Loyola sweeps weekly Patriot League lacrosse honors

April 21, 2014 | WNST Staff

Fletcher, Runkel, Ward Earn Patriot League Year-End Honors

CENTER VALLEY, Pa. – Three Loyola University Maryland senior men’s lacrosse players were among seven to earn All-Patriot League honors on Monday, and they also received year-end Player of the Year awards from the League’s coaches.

Joe Fletcher was named the League’s Defensive Player of the Year, Jack Runkel the Goalkeeper of the Year and Justin Ward the Offensive Player of the Year. Fletcher, Runkel and Ward were all named to the All-Patriot League First Team along with Pat Laconi, Nikko Pontrello and Brian Sherlock. Kevin Ryan earned All-Patriot League Second Team recognition.

Loyola, which is ranked No. 1 in the nation in the USILA coaches, Warrior/Inside Lacrosse and Lacrosse Magazine media polls, completed its first season in the Patriot League by winning the regular-season title with an 8-0 record. The Greyhounds will host the Patriot League Championships at Ridley Athletic Complex this weekend, beginning with the semifinals on Friday, April 25, and culminating with the title game on Sunday, April 27. Tickets are available for purchase at www.loyolagreyhounds.com/tickets.

The players have helped Loyola to a 12-1 record thus far in 2014. The Greyhounds are the only team in Division I to be ranked in the top five nationally in goals per game (5th, 13.23) and fewest goals allowed (3rd, 7.00). They are tops in the nation in scoring margin (+6.23) and fewest turnovers per contest (10.69).

Fletcher earned his record fifth Patriot League Defensive Player of the Week honor earlier Monday, tying Runkel for the most by any player in a single season in League history. The 2013 USILA All-America First Team member leads NCAA Division I close defenders in ground balls (61) and ground balls per game (4.69) through 13 contests. He has also solidified his reputation as a lock-down defender having not allowed a goal in one-versus-one defense in over a month.

Last Thursday, Fletcher shut down Bucknell University’s David Dickson, holding him without a point after Dickson entered the game with at least one goal or assist in 41-straight games. Fletcher, who was the 2013 ECAC Lacrosse League Defensive Player of the Year, also shut down Colgate University’s Ryan Walsh on March 29 after Walsh had scored in 42 consecutive, and he then held the U.S. Naval Academy’s T.J. Hanzsche without a point on April 5. Hanzsche had a point in 15 in a row.

Runkel has been a standout between the pipes for the Greyhounds, posting a 6.86 goals against average this year while making saves on 61.9 percent of shots on goal he has faced. The senior, who was named to the 2012 NCAA Championships All-Tournament Team along with Fletcher, led the League in save percengage (68.6) in conference games while posting the second-best goals against average in League play (5.74).

He earned five Patriot League Goalkeeper of the Week honors, including four straight during the middle of the year, and he has won 43 games since becoming the Greyhounds’ starter early in the 2012 season.

Ward, who has two or more assists in all 13 of Loyola’s games this year, has again quarterbacked the Greyhounds’ offense, helping Loyola lead the conference and rank in the top five nationally in every major offensive statistical category. This season, Ward became Loyola’s career assist leader at the Division I level (since 1982) and had 109 entering the Patriot League Championships. With 42 assists to go with 13 goals, he also has set the school single-season assist record for Division I players.

His assist total for 2014 is tied for fourth in Patriot League single-season history, and he is second in Division I in total assists and assists per game (3.23). Along with Fletcher, Ward is a finalist for the prestigious Senior CLASS Award, and they are both on the watch list for the Tewaaraton Award as the sport’s top player.

Laconi has been regarded as one of the top, if not the best, short-stick defensive midfielders in the nation. In his four years with the Greyhounds, Laconi has been a starter on the Greyhounds’ rope unit, and this year he has taken his statistical measures to a new level. He leads all non-pole players nationally in caused turnovers (27) and caused turnovers per game (2.08). He also has scored eight goals and has three assists to key the Greyhounds’ transition game.

Pontrello burst onto the nation scene in this his second season as a starter for the Greyhounds. After logging 16 goals and 19 assists while starting on attack and in the midfield last year for Loyola, Pontrello has scored two or more goals in all but one of Loyola’s 13 contests this season. Through games of Sunday, April 20, Pontrello is second in the nation in both goals (43) and goals per game (3.31).

Sherlock has made an immediate impact for Loyola in his first year after transferring from the University of North Carolina where he missed last season with an injury. The redshirt freshman has scored 14 goals and assisted on eight in the midfield for Loyola, and he also runs the wings on faceoffs and plays several shifts a game in the defensive midfield.

Ryan has led the Greyhounds’ second midfield unit throughout the year and is tied for the team lead in extra-man goals with five. He has posted 20 goals and four assists this season for Loyola, ranking third on the team in goals scored. The senior also ranks 11th in the nation in shooting percentage, converting 46.5 percent of his shots into goals.

The other major award winners in the Patriot League were Colgate goalkeeper Brandon Burke who is the Rookie of the Year (Sherlock was not eligible for the award as only players in their first year of college are eligible). The U.S. Military Academy’s Joe Alberici was named the William Lawson Coach of the Year.