Loyola hasn’t won the Mission League outright since 2009, when the Cubs swept through league play at 8-0 and finished 16-1 overall, beating Mira Costa in double-overtime for the U.S. Lacrosse L.A. division title before falling to Foothill 10-7 in the Southern Section title game.
The coming season could wind up looking very similar to that 2009 season when all is said and done.
Last year, Loyola finished 15-5, losing to Palos Verdes in the L.A. division semifinals. This year, the Cubs will be deep and talented. In fact, there might be only one other team in the division with as much (more?) depth and talent, which is why Loyola comes in at No.2 in our preseason countdown.
The thing about Loyola in 2015 is that the Cubs come at you in waves, sending a seemingly endless string of seemingly interchangeable players players at you on both offense and defense. And they are relentless. They simply wear you out.
Here’s how third-year coach Seth Cohen describes some of his top returning players:
- Harrison Mac, senior, attack/middie: Captain, two-time All Mission League, two-time Kirtsen Award winner (LionHeart).
- Sean Smith, junior, attack: Captain, Team MVP, first-team All-Mission League, second-team all-L.A., led team in ground balls and dominated at the face-off X (71 percent). Smith scored 52 goals and had 21 assists as a sophomore.
- Emmett Rielly, sophomore, middie: Nominated for all-league after recording more than 20 points as a freshman (10 goals, 11 assists).
- Ryder Mora, sophomore, middie: “Has been tearing up the club scene this summer and is receiving serious D-I looks.”
- Mike Lira, junior, middie: “Flat-out the fastest kid on the field! He’s a great lockdown short-stick defender, a one-man clearing machine and now he’s becoming a real threat on offense.”
Cohen added a couple of potential breakout players to watch, as well:
- Jonathan Partamian, sophomore, middie: “He was rehabbing a shoulder injury for the first half of last season. Came in and made an impact as a freshman. He’s a year bigger, stronger and faster. Had a good club season and is receiving some D-I attention.”
- Jonathan Parducci, senior, middie: “A transfer from Mira Costa, he sat out last year but will definitely make an impact for us this year. He’s quick and fast and has a nose for the goal.”
And that’s just on offense. Defensively, assistant coach Brett Tietjen laid it out this way:
- Joe Theuer, sophomore, goalie: First-team All-Mission League as a freshman and could be All-American this year.
- Troy Dixon, senior, close defense: Captain; will play football at Lafayette (D-I FCS).
- Nick Mohler, sophomore, close defense: Second-team All-Mission League last year.
- Will Marcussen, senior, close defense: Moves into the starting lineup this year.
- Tommy Riley, junior, LSM: Played close defense last year and is now moving back to his natural position.
- Max Neblina, junior, LSM/faceoff: He had an amazing offseason and could have a big year with his versatility.
“All five of these defensemen could be all league this year,” Tietjen said. “Connor Niemann, a senior, and Joel Krogstad, a junior, add depth and will get some serious minutes, as well, down low and at LSM, respectively.”
Like we said — they come at you in waves.
Cohen has booked a schedule that will test the Cubs early, with games against Los Alamitos, ranked No. 11 in the MaxLaxOC.com preseason countdown, Tesoro, No. 9 in the preseason, and Oak Park (No. 6 in our countdown) as part of the Knights Challenge. Later, Loyola plays Foothill and Palos Verdes, last year’s Southern Section finalists.
It won’t be easy for the Cubs to match what Loyola’s 2009 squad did, but this team is set up to contend for both the Mission League and Southern Section titles.
“We’ve got a lot of depth at midfield, but we are also extremely young. If we can all get on the same page and continue to work hard, I think this team could accomplish great things.” — Seth Cohen
Key nonleague games: Knights Challenge (at Los Alamitos, Feb. 28; vs. Oak Park, March 4; vs. Tesoro, March 7); vs. Thousand Oaks, March 14; at Foothill (Santa Ana), March 21; at Peninsula, March 26; vs. Aliso Niguel, April 7; at Rancho Bernardo (San Diego), April 11; at Palos Verdes, April 27.