BALTIMORE – Eric Lusby returned to the Loyola University Maryland men’s lacrosse lineup Saturday afternoon after missing most of last season with a knee injury, and he finished with a career-high four goals in the Greyhounds’ 13-8 victory over 19th-ranked University of Delaware at Ridley Athletic Complex.
Lusby scored Loyola’s first goal, 2:59 into the second quarter, on an extra-man opportunity, sparking a 5-0 run that saw the Greyhounds rally from three down to two up in the span of less than six minutes.
Delaware (2-1) dominated play in the first quarter and led 3-0 when Nick Diachenko scored with 2:15 left in the frame.
The Greyhounds, however, had a long possession to start the second, and then got the ball back when goalkeeper Michael Bonitatibus made a save on Diachenko. After Loyola cleared the ball, Mike Sawyer took a shot that went off the cross bar, but Delaware was whistled for a check to the head, putting the Greyhounds on the extra-man.
Twenty-five seconds into the possession, Sawyer slipped a pass to Lusby who wound up and shot from almost 15 yards out, scoring his first goal since 2010.
Lusby tore his right ACL in the 2010 NCAA First Round game at Cornell. He attempted a comeback last season, but the injury hampered him early, and he received a medical redshirt after playing slightly in just two games.
The Greyhounds scored again to pull within two when Sawyer took a Sean O’Sullivan pass, faked a pass of his own and shot from 12-plus yards, scoring an extra-man goal of his own at 6:05.
Just 31 seconds later, after another Loyola face-off win, Davis Butts used a spin move at the top of the right alley, drove toward the goal and scored high-to-low, tying the game at 3-3.
Loyola’s run continued when Delaware drew another illegal body check penalty on the ensuing face-off. Blue Hens goalkeeper Chris Herbert saved a Sawyer shot, but the ball trickled outside the crease where Patrick Fanshaw picked up the ground ball and dumped a shot over Herbert’s shoulder to put Loyola in front for the first time with 5:03 to go in the half.
J.P. Dalton won another face-off for Loyola, his fifth in a row, and Fanshaw scored again off a Justin Ward pass with 4:22 on the clock, putting the Greyhounds up, 5-3.
Delaware got one back on a Grant Kaleikau goal 1:22 before the break, sending the teams to the locker room with Loyola up, 5-4.
Dalton’s play at the ‘X’ was key to Loyola’s 5-0 run that covered 5-minutes, 39-seconds. Delaware’s Dan Cooney won all four restarts in the first quarter, but Dalton won the first five of the second, helping the Greyhounds control possession and the quarter’s tempo.
“I thought that after we settled down, J.P. made it a battle out there,” Head Coach Charley Toomey said. “This is one of J.P.’s first games where he’s taken all of the face-offs in his career, and we are asking a lot of him to win the face-offs and then play offense. He really went out there and did a great job of getting the ball out to our wings, and that started to change the game for us.”
Dalton finished the game with a 14-of-25 mark at the ‘X’, winning 5-of-7 in both the second and third quarters.
“I don’t think that we were whistle-ready to start the game,” Toomey said. “(Delaware) had played two games, and we were not as sharp, but I think we started to let the game come to us a little bit more, and that’s when good things started to happen.”
Neither team was especially sharp to start the third quarter, as Loyola hit two posts with shots on its first possession, and the Blue Hens misfired on their first three.
Jeff Fletcher caused a Kaleikau turnover, picked up the ground ball and started a Loyola clear near the nine-minute mark in the third, a possession that culminated when Lusby rolled at the top of the right alley and fired a shot into the upper left corner of the net with 8:29 on the clock.
Herbert saved two O’Sullivan shots on Loyola’s ensuing possession after the Greyhounds controlled the face-off, and Delaware took the ball into its offensive end.
Connor McRoy ripped a shot from inside eight yards, but Bonitatibus saved it cleanly and quickly threw an outlet pass to Scott Ratliff who executed a one-man clear to the offensive zone.
Ratliff faked a pass at the top of the box, freezing an onrushing Delaware defender, and he scored in the unsettled situation, pushing Loyola’s lead to three.
Less than a minute later, Sawyer used a spin move at goal-line extended on the left side, got free and shot from inside 10 yards for his second goal of the game.
Dalton and Ratliff again combined to win the faceoff, and after a Ward shot went high, Lusby took an O’Sullivan pass and shot on Herbert. The shot initially appeared to be thwarted by Herbert, but it tricked loose and rolled over the goal line to give Loyola a 9-4 lead with 3:58 left in the third quarter.
A Loyola penalty led to a Delaware extra-man goal 40 seconds later, this one scored by Brenden Gilson, but Lusby struck again 41 ticks later, spinning to his right and scoring.
His four goals were a career-high after he had scored three on four previous occasions.
Delaware scored twice in the first five minutes of the final quarter, cutting Loyola’s lead to 10-7 when Kaleikau assisted on a Danny Keane goal, but Loyola ran over three minutes off the clock after that, and Phil Dobson scored his first collegiate goal with a low-to-low shot form 15 yards out.
Loyola again wound down the clock, and after killing more than two minutes, Delaware got the ball back, but Ratliff caused a Blue Hens turnover, and Loyola went back on the offensive.
Nikko Pontrello, playing in his first collegiate game,wrapped around the crease and scored with 3:46 left in the game.
The teams traded goals after that, Delaware scoring on the extra-man, and Sawyer tallying his third of the game, man-down with 33 seconds to play.
Bonitatibus made his first collegiate start in the game and finished with seven saves, five ground balls and two caused turnovers.
Loyola picked up 34 ground balls to the Blue Hens’ 28, led by Ratliff’s seven. The Greyhounds also held a 44-23 shot advantage in the game, and they were a perfect 16-of-16 clearing the ball.
The victory was Loyola’s third-straight in season-openers and 19th in a row over Delaware.
The Greyhounds return to action next Saturday when they host Towson University at 1 p.m. at Ridley Athletic Complex.