Nikko Pontrello and Kevin Ryan each had three-goal games, and Loyola clinched its first-ever Patriot League Regular-Season title last Saturday with a 15-6 victory over Boston University at Ridley Athletic Complex.
The Greyhounds led 4-1 at halftime, but Boston University got within two 1:04 into the second half before Loyola went on a 4-0 run that broke the game open.
Graham Savio won 17-of-25 faceoffs and had six ground balls in the game, as Loyola controlled the possession battle, picking up 47 ground balls to the Terriers’ 23.
Savio had a slim 4-of-7 advantage in the first half, but he then won 5-of-9 in the third quarter and 8-of-9 in the fourth.
In addition to his three goals, Pontrello had a five-point night with two assists, while Ryan had an assist, too. Brian Schultz scored twice and assisted on one, and Justin Ward recorded three assists against Boston University.
Five Greyhounds had five or more groundballs in the game, led by Savio’s six. Ward, Joe Fletcher, Ryan Fournier and Pat Laconi each picked up five.
Turn On The Television
Thursday’s game will be broadcast live, nationally on CBS Sports Network. Dave Ryan will call the play-by-play, and Evan Washburn will handle the analysis of the action.
The game is one of at least five that will feature the Greyhounds on the network. The entire Patriot League Championships, as well as game against Johns Hopkins University on May 3will be broadcast life. Loyola’s games versus Duke University and at Georgetown University were also on the network.
In The Polls
With Saturday’s win against Boston University, Loyola remained in the No. 1 spot of both the USILA coaches and Warrior/Inside Lacrosse media polls for the fourth week in a row.
The Greyhounds have been ranked No. 1 at some point in each of the last three seasons, most recently in the first polls of the 2012 season. This stretch is the longest the Greyhounds have been ranked first since spending nine-straight at the top from March 15-May 10, 1999.
Loyola will play Bucknell for the fourth time in series history but the first since April 2, 1983 when the Greyhounds defeated the Bison, 15-8. Loyola is 3-0 all-time in the series that was played in 1981, 1982 and 1983; a fourth game was scheduled for the 1984 season, but it was postponed due to weather and not rescheduled.
Get To Ten
Since Charley Toomey became head coach at Loyola in 2006, the Greyhounds have scored 10 or more goals on 64 occasions. After defeating Boston University, 15-8, on Saturday, Loyola has won 81.5 percent of those games (53-12).
Loyola has the best winning percentage in NCAA Division I men’s lacrosse since the start of the 2012 season. The Greyhounds are 40-7 during that stretch (18-1 in 2012, 11-5 in 2013 and 11-1 this season) for a .851 mark. Loyola’s winning percentage of .917 this season is the best nationally.
Only Duke has won more games (42) than Loyola during the run, but the Blue Devils are second to the Greyhounds in winning percentage by more than seven percent (42-12, .778).
A pair of Greyhounds attackers are near the top of two offensive categories through games of Monday, April 14, in both total goals and assists. Nikko Pontrello is second in Division I with 40 goals, while Justin Ward is second with 39 assists.
The duo is the No. 2 point-scoring tandem in the country with 99 combined points (Ward, 51; Pontrello, 48). Albany’s Lyle (73) and Miles (67) have a combined 140.
Tops Among Close Defenders
Joe Fletcher is second on Loyola in ground balls, total (54) and per game (4.50), this season, but more impressive than that, he paces all close defenders nationally in the categories. Fletcher is 46th overall in ground balls per game, while the 45 players who are ahead of him are either face-off specialists or long-stick midfielders who play on the wings during restarts.
And Short-Sticks, Too
Meanwhile, Pat Laconi leads all non-pole defenders nationally in caused turnovers and caused turnovers per game. He has caused 22 this season while averaging 1.83 per game. He is 13th in the nation, and the 12 players ahead of him in the rankings are all long-stick midfielders or close defenders.
Justin Ward has continued to be the quarterback of the Greyhounds’ offense this year, passing out 39 assists in 12 games. With his third and final assist last Saturday against Boston University, Ward passed Sean Heffernan for first-place in school single-season history at the Division I level.
He is second in the nation in total assists (39), and he is also second in the country and tops in the Patriot League, with 3.25 assists per game this year.
With four assists against Duke on March 9, Ward set Loyola’s career Division I record (since 1982) in total assists, eclipsing the mark of 83 set from 1989-92 by Jim Blanding. His three at Colgate gave him 100 for his career, making him the second player in program history ever to record 100.
Ward now has 106 career assists. Gary Hanley holds the all-time Loyola record with 160 assists. Ward is also seventh in school Division I history in total points with 157, one away from tying John Carroll (1984-87) for sixth place.
Ward is in his third year as a starter on attack for the Greyhound after earning USILA All-America Honorable Mention last year 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.
Pontrello Putting Up Points
Nikko Pontrello was held without a goal for the first time this season on April 5 against Navy, snapping a streak of 10-straight games to start the season that Pontrello had two or more goals. He rebounded, however, with three goals and two assists last Saturday versus Boston University. Through games of Monday, April 14, Pontrello is second in the nation in total goals with 40.
He scored two in the season-opener at Virginia and then had three each against Penn State and Towson before scoring a career-high six goals at Holy Cross. He then tallied four at Lehigh, five against Duke, three at Georgetown, five versus Lafayette and three against Colgate and Boston University.
Two of his goals have been game-winners in one-goal contests. Pontrello scored 19 seconds into overtime to give Loyola a 12-11 win at Penn State, and he then tallied one with 51.4 seconds left in regulation to push the Greyhounds past Georgetown, 10-9.
Pontrello leads the Greyhound and the Patriot League with 40 goals and is second behind Justin Ward for the team- and League-lead with 48 points through 12 games.
He leads the Patriot League and is second nationally in goals per game (3.33), while he is second and 14th in points per game (4.00).
After opening the season with a .214 save percentage in the opener at Virginia, Jack Runkel has played to a .638 mark, saving 118 out of 185 shots on goal he’s faced. In a six-game stretch against Towson, Holy Cross, Lehigh, Duke and Army, Runkel made 61 saves and allowed just 26 goals (.701).
The senior goalkeeper, who earned 2012 NCAA Championships All-Tournament honors, has a goals against average of 7.02 this season and a cumulative saves percentage of .608 through 12 games. He is third in the nation in both saves percentage and goals against average.
In three years as a starter for the Greyhounds, Runkel has a 7.73 goals against average and .562 saves percentage; he is fifth in Loyola’s Division I history (since 1982) with 419 career saves. Runkel’s record between the pipes is 38-6. He is second in wins among active goalkeepers, trailing only Maryland’s Niko Amato who has 42 victories. Amato (as of Monday), however, Amato is a four-year starter, while Runkel did not start until early in his sophomore season.
Runkel picked up his fourth-straight Patriot League Goalkeeper of the Week honor on March 17, becoming the first player in League history to win any of the weekly honors (Offensive, Defensive, Goalkeeper or Rookie) four-consecutive times. His honor on March 31 made him the first player in League history to earn five in a season.
Fletch, White And Blue
Senior defender Joe Fletcher was the lone 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 five different occasions. In a pair of games against Towson and the Crusaders, he had 11 ground balls and three caused turnovers.
He later had seven ground balls and causing a turnover against Duke. He also was primarily responsible for holding the Blue Devils’ All-American attacker Jordan Wolf to one goal.
Versus Colgate, Fletcher was matched up against Ryan Walsh, and he held the Raiders’ leading scorer without a goal or assist for the first time in his career, a total of 42 prior games. He then marked Navy’s T.J. Hanzsche, holding him without a point for the first time in 15 games.
Fletcher has been named Patriot League Defensive Player of the Week four times this year, the most any player in conference history has earned the award. He is second on the Greyhounds with 54 ground balls and caused turnovers (18). His 63 career caused turnovers are third all-time at Loyola behind the 90 of P.T. Ricci and 88 of Scott Ratliff.
As good of a match-up defender as Fletcher is, he is as good off the ground. He leads all close defenders nationally with 54 ground balls and 4.50 per game.
Not Just Defensive Midfield
Short-stick defensive midfielder Pat Laconi was named the Patriot League Defensive Player of the Week on March 3 after matching his career-high with two goals at Lehigh.
The senior, who is a team co-captain and Preseason All-American, had a goal an assist versus Army, a goal at Georgetown and an assist versus Navy, and one of each versus Boston University bringing his season totals to seven goals and three assists. He now has 12 goals and 12 assists in his four-year career.
Laconi posted four ground balls, matching his career-high, and three caused turnovers at Colgate, the final of each coming with less than 25 seconds remaining to help seal the win. He caused another three turnovers a week later at Navy. His team-leading 22 caused turnovers this season have brought his career total to 63, fourth-most in school history.
Taking Care Of The Ball
Loyola continues to lead the nation in fewest turnovers per game, averaging 10.42 through 12 contests. The Greyhounds have committed 1.33 fewer turnovers per game than the second-place team in the nation, Towson, a team that committed 18 turnovers earlier this year against Loyola.
The Greyhounds also lead the nation in clearing percentage at .940.
Near The Top At Both Sides
The Greyhounds is the only team to be in the top five of scoring offense and defense at the Division I level. Loyola’s goals per game (13.25) rank fifth, and its goals allowed (7.17) are fourth. As a result, Loyola leads the nation in scoring margin (+6.08).
While it is fourth nationally in scoring defense, Loyola is just third in the Patriot League in the category. Army (1st, 5.70) and Lehigh (2nd, 6.50) both rank ahead of the Greyhounds nationally.
Games Of Runs
Loyola has used significant runs in all 12 of its games this season, and it has had five stretches of seven or more unanswered goals. In all the Greyhounds have 21 runs of 3-0 or better. Here is a look at their four best scoring stretches:
|at Holy Cross
Schultz Stepping Up
In his first year as a starter on attack for the Greyhounds, senior Brian Schultz has scored 21 goals, second-most on the team through 12 games. He also had the game-winning goal 12 seconds into the second overtime at Navy.
Entering this season, Schultz had seen most of his playing time on extra-man opportunities for the Greyhounds, posting a combined three goals and five assists.
Tewaaraton Watch Trio, Senior CLASS Award Pair
Two of Loyola’s senior co-captains were named to the Tewaaraton Award Watch List when it was released in February. Joe Fletcher and Justin Ward were among the 50 players nationally to receive recognition in February. Additionally, junior attacker Nikko Pontrello was added to the Watch List on March 20.
Fletcher and Ward were also 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. Earlier this month, they were selected as two of the award’s 10 finalists for this year.