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Q&A with ESPN's Mark Dixon

ESPN analyst Mark Dixon, a former midfielder at Johns Hopkins, will provide commentary for Saturday's game between No. 20 Navy and No. 5 Maryland and Sunday's contest between No. 14 Notre Dame and No. 10 Georgetown. This is the first of a two-part interview with Dixon, who discussed Maryland's inconsistent midfield, Loyola’s big game against Eastern College Athletic Conference rival Fairfield, and Johns Hopkins’ and Navy’s NCAA Tournament chances.

Question: If you're Maryland coach Dave Cottle, what are you most pleased with about your No. 5 Terps at this point in the season?

Mark Dixon: If I'm Dave Cottle, the thing I'm most pleased with is their energy and level of intensity. I think Maryland is a team that really gets after it. They get up and down the field, they fight and contest every groundball, they fall behind 6-0 to Virginia, the No. 1 team in the country and they fight back.

Q: If you're Cottle, what worries you the most?

MD: I think you have to be worried about the offensive execution, particularly in the midfield. [Junior attackman] Grant Catalino has been kind of quiet the last couple of weeks [one goal and one assist in two games], and you need somebody to step up and take that pressure off of him. Nobody really stepped up in the Carolina game. It seemed like Maryland was sort of waiting for someone to step up. I think [junior attackman] Ryan Young can be that guy. It just seems that sometimes they seem a little tentative to go, to really open it up the way that Virginia and North Carolina. And maybe that’s because he has so many young midfielders, which might be a consideration. But I think when you have a guy like Catalino and you need someone to step up, you can’t just put it on the attack. We saw [senior attackman Will] Yeatman step up against Virginia last weekend with four goals, but if I’m Dave Cottle, I'm probably concerned about my midfielders and there scoring contributions -- or lack thereof over the last couple of weeks.

Q: If No. 7 Loyola doesn't beat Fairfield this Saturday for first place in the ECAC, how worried should the team be about possibly getting left out of the NCAA Tournament for the second consecutive year?

MD: I think they have to be real worried. Last year, it came down to one conference game for Loyola and that was UMass. That was a two-goal loss to UMass, and that ended up costing them a trip to the NCAA Tournament because what the NCAA selection committee showed last year was, there’s really no such thing as good losses. I think that was some of the argument that [coach] Charley Toomey had with the selection process. Is it strength of schedule? Is it quality wins? Is it good losses? What is it? So I think that's probably a theme this week for Loyola in practice. They need to take care of the ECAC. Fairfield is undefeated in the ECAC, and Loyola is as well. Winner takes the inside track, so I think that’s very much in the minds of Loyola as they travel to Connecticut this weekend.

Q: Does Loyola have the same concerns in the midfield as Maryland does?

MD: Absolutely. When you look at Loyola, [junior Eric] Lusby is a good shooter, but is he a midfielder who can break a defense down? [Senior Taylor] Ebsary stepped up last week with four points, and that was nice to see for Loyola, but when you look at Loyola, it's [senior attackman Collin] Finnerty and [senior attackman Cooper] MacDonnell. Those are guys that defenses have to respect, but defenses can key on them because you're not really all that scared of the midfielders that can break you down. Does Loyola possess those kinds of players? Perhaps. That’s a team that plays suffocating defense. They try to confuse people with fake slides, and [junior goalkeeper Jake] Hagelin is playing terrific right now. But the concern is in the midfield. Even if it’s not goals, can they create enough? Can they take some pressure off of that attack to make that offense as potent as it can be.

Q: How would you gauge the NCAA tournament resumes for No. 15 Johns Hopkins and No. 20 Navy?

MD: I think with Navy, they’ve got to win the Patriot League, and they've done that in the past. Last year, they were the No. 3 seed [in the conference tournament] and they came away with two one-goal victories to go ahead and advance. I think that's what's going to have to happen this year, too. For Hopkins, I don't know if they've got to win out, but right now, they don't have that big win. UMBC continues to struggle, Delaware's been struggling. They need to beat Albany Saturday, and I think they need a big win against Maryland. They have to hope that Loyola continues to excel and then beat Loyola. But they can't afford to lose to Albany, Navy or Towson. They have to beat Maryland, and if that doesn’t happen, they have to hope that Loyola is still rolling, and then they have to knock off the Greyhounds. You don't want to look too far ahead, but I think the Maryland and Loyola games are the two biggest on their schedule in terms of quality wins.

Q: Did you agree with the Blue Jays' decision to start freshman goalkeeper Pierce Bassett over senior Michael Gvozden?

MD: I think Gvozden is a great kid and that he’s a very talented goalkeeper who's just had an uneven career. But at some point, you have to pull the trigger. This goes back to Jesse Schwartzman. If you remember Jesse's senior year [in 2007], there was a little bit of yo-yoing going on with Gvozden and Schwartzman. Jesse just turned it on in the middle of the season and ending up being the Most Outstanding Player in the NCAA Tournament. The goalie is the leader of your defense, and no matter if it’s a freshman or a senior, you have to have that anchor back there, and if your anchor continues to be pulled, at some point I do think you have to make a change.

Q: What do you make of Mount St. Mary's in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference?

MD: “I've watched them on tape and the biggest thing for me is their goaltender, [junior] T.C. DiBartolo. He’s terrific, and he was solid [Wednesday] night against Georgetown, making 20 saves. In the MAAC, goals are at a premium, and you’ve got four goaltenders who are terrific. You’ve got the kid from Manhattan [junior Jon Fiorillo] and a guy from VMI [senior Sean McCoy] who is really strong. But I think the two best are [senior] Brent Herbst from Siena and T.C. DiBartolo for Mount St. Mary's. In that conference, there are a lot of 8-7 and 7-6 games. Goals are at such a premium, and when you have that great netminder, that can really give you an advantage. I think DiBartolo is playing the best among the goaltenders. Mount St. Mary's is a good ballclub, and it’ll be interesting to see how it plays out in their conference.
Posted by Edward Lee at 7:00 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Johns Hopkins, Loyola, Maryland, Mount St. Mary's, Navy, Q&A

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Faceoff is The Baltimore Sun's blog devoted to college and high school lacrosse. Faceoff contributors include Sun reporters Edward Lee, Mike Preston and Katherine Dunn.

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