Midfielder magic

Taylor VanThof strives to be a master of her craft

From time to time, midfielder Taylor VanThof, ’19, will make a play that amazes Loyola coach Jen Adams—not the easiest feat given Adams’ own legendary playing career.

VanThof’s reaction, meanwhile, can be summed up as “business as usual.”

“I think that’s the standard she has for herself,” Adams said. “She’s an absolute magician, and I continue to be wowed by her stickwork.”

It’s added up to a stellar four-year career that now includes Loyola’s career record for draw control victories. VanThof set it March 20, passing her older sister Taryn’s mark of 318.

Taylor VanThof runs on the field with teammates in the distance.

Taryn VanThof earned All-America honors three times at Loyola, and Taylor was a second team All-America pick last season. Remarkably, the Greyhounds have had a VanThof in their program for nine consecutive years. The program’s emphasis on family, along with the campus environment, both played roles in Taylor’s decision to follow in her sister’s footsteps.

“Growing up during my entire time in high school, every chance I got I was coming to her games and seeing everything Loyola has to offer,” VanThof said. “I was already so comfortable and felt so welcome by the coaching staff that when that time came, it felt right to choose Loyola.”

“It’s the highest form of a compliment,” added Adams, “when a sibling of a player chooses to come to your program. It means you’re getting it right on so many levels.”

Perhaps more noteworthy than the large number of draw controls was how VanThof evolved her game as the women’s lacrosse rule book has changed.

In the past, draws were much more of a free-for-all, and players who could pop the ball straight up and snag it out of the air were especially valuable. With the reduction of the number of players in the draw circle, there’s more of a premium on directing the ball to empty space for a teammate to collect a ground ball.

Taylor VanThof tries to hold the ball as she runs.

VanThof has thrived no matter the rules. Much of the credit goes to the time she’s invested with Loyola assistant coach Dana Dobbie, whose specialty as a player was draw controls.

“They are constantly working together, doing extra stuff before and after practice,” Adams said. “She’s trying to be a master of her craft, and I think Taylor’s ability to make those adjustments also parallels with how the game has changed.”

Her skills go well beyond one play. VanThof’s 49 goals ranked second on the team in 2018, and her influence at both the offensive and defensive ends will be significant as the Greyhounds seek their eighth NCAA tournament berth in the last nine years.

“I feel like if I was just taking the draw, it’d be so much different,” VanThof said. “I love having to transition from being on defense to being on attack, and transition from the draw and go right on offense. Being able to play anywhere on the field has helped me grow, and it’s what makes it so enjoyable.”

Photos by Larry French.