three midfields without seeing a significant dip in talent. The two biggest names are [above], but expect to see significant contributions from junior Emmet Rielly (out last year with a hamstring injury), senior Henry Bartlett (out last year with shoulder surgery), senior Mike Lira (second-team all-league), and senior JP Hatch (transitioning from attack to middie).”
- Max Neblina, senior, LSM/D: “Max is a top-end LSM. He’s got a great stick; he’s excellent on GBs; and he’s an aggressive slider on D. He can play the wing on faceoffs or take the draw!”
- Tommy Riley, senior, defender: “Tommy is a tough defender, always in the mix. Last year he was our team defensive MVP. He’s not the biggest defenseman on the field, but last year he always drew the biggest matchup.”
- Nick Mohler, junior, defender: Committed to St. John’s. “Nick is a long, lanky defenseman with an unbelievable stick. He’s a vacuum cleaner on GBs, can handle in traffic and if you don’t protect your stick, he’ll take it right away!”
- Joe Theuer, junior, goalie: “An All-American, he was last year’s team MVP and also first-team all-league. Joe is a great ball-stopper! He’s a big kid with quick hands and good fundamentals. Last year he kept us in a number of close games with some incredible saves! Look for Joe to have another great season!”
2016 Outlook: Loyola hasn’t reached the LA title game since winning it in 2011. But with senior leadership from Smith, Neblina and Riley and a 16-man junior class stacked with college-level players, there is no time like the present. Of course, many expected Loyola to challenge Palos Verdes for the LA crown last year, and that matchup never materialized. But as Cohen noted above, the Cubs return eight All-Mission League players — players who most likely learned a little something from last year’s disappointment.