All season long, Georgetown Head Coach Dave Urick has emphasized the importance of an ECAC league title for his team in order to secure the automatic qualifier for the NCAA tournament that comes with it. On Saturday, the Hoyas can put themselves in position for an ECAC crown as they face off against Loyola.

“[The automatic qualifier] is certainly something that gives you an advantage,” Urick said. “You leave yourself at the mercy of the committee if you don’t get it. You’d rather have control of your own destiny.”

Both teams enter the matchup undefeated in ECAC play and tied for a share of the conference lead. It is a similar situation to the one the Hoyas faced two years ago when they last traveled to Loyola. Ranked second in the nation and undefeated in the conference, Georgetown traveled to Baltimore where it fell prey to a tough Loyola squad, 14-10.

“They had a group of middies that pretty much ran us off the field,” senior attacker Brendan Cannon said. “It was a four-goal game, but it wasn’t that close.”

Cannon also said the Hoyas are not dwelling on the 2006 loss but rather reminding themselves of it.

“Coach said the line, `Those who can’t remember the past are doomed to repeat it,’ and he just asked us to keep in mind that last year we were down at halftime, so we understand they’re a capable opponent,” Cannon said.

While most lacrosse experts feel Georgetown has a distinct edge in this game, the Hoyas know that nothing comes easy in the ECAC this year. Teams that for many years have lost the moment the Hoyas donned their uniforms have hung tough with them this year. After an easy league opener against St. John’s, Georgetown had to work double overtime to beat Hobart and had to score two goals in the final four minutes to beat Fairfield.

“To a certain extent there is parity [in the ECAC],” Urick said. “Hobart is a good example. They’re a team that has always given us trouble, and now they’re getting their fair share of wins. They’re playing well against some other teams, and that doesn’t surprise me.”

Georgetown will look to Cannon and senior attacker Andrew Baird, who have 16 and 21 goals, respectively. In recent weeks, Cannon has shown why he was picked as the preseason ECAC offensive player of the year. The senior has 11 points in his last three games and has been effective in getting his teammates involved, with seven assists to his name this season.

The key to the Georgetown offense is sophomore midfielder Andrew Brancaccio, who has 12 goals this season. Brancaccio had three second-half goals in last season’s comeback win against Loyola, and his ability to stretch the defense with his outside shot will be crucial for the Hoyas.

“He’s one of the few guys we have that can punch it in from the perimeter,” Urick said. “We know that, but unfortunately the other teams do too, so he gets a lot of defensive attention.”

The Greyhounds cause matchup problems because they can play up tempo or can hold the ball in the offensive zone. Loyola is led by senior attacker Shane Koppens, who leads the team with 28 points on 10 goals and 18 assists. Koppens had a goal and an assist in a losing effort for the Greyhounds last season in Washington, D.C.

Loyola has the ability to keep teams on the defensive end with a precise and deliberate offensive attack. In an effort to limit the Greyhounds’ possessions, Urick focused this week on the faceoff game, and he said he will try to run some long poles at the wings in an effort to get more 50-50 groundballs.

“We’re thinking about putting two poles up on the wings,” Urick said. “We’re trying to do some different things so that we don’t give up fast breaks off of the faceoffs.”

Luckily for Georgetown, if Loyola is able to win faceoffs and get a lot of extra possessions, the Hoyas will be able to fall back on senior goalkeeper Miles Kass. Kass, who has an 8.35 goals-against average with a 59 percent save percentage, has made crucial saves in key situations for the Hoyas this season, and many see him as the key to their success.

“Miles has been having an incredible season,” Cannon said. “He’s been consistent almost every single game, and guys are seeing that on the defensive end and are stepping up to help him out.”

A loss would not be devastating for the Hoyas, but it would leave little room for error for the rest of the regular season.

“Hopefully we can still play our way in if we don’t win the league, but you never want to depend on that,” Urick said.

Game time is set for 1 p.m. at Diane Geppi-Aikens Field in Baltimore, Md.

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