Second-Half Surge Leads Men’s Lacrosse Over Air Force In Mile High Classic
DENVER – Loyola University Maryland scored five of the second half’s first six goals, and the Greyhounds raced pushed out to a six-goal lead late in the third quarter as they defeated the United States Air Force Academy, 13-7, on Saturday afternoon in the Whitman’s Sampler Mile High Classic on Sports Authority Field at Mile High.
Loyola (5-2 overall, 2-0 ECAC) led 4-2 after the end of the first quarter when Zach Herreweyers scored his first collegiate goal with 12.3 on the clock off a Justin Ward assist, but the teams managed just one goal each in the second 15 minutes, and the Greyhounds were up 5-3 at the break.
Nikko Pontrello, who led all players with a career-best four goals, scored his second of the game 2:37 into the third quarter after Davis Butts rolled off a check near midfield got free to the top of the box and slid a pass to Pontrello on the crease.
Air Force (4-4, 1-1) responded just over four minutes later as Kyle Cassidy scored on an eight-yard shot at 8:07.
Just nine seconds later, however, Pontrello scored again, igniting a 4-0 Greyhounds’ run. Harry Kutner picked up the ground ball off a Blake Burkhart faceoff win, sent a pass to Ward who slipped it again to Pontrello near the crease.
The Greyhounds picked up their next goal in transition that started when Jack Runkel made a save on a one-versus-one attempt by a Falcons’ midfielder. Reid Acton picked up the ground ball and sent an outlet pass to Pat Laconi who ran into the box. He shot a pass to Scott Ratliff who whipped a 12-yard shot into the goal at 7:27.
Ratliff was in on the next goal, as well when he caused a turnover on a Falcons clear, ran it into the Loyola zone and fed a past to Herreweyers. The freshman spun around an Air Force defender and scored at 6:10.
Loyola tacked on another goal with 90 ticks left in the quarter as Sean O’Sullivan on a Ward assist from up top of the box.
Loyola’s starting attack of Pontrello, Ward and Herreweyers combined for nine goals and seven assists, three of those goals coming during the 4-0 run. Ward, who was named the game’s most valuable player, scored two goals and tied his career-high with five assists. Pontrello set his career-high with four goals to go with two assists, and Herreweyers scored his first three collegiate goals.
Less than a minute after O’Sullivan’s extra-man goal, Air Force ended the Loyola run and started one of its own. Tommy McKee hit a seven-yard shot off an Erik Smith feed with 32 seconds left on the third-quarter clock, and the Falcons got another goal 55 seconds into the fourth quarter when Christopher Allen rolled off a check and shot high-to-high from over 10 yards out.
Mike Crampton, who also scored the game’s first goal for Air Force, completed the 3-0 Falcons run with a score on an Allen assist at 6:33, cutting Loyola’s lead back to three, 10-7.
Herreweyers, however, responded to complete his hat trick at 4:35, scoring on the doorstep of the crease when Chris Layne dodged hard to the center of the box and sent a pass down low.
Ward and Pontrello then tacked on goals in the final 3:36 to seal the Greyhounds’ victory.
Loyola had another big run early in the game after Crampton scored tehg ame’s first goal at 11:48. Phil Dobson scored 22 seconds later with a step-down shot from 10 yards, the first of three-straight Loyola goals.
Ward hit Pontrello with a pass on the right side of the crease, and he scored at 10:30. Ward then dodged hard to the left from behind the crease and scored with a sidearm shot.
Loyola benefited from a solid possession game, as the Greyhounds won 15-of-24 faceoffs. Burkhart was successful on 14-of-22 restarts.
The Greyhounds also controlled a significant advantage in ground balls, 36-22, led by Ratliff’s five. Ratliff also caused three turnovers, while Laconi had a pair.
Runkel made nine saves in goal for the Greyhounds, seven in the second half.
Loyola is back in action with its final midweek game of the regular-season. The Greyhounds travel down I-95 on Wednesday, March 20, for a 7 p.m. game at Georgetown University.