FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Eric Lusby scored five goals, and Jack Runkel made a career-high 15 saves for Loyola University Maryland, and the No. 1 seeded Greyhounds defeated the Unviersity of Notre Dame, 7-5, on Saturday afternoon in the NCAA Lacrosse Semifinals.
The win moved the Greyhounds (17-1 overall) to a date in Monday’s NCAA Championship Game where it will play the University of Maryland. Monday will be Loyola’s second all-time NCAA Championship Game appearance, joining the 1990 team as Greyhound squads to make the title match. Monday’s game will be broadcast on ESPN.
“We’re excited about the opportunity,” Head Coach Charley Toomeysaid. “We’ll go back to work tonight. We just kept going week-to-week (this season) with (good) work ethic, with that same philosophy that we’re going to take care of each other.”
Lusby scored twice in the first quarter, once in the second and then tallied both Loyola goals in the third period. He also assisted on a Davis Butts goal in the second to finish with six points. He raised his season total to 50 goals, tying himself for second on Loyola’s single-season goals scored record, one behind teammate Mike Sawyer.
Sawyer and Lusby became the first pair of Loyola teammates to score 50 goals in a season.
“I’m playing confident right now,” said Lusby who had his second-straight five-goal game. “The past few games, I’ve had a pretty good shooting percentage. I see net, and I shoot for net. I don’t try to pick corners.”
Lusby got the scoring underway 3:34 into the first quarter when he took a pass from Chris Layne, drove topside from goal-line extended to score from inside five yards.
Notre Dame (13-3) tied the game with 7:57 to play in the first when Alex Eaton scored on an extra-man opportunity.
Lusby, however, put the Greyhounds back on top with 3:21 to go in the frame when he dodged and ducked two defenders, dumping a shot over the right shoulder of Notre Dame goalkeeper John Kemp.
Butts made it 3-1 in Loyola’s favor 2:01 into the second quarter when he took a Lusby pass from behind while crashing down the right side, scoring from close range.
Lusby pushed the Greyhounds’ lead to 4-1 with a nine-yard blast off a Justin Ward assist.
Notre Dame would snap a 20-plus minute scoreless stretch at 2:10 when Westy Hopkins worked his way free from a double-team and tallied his first of two in the game.
The Fighting Irish would not wait even 20 seconds for their next goal, as Liam O’Connor won the ensuing faceoff, raced into the box and fed Nicholas Beattie on the left side for a goal six seconds after Hopkins’.
Loyola looked likely to carry a 4-3 lead into the locker room until Josh Hawkins caused a Notre Dame turnover, and Joe Fletcher came up with one of his career-high seven ground balls.
Hawkins carried the ball into the box on transition and sent a high bouncer over Kemp with just 2.2 ticks left on the clock, putting Loyola up 5-3 at the break.
Notre Dame won the second half’s first faceoff – the Fighting Irish were 13-of-14 at the face-off `X’ in the game – but Runkel made a save on a Hopkins shot and sent an outlet pass over the top of the defense to J.P. Dalton.
Dalton took the ball into the top of the box where he passed to Mike Sawyeron the left side. Sawyer looked off a shot and sent a cross-field pass to Lusby on the low right crease, and Lusby shot-faked and scored 21 seconds into the frame.
Lusby made Loyola’s lead 7-3 with 11:40 left in the third, running down the alley to score his fifth of the game.
That goal, however, would be Loyola’s final of the game.
Neither the Greyhounds, nor Notre Dame would score until the Fighting Irish broke through with a Sean Rogers tally at 7:18 in the fourth quarter. Hopkins then added another goal just 50 seconds later, making it a 7-5 game.
Runkel made saves on the next two Fighting Irish possessions that quickly gave Loyola possessions.
He then tipped away a Hopkins point-blank try from inside three yards, but Notre Dame retained possession with a minute to play.
Hopkins had another attempt blocked, and then Fletcher stripped him of the ball and picked up ground ball with 16 seconds left, enabling Loyola to run out the clock.
Runkel made 11 of his 15 saves in the second half.
“I think the first save, I made was up top,” Runkel said. “It kind of got me into a rhythm. My defense was giving me shots to see a very clear line from the shooter.”
He eclipsed his previous best of 14 that came against Johns Hopkins on April 28.