BALTIMORE – Loyola University Maryland turned a 5-5 halftime draw into an 11-5 advantage less than midway through the second quarter on Sunday afternoon, pulling away for a 15-8 victory over visiting Lehigh University in the Patriot League Championship Game at Ridley Athletic Complex.
The Greyhounds (12-3 overall) won their fourth Patriot League crown in five years and sealed an automatic bid to the upcoming NCAA Championships. Loyola will learn when, where and whom it will play during the NCAA Men’s Lacrosse Selection Show on Sunday, May 6, at 9 p.m. on ESPNU.
Loyola never trailed in the Patriot League Championship Game, but Lehigh evened the score at 5-5 when Conor Gaffney won a faceoff after a John Duffy goal for the Greyhounds. Gaffney ran down the near sideline, got underneath a defender and threw a pass to Andrew Pettit for a goal at 1:44 that tied the game for the third time.
The Mountain Hawks (10-7) started with the ball to open the third quarter, but Brian Begley caused a turnover by Mickey Fitzpatrick, and Loyola cleared the ball. Pat Spencer took the ball behind the cage and was unmarked against the Lehigh zone; he threw a pass to Kevin Lindley on the left side of the crease, and Lindley one-timed it off Lehigh goalkeeper James Spence’s knee to score at 12:52.
Spencer’s assist on that goal was the 160th of his career, tying Gary Hanley’s school record that has stood since 1981. Spencer added two more assists to break the record later in the game.
He was named the Patriot League Championships Most Valuable Player after finishing Sunday with a goal, four assists, four ground balls and a caused turnover. He also tied the Patriot League and Loyola single-season record for assists with 55, matching the total he had last season as a sophomore.
Lindley had three goals on Sunday and eight in the tournament, matching the Patriot League Championships Record for total goals set previously by three players. He joined Spencer on the Patriot League All-Tournament Team along with teammates Jacob Stover and Duffy.
His second goal came just 10 seconds after his first. Mike Orefice won the faceoff cleanly forward, and he fed Lindley on the low right side after running into the box. Lindley shot opposite stick-side of Spence and inside the near post to give Loyola a 7-5 cushion at 12:42.
Orefice came away with another draw to give Loyola possession, and just over a minute after Lindley’s second, Spencer scored unassisted. He drew a short-stick defender, used a split-dodge to get free and ripped a high shot to Spence’s left for a goal.
Lehigh called a timeout after Spencer’s goal, and the Mountain Hawks gained possession off the faceoff, but Stover made a save on a Pettit 15-yard shot, giving the Greyhounds an opportunity on offense.
With a flag down, Duffy used spin move to get past a short-stick at the top of the left alley, and he raced toward the goal, shooting right-handed from inside of eight yards to score one of his three goals on the day with 9:46 to go in the third quarter.
Duffy had a career-best five points, matching his previous career-highs with three goals and two assists.
Loyola got the ball right back after a Mountain Hawks faceoff violation, and Spencer fed Riley Cox coming down the left alley for a goal at 8:38, stretching the lead to five.
Orefice then won the faceoff to himself, picking the ball up almost at Loyola’s defensive box. He ran the length of the field and shot from inside three yards to tally a goal 18 seconds later, making it six Greyhounds goals in the span of four-minutes, 32-seconds.
Lehigh momentarily stopped the run as Andrew Eichelberger used a Lucas Spence pass to score at 7:16, but the Greyhounds came back with an extra-man goal just under three minutes later.
Aidan Olmstead threw to Lindley for his third of the day at 4:17, and the lead was back to six.
Duffy made it a 13-6 advantage 65 seconds into the third quarter as Spencer recorded his fourth assist of the day on a pass to Duffy for a time-and-room stepdown out of the left alley.
Pettit got one back for Lehigh with 5:27 remaining, scoring on extra-man, but Jay Drapeau and Peter Swindell both scored for Loyola with the 30-second timer on and under three minutes remaining.
Drapeau had four goals to tie Pettit for game-high honors on the day.
Loyola outshot Lehigh, 37-27, and the Greyhounds had a 23-11 advantage in shots in the second half.
Stover finished with 12 saves in goal for Loyola, and Orefice won 11-of-20 faceoffs he attempted with eight ground balls.
Drapeau scored the game’s first two goals, both off Duffy assists, with 11:07 and 9:12 to go in the first quarter, but the Mountain Hawks would respond with the next pair of goals. Lucas Spence and Tristan Rai each scored unassisted tallies, Rai’s with 1:53 to go tying the game at 2-2, a score that would hold until the second quarter.
Drapeau then scored his third-straight for Loyola 3:04 into the second off a Spencer assist. Alex McGovern added an unassisted goal at 11:06, putting the Greyhounds back up by two.
Lehigh again had answers, as Pettit scored in transition with 9:49 to go in the first half; he then assisted on an Eichelberger goal at 6:34, knotting the game at 4-4.
Duffy scored with the 30-second timer with an Olmstead assist at 1:58, just 14 seconds before Pettit tied the game at 5-5 before halftime.