Trio Of Team Captains Drafted By Major League Lacrosse Teams
PHILADELPHIA – Loyola University Maryland men’s lacrosse tri-captains Joe Fletcher (3rd overall, New York Lizards), Pat Laconi (9th, Charlotte Hounds) and Justin Ward (23rd, Charlotte Hounds) were selected in the 2014 Major League Lacrosse Collegiate Entry Draft on Friday night at the USLacrosse Convention.
Fletcher became the highest Loyola player ever selected in the 14-year history of the MLL Draft. He was the third overall pick of event by the New York Lizards. Josh Hawkins was the previous highest Loyola draftee; he was selected fourth by the Hamilton Nationals in last year’s draft.
Laconi and Ward will be reunited with a trio of teammates with whom they won the 2012 NCAA Championship. Attacker Mike Sawyer, who was an MLL All-Star as a rookie last year, NCAA Tournament MVP Eric Lusby and fellow short-stick defensive midfielder Hawkins all play for the Hounds who reached the MLL Championship Game last year.
They bring the number of Greyhounds drafted in the last two years to eight. A quintet of players – Josh Hawkins (5th overall, Hamilton Nationals), Mike Sawyer (8th, Charlotte Hounds), Scott Ratliff (9th, Boston Cannons), Davis Butts (19th, Denver Outlaws) and Reid Acton (26th, Hamilton Nationals) – were selected in last year’s draft.
“This is a tremendous accomplishment for these guys who have been big parts of our success since stepping onto campus,” Head Coach Charley Toomey said. “They are great people, players and leaders, and we look forward to starting practice with them on our field Monday.”
Fletcher finished last season as one of the best defenders in the nation, earning All-America First Team honors from the United States Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association (USILA). In doing so, he became the first Loyola player to earn the recognition since Gavin Prout in 2001. Earlier this year, Fletcher was the only current collegiate player named to the U.S. National Team training roster and is vying for a spot on the squad that will compete at the 2014 World Cup in Denver.
The senior defender from Syracuse, N.Y., was the 2013 ECAC Lacrosse League Defensive Player of the Year as he finished the season with 64 ground balls, tops amongst close defenders in the conference. He also had 17 caused turnovers and was a key member of the Greyhounds’ clearing unit that led the nation and set a Division I record by successfully clearing the ball 95.5 percent of the time. A noted student leader outside of lacrosse, Fletcher is co-president of Loyola’s Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, and he is one of 14 students school-wide to serve on the Green & Grey society, a group of student leaders who serve as liaisons to Loyola’s president, board of trustees and administration.
Ward has been the quarterback of the Greyhounds’ offense for the last two seasons, and as a junior in 2013, he turned in a fantastic season that earned him USILA All-America Honorable Mention and All-ECAC honors. The attacker finished 11th in Division I in assists per game (2.19) and 19th in points per game (3.88), culminating the season with 27 goals and 35 assists for 62 points.
His 35 assists ranked third on Loyola’s single-season chart at the Division I level, and his 62 points were tied for fifth. Ward enters the season with 67 career assists, good for seventh at the school in the Division I era, and his 106 career points to date are 22nd. He had one of the most prolific games by a Loyola player in recent years last season when he became the first Greyhound since Gavin Prout in 2001 to score seven goals in a game, and the first since Tim Goettelmann in 2000 to post 10 points, when he tallied seven goals and three assists against UMBC in February.
Laconi has garnered a reputation from coaches as one of the top short-stick defensive midfielders nationwide over the past three years. As a member of the Greyhounds’ rope unit, Laconi has helped Loyola establish an excellent transition game that last year led the nation and set a Division I record by clearing the ball effectively 95.5 percent of the time.
He posted career-highs of 24 ground balls and 20 caused turnovers last year, and he also showed his ability to score on the offensive end. Laconi posted four goals and six assists as a junior after logging one and three during his sophomore campaign.
In addition to their plaudits on the field and in the locker room, Fletcher, Laconi and Ward have all excelled in the classroom, too. All three were named to the ECAC All-Academic Team last year.
The Greyhounds open the season Thursday, February 6, when they travel to Charlottesville, Va., to face the University of Virginia.