Loyola University Maryland men’s lacrosse plays its second-straight Patriot League road game on Saturday, March 1, when it heads to Bethlehem, Pa., for a 12 noon faceoff at No. 14 Lehigh University.
The Greyhounds are coming off a week in which they outscored Towson University and College of the Holy Cross, 36-8, in two victories.
Loyola earned a win in its first-ever Patriot League game last Saturday, a 16-4 decision in Worcester, Mass., against the Crusaders.
Four Loyola players – Nikko Pontrello (offensive), Joe Fletcher (defensive), Jack Runkel (goalkeeper) and Brian Sherlock (rookie) – swept the Patriot League weekly awards on Mondayfollowing the pair of wins.
Loyola used a 40-17 advantage in ground balls on Saturday during the win at Holy Cross. The 23-groundball advantage was the largest the Greyhounds have posted in Charley Toomey’s nine years as head coach, eclipsing a margin of 20 in 2008 against St. John’s.
Nikko Pontrello scored six goals Saturday, increasing his team-lead to 15.
Loyola recorded its second-straight double-digit win on February 22 when it opened its tenure in the Patriot League with a 16-4 defeat of Holy Cross.
The Crusaders took a 3-2 lead on a Clay Haarmann goal with 6:36 left in the first quarter, and neither Loyola, nor Holy Cross, scored for the remainder of the period. Nikko Pontrello tallied his second of the game 56 seconds into the second quarter, starting a 14-0 run that would carry into the fourth quarter.
Pontrello finished with a career-high six goals, including four-straight to start the third quarter, while Brian Schultz had career-bests of three goals, four assists and seven points. Kevin Ryan scored a personal-best three goals on just three shots, and Justin Ward matched his high with five assists.
Holy Cross won three of the game’s first four faceoffs, but the Greyhounds finished with a 16-8 overall advantage in restarts. Graham Savio won a career-best 14-of-18 at the ‘X’ for Loyola and picked up seven ground balls in the process.
Joe Fletcher led all players with a career-high eight ground balls, and Jack Runkel posted 12 saves in goal.
Follow The Action
Saturday’s game will be broadcast on the Patriot League Network. All of Loyola’s non-televised home games, and all of the Greyhounds’ road conference games will also be available on the free HD network.
Log on to LoyolaGreyhounds.com or PatriotLeague.tv to watch the games on your computer, web-enabled televisions and most mobile devices.
In The Polls
Loyola moved up in the polls following their wins last week over Towson and Villanova. The Greyhounds are now seventh in the USILA Coaches’ Poll and eighth in both the Warrior/Inside Lacrosse and Lacrosse Magazine Media Rankings.
Lehigh also moved up in the polls and is 14th in all three versions. Saturday’s game will be Loyola’s third against a ranked opponent this year (also at Virginia and at Penn State).
Loyola and Lehigh will meet for the eighth time on the lacrosse field when the teams take the field Saturday.
The Greyhounds, who are 7-0 all-time against the Mountain Hawks, last played Lehigh on April 15, 1998. Loyola won that game 20-2 at Curley Field in a season which the Greyhounds would reach the NCAA Semifinals.
The Greyhounds are 15-6 all-time against teams from their new conference after Saturday’s win at Holy Cross, having played Army, Bucknell, Lafayette, Lehigh and Navy in the past. Other than a series with Navy in 2010-2011, Loyola last played a Patriot League team in 1998 when it took on the Mountain Hawks.
Games Of Runs
Loyola has used significant runs in all four of its games this season, and it has had four stretches of seven or more unanswered goals. In all the Greyhounds have six runs of 3-0 or better. Here is a look at their four best scoring stretches:
|at Holy Cross
Pontrello Putting Up Points
Nikko Pontrello had his fourth multi-goal game is as many contests to open the season on Saturday when he set a career-high with six goals at Holy Cross. The junior attacker scored twice in the opener against Virginia, and he then recorded three versus both Penn State and Towson. His final goal against the Nittany Lions came 19 seconds into overtime and lifted Loyola to a 12-11 win. In his career, Loyola is now 6-0 in games that he scored three or more goals.
Pontrello leads the Greyhounds with 15 goals and 19 points through four games. He is closing in on his goal total from last year when he finished his sophomore campaign with 16.
He leads the Patriot League and is 11th nationally in goals per game (3.75), while he is second and 17th in points per game (4.75).
Schultz, Ryan With Career-Bests
In addition to Nikko Pontrello’s career-high six goals Saturday at Holy Cross, Brian Schultz led Loyola with seven points, also a personal-best. He set career-highs with three goals and four assists, bringing his seasonal totals to seven goals, six assists and 13 points in his first year as a starter.
Kevin Ryan also had a career-high in goals against the Crusaders, needing just three shots to score three goals. He has six goals and an assist from the midfield this year.
Entering the 2014 season, Loyola was looking to replace five of its top seven offensive midfielders from a year ago, a group that included All-American Davis Butts, as well as first middies Chris Layne and Sean O’Sullivan. As a group, the five contributed 47 goals, 29 assists and 76 points, right at 25 percent of the Greyhounds total in each.
This year, Loyola’s first and second midfield units have scored nearly 48 percent of the team’s goals, a total of 29. Tyler Albrecht is second on the team with eight goals, while Brian Sherlock has six goals and four assists, and Kevin Ryan had tallied six and one.
Steve Vaikness, Loyola’s volunteer assistant coach lauded by many in the media as the top faceoff teacher in the nation, has pulled the right strings in the first four games with a faceoff group of Blake Burkhart, Brendan Donovan and Graham Savio.
In the Virginia game, Savio came in to win 11-of-18 restarts, and Donovan then provided wins in 4-of-7 during a critical stretch at Penn State. Burkhart shined against Towson, winning 10-of-14 as Loyola jumped out to a big lead. It was Savio again at Holy Cross, as the freshman won 14-of-18 draws.
As a unit, Loyola is winning 51.9 percent of faceoffs, up from last year’s mark of 46.5.
Margin In Two
As Loyola outscored Towson and Holy Cross by a combined 28 goals, 36-8, it took a bit of time to find precedent for the last time the Greyhounds won back-to-back games by such a margin. The last time Loyola won two by 28 or more goals goes back to the Dave Cottle-coached 1996 team that beat Saint Joseph’s, 26-6, on April 10 and C.W. Post, 17-5, on April 13. That combined margin of victory was 32 goals, 43-11.
The last time Loyola scored a combined 36 goals in consecutive games was 2007 when it tallied 19 against Fairfield on April 21 and 17 versus Hobart a week later. The last time the Greyhounds yielded eight or fewer in back-to-back outings was 2001 when they beat Radford, 18-5, on April 11, and Butler, 12-3, on April 14.
Sweep Of Patriot League Honors
Four Loyola players swept the Patriot League weekly awards on Monday, February 24, as Nikko Pontrello (Offensive), Joe Fletcher (Defensive), Jack Runkel (Goalkeeper) and Brian Sherlock (Rookie) won the honors.
Pontrello scored 10 goals and had an assist in two games against Towson and Holy Cross, while Fletcher and Runkel led a defense that gave up just four goals in each. Fletcher had 11 ground balls, including a career-high eight at Holy Cross, and three caused turnovers; Runkel posted 20 saves and a combined 2.79 goals against average, yielding just six total goals. Sherlock continued excellent two-way midfielder play, scoring four goals, assisting on two and picking up six ground balls.
Jack Runkel posted 12 saves, including five in the fourth quarter, of the win against Penn State after making just three stops in the season-opener against Virginia.
The senior goalkeeper, who earned 2012 NCAA Championships All-Tournament honors, made five of the saves in the fourth quarter as Penn State took 13 shots.
Runkel then directed the Loyola defense to dominating performances against Towson and Holy Cross. He made four saves in the first quarter and allowed just two goals over more than 54 minutes of action, stopping a total of eight shots against the Tigers. He then had a scoreless stretch of more than 46 minutes against the Crusaders and finished with 12 saves against just three goals allowed.
Quarterbacking The Offense
Justin Ward returns for his third year as a starter on attack for the Greyhounds and will once again serve as Loyola’s quarterback from ‘X’. Last season, Ward earned USILA All-America Honorable Mention after finishing tops on the team in points (62) and assists (35) and second in goals (27). His 62 points ranked tied for fifth in school single-season Division I history, and his 35 assists check in at third on that list.
With a career-high tying five assists at Holy Cross, Ward moved past Mike Ruland and into fourth-place in Loyola’s Division I history with 78. He is one assist back of Shane Koppens for third place. Ward is also 19th in school Division I history in total points with 121.
Ward leads the Patriot League and is 12th nationally with 2.75 assists per game.
Fletch, White And Blue
Senior defender Joe Fletcher was the long current collegiate player selected as part of one of 52 players who made up the United States Men’s National Team training roster this fall, and the day before Loyola’s season-opener, he found out he is one of 30 players who made the cut for the team that will compete at the 2014 World Cup in Denver.
Against Holy Cross, Fletcher set a career-high with eight ground balls, eclipsing his previous total of seven set on three different occasions. In a pair of games against Towson and the Crusaders, he had 11 ground balls and three caused turnovers. This season, the Preseason All-American leads Loyola with 17 ground balls and eight caused turnovers. His 53 career caused turnovers are tied with Reid Acton for third all-time at Loyola behind the 90 of P.T. Ricci and 88 of Scott Ratliff.
Joe Fletcher and Justin Ward were two of 20 players nationally to be named candidates for the Senior CLASS Award that seniors who have performed at a high level athletically and in the classroom and who have used their platforms as student-athletes to make positive impacts in the community.
It is the second year in a row that two Loyola players have been named candidates as Scott Ratliff and Davis Butts were up for the award last year. Ratliff was a finalist, as well. Loyola is the only school nationally with two candidates this year.
Not Just Defensive Midfield
Good transition play has been a key to Loyola’s success in recent years, and the dynamic has continued this year through three games. Five of the Greyhounds’ first 10 goals Wednesday came out of unsettled situations.
Pat Laconi, a preseason All-American short-stick defensive midfielder, scored a career-best two goals against the Tigers, and he also had three caused turnovers. Ryan Fournier scored his first career goal on a transition run in the third quarter.
As a freshman in 2013, Tyler Albrecht saw limited action for the Greyhounds, mostly coming off the wings on faceoffs and occasional offensive midfield shifts. His role has changed dramatically in his second season, and the Canadian midfielder is making the most of it.
Albrecht is a starter on Loyola’s first midfield with Matt Sawyer and Brian Sherlock, and he has three multi-goal games in four outings this year. Albrecht scored twice in the season-opener at Virginia, and he recorded hat tricks with three each against Penn State and Towson. He is second on the team with eight goals.
In addition to his offensive work, Albrecht has continued to be a two-way middie, playing on the wings for faceoffs and defensive shifts. He had five ground balls and two caused turnovers against Towson.
Starting Off Strong
Loyola needed just 12 shots to score nine goals in the first quarter of Wednesday’s game against Towson, and the Greyhounds scored on nine of their 11 possessions in the quarter.
Meanwhile, the defense limited Towson to five shots, four of which were saved by goalkeeper Jack Runkel. Loyola forced four Towson turnovers, and Blake Burkhart won 7-of-9 faceoffs in the opening frame. Six different players scored in the first quarter for Loyola.
On The Tube
Loyola men’s lacrosse will make a minimum of four appearances on national television this year as part of the Patriot League’s agreement with CBS Sports Network.
The Greyhounds will host Duke University on Sunday, March 9, in a match-up of the last two NCAA Champions, and CBS will then feature the Greyhounds’ Thursday, April 17, game against Bucknell University, the top two teams in the Preseason Patriot League poll. The network will also feature two long-time rivals when Loyola hosts Johns Hopkins University, on Saturday, May 3.
Additionally, the Loyola-Georgetown game on Wednesday, March 19, in Washington, D.C., was added to the CBS Sports Network slate.
Both semifinal games in the Patriot League Championships will be broadcast on Friday, April 25, and the Patriot League Championship Game will also air live on Sunday, April 27.
Loyola returns to Ridley Athletic Complex for its next game, a step out of Patriot League play, to take on Duke University in a game that will feature the last two NCAA Champions. The 6 p.m. game on Sunday, March 9, will be broadcast live on CBS Sports Network.
Following the game against the Blue Devils, Loyola hosts the U.S. Military Academy on Saturday, March 16, at 1 p.m.