The Loyola men’s lacrosse team is beginning to find its way, earning four consecutive wins after a loss at Virginia to start the season.
Senior long-stick midfielder and co-captain Ryan McNulty thinks the No. 11 Greyhounds are ready for a strong season after last year’s NCAA Tournament quarterfinal exit, when they lost, 21-14, to top-seeded Penn State.
“We definitely weren’t the team we are now against Virginia,” McNulty said on Glenn Clark Radio March 2, adding, “we’ve just got great characters in the locker room and that just builds on the culture.”
The Greyhounds are also learning to win without Pat Spencer, the 2019 Tewaaraton Award winner and the most decorated student-athlete in Loyola history. Spencer is currently playing hoops for Northwestern as a grad transfer.
“Obviously losing Pat is tough, but it makes us work more as a team together and I think that’s been very beneficial for us so far,” McNulty said.
McNulty, a 6-foot-2, 200-pound senior, is an extremely important part of Loyola’s experienced defense. Last season, McNulty earned USILA All-American Honorable Mention and first-team Patriot League honors, all while leading the defense as a co-captain. He led the team with 25 caused turnovers while also posting two goals and two assists.
McNulty was named the Patriot League Defensive Player of the Week for his efforts against Towson Feb. 26 and Lafayette Feb. 29. He combined for seven caused turnovers and 13 ground balls. Loyola allowed six goals against Towson and just four goals against Lafayette.
“We have to be a little bit more mature [on defense], be the leaders on the field, and I think you can kind of see that, just the way our games have been playing — we’re rotating fast, we’re communicating well and each game we’re just getting better and taking a bigger step,” McNulty said.
McNulty’s life didn’t always include playing lacrosse. He started playing the game in eighth grade, and played it alongside football and basketball in high school. A very important part of his lacrosse career came during high school, when he was invited to play in the Under Armour All-American Lacrosse event in 2016.
“That experience definitely showed me that I had to keep working harder, that there was a lot of guys out there nationally that I had to compete against. … When I got to that stage, it kinda just opened my eyes a little bit wider,” McNulty said.
And his eyes are plenty wide for a long-stick middie. He’s found the net twice already this season along with two assists. Both assists came against Towson.
“If someone’s open I don’t take it to the cage, I’d rather pass it,” McNulty said despite the “green light” his coaches have given him to shoot when he crosses the midline.
With a mix of a high lacrosse IQ, good team chemistry and top-notch coaches, the Greyhounds look to continue their win streak at home against No. 13 Duke at 1 p.m. March 7. The team is excited about its great start but is looking to not let that excitement overpower its focus, McNulty said.
“We just gotta stay in line — take it one practice at a time, one drill at a time and then hopefully come Saturday we’re ready to be that dog who comes out on top,” McNulty said.
For more from McNulty, listen to the full interview here:
Photo Credit: Larry French/Loyola Athletic Communications