ANNAPOLIS, Md. – Eric Lusby scored five goals and had a career-high seven points, and J.P. Dalton won 17-of-22 faceoffs, as the top-seeded Loyola University Maryland men’s lacrosse team defeated the University of Denver, 10-9, on Saturday afternoon to advance to next weekend’s NCAA Semifinals for the first time since 1998.
Lusby’s five goals tied his career-best, and he added two assists. Dalton dominated at the faceoff ‘X’, winning 77.2-percent of restarts against a team that had won 67.8-percent against the Greyhounds in two previous meetings this season.
The Greyhounds (16-1) will play the winner of No. 4 seed Notre Dame and No. 5 seed Virginia on Saturday, May 26, in the NCAA Semifinals at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Mass.
“What a day for the Greyhounds,” Head Coach Charley Toomey said. “I’m just so pround of these guys. It’s hard for me not to get emotional because this team has worked so hard for so long together through good times and bad this spring.”
Loyola will make its third trip to the NCAA Semifinals, joining the teams from 1990 and 1998 that also played on Championship Weekend. Toomey was the starting goalkeeper and team co-captain of the 1990 team that lost in the NCAA title game to Syracuse.
Lusby scored the second of two Loyola goals, the first was an unassisted tally from Mike Sawyer who wrapped around the crease on the right side and beat Denver goalkeeper Ryan LaPlante with a low-to-low shot at 10:30. Lusby then scored on an extra-man opportunity at 9:01, taking a Sean O’Sullivan and converting on a shot from the high right side.
Denver (9-7), however, would battle back and tie the game by the end of the first quarter. Mark Matthews found himself in space and scored from eight yards out with 2:20 left in the first, and he added a second goal at the end of a Jeremy Noble transition run with just six ticks left on the clock to tie the game at 2-2 heading to the second.
Noble put Denver briefly in front, 3-2, with a goal at 8:46, putting Loyola at a disadvantage on the scoreboard for the first time in over 201 minutes of game action, dating back to the regular-season finale against Johns Hopkins on April 28.
Loyola was not down for long, however, as Scott Ratliff passed it to Eric Lusby on the right side, and Lusby drew a double team. Lusby then got the ball right back to Ratliff who scored after using a shot fake,tying the game at 3-3 with 7:21 to play before halftime.
Kevin Ryan then scored just his second career goal – the first also came against Denver in the ECAC Semifinal – on a man-up possession. Ryan took a Brian Schultz feed near the crease and dumped an over the shoulder shot into the goal to put the Greyhounds in front at 6:27.
The Pioneers rallied with a Cameron Flint goal at 5:05, and then Lusby struck twice in a row to close the second quarter.
Both times, he scored off Justin Ward assists, the first coming from eight yards out on the right side, and the second with 1:09 left in the period after Ward fed him on the crease.
During the second quarter, as Loyola outscored Denver, 4-2, Dalton won all seven faceoffs.
“I would give a lot of credit to (Volunteer Assistant) Coach (Steve) Vaikness,” Toomey said of the faceoff success. “He spends countless hours with (J.P.) watching film. We know what we’ve got coming in off the wings. (Ratliff, Josh Hawkins, Kevin Moriarty and Davis Butts) are very athletic and are ground ball hawks. J.P. answered the bell today for us; J.P. was a beast.”
Chris Layne put Loyola up three, 7-4, 1:53 into the second half when he beat his man from behind and scored after getting topside. Denver, however, scored two in a row, as Wes Berg fed a pass from behind to Flint who scored on a Pioneers extra-man, and Berg then buried an off-balance shot from five yards out to pull Denver within a goal, 7-6, with 10:21 left in the third.
Lusby again tallied back-to-back goals to re-extend the Greyhounds’ advantage to three, 9-6. The first came when he cut to the middle and caught a Butts pass and scored from seven yards out. He then used a Schultz feed from behind to score an extra-man goal at 2:06.
“We see (Lusby’s shooting) every day,” Toomey said. “We know what we have on the corners, whether it’s Mike Sawyer or Eric Lusby. I think Eric would be the first one to tell you he was the recipient of Mike getting shut off. (Eric) shoots the ball with such velocity, but the one thing that we see is that he is so unselfish with the ball. When people are getting to his hands, he’s creating other opportunities.”
Schultz had his first career multi-point game with twoassists, a career-high.
The Greyhounds extended their lead to a game-high four goals 4:31 into the final quarter when Lusby flipped the ball to Butts 15 yards from the crease, took two defenders with him and allowed Butts to run free down the right alley. Butts then converted a jump-shot to make it 10-6 Loyola at 10:29.
With his two assists, Lusby was involved in seven of Loyola’s 10 goals on Saturday.
Denver scored the next three goals, one by Matthews, asecond from Noble and the third an unassisted Berg goal with 2:43 left in regulation.
Hawkins, who tied for game-high honors with six groundballs, came away from the faceoff after Berg’s goal with the ball, but Denver took back possession after a Loyola turnover at 1:47.
Berg appeared to have an open lane on the right side, but Loyola goalkeeper Jack Runkel stuffed the shot with one of his 11 saves on the day.
The Greyhounds cleared the ball, but a Butts shot was blocked, and Denver got the loose ball to set up one final transition opportunity.
Flint came free near the top of the box, and he took a shot from 10 yards out, but Loyola defender Joe Fletcher knocked it out of the air, and Ratliff picked up the ground ball and ran out the clock.
Loyola outshot the Pioneers, 48-31, and the Greyhounds had a 32-25 advantage in ground balls. Hawkins had six, while Ratliff and Runkel had five and four, respectively. Dalton picked up three, as well.