FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – The Loyola University Maryland men’s lacrosse team checked off a lot of firsts throughout the 2012 season, and the Greyhounds capped their magical season with another on Memorial Day at Gillette Stadium.
Loyola won its first-ever NCAA Men’s Lacrosse Championship and the first national title in the school’s Division I history. The Greyhounds set a record for fewest goals allowed in an NCAA Championship Game, defeating the University of Maryland, 9-3.
“I thought Saturday was a pretty cool day for the Greyhounds. But, today is special,” said Charley Toomey who became the first coach to win an NCAA title in his first trip to the NCAA Semifinals. “When I look at my locker room, I’m just so proud of them. They’ve handled every situation with dignity and class this year. Coming back on short preparation to play a tough Maryland team, a physical Maryland team, they responded in a big way to give Loyola our first National Championship.”
Eric Lusby was named the Championship’s Most Outstanding Player after scoring four goals in the title game and setting a tournament record with 17 in four games. He also ends his season with a school-season record 54 goals, surpassing teammate Mike Sawyer who set the record two games ago and finished the year with 52.
Four Greyhounds joined Lusby on the All-Tournament Team: Josh Hawkins, Joe Fletcher, Scott Ratliff and Jack Runkel.
The Greyhounds trailed on two occasions during the game, 1-0 and 3-2, but after Maryland’s Kevin Cooper scored at 10:40, Loyola did not allow a goal for the remaining 40-minutes, 40-seconds of the contest.
Loyola’s win capped a season that it started outside the national Top-20 after concluding 2011 with an 8-5 record. The Greyhounds’ 18 wins set a program record, and Loyola became just the ninth team to win an NCAA Division I title since the first Championship in 1971.
The team is also the second in Loyola history to win a national crown, joining the 1976 men’s soccer side that won the NCAA Division II title.
Maryland took a 1-0 lead 5:26 into the game when Jesse Bernhardt caused a turnover and went the distance to score. The Terrapins (12-6) held Loyola scoreless for more than four more minutes, but Davis Butts broke through for the Greyhounds, scoring on a bouncer from nine yards out after taking a feed from Chris Layne.
Lusby pushed Loyola in front at the 1:55 mark in the first quarter, spinning free from a defender to dump in his first goal of the game.
Maryland, however, scored two in a row in the first five minutes of the second quarter to take brief 3-2 lead. Mike Chanenchuk got loose curling around the crease and scored at 12:12, and Cooper’s goal off a Joe Cummings feed made it 3-2 with 10:40 left in the frame.
The Terrapins’ advantage, however, did not last long as Pat Byrnes dodged around a defender from goal-line extended on the right side, putting a low-to-low shot around Maryland goalkeeper Niko Amato 1:18 after Cooper’s goal.
Layne then found Sawyer open about seven yards out, and Sawyer put a low-to-low shot into the net at 5:57 to put the Greyhounds up for good.
With 3:57 to go before the half, Phil Dobson came down the right side and ripped a shot to make it 5-3 at the break.
From that point, it was the defense’s turn to take over. Maryland took 19 shots in the third and fourth quarters, but Loyola did not yield a goal. Runkel made six of his seven saves in the second half in goal for the Greyhounds.
“Jack was tremendous this week, but that is what we see of him in practice every day,” Toomey said. “I felt like he got his first save, and that started things off right.”
Runkel was quick to credit the defense in front of him.
“A dream come true to play with these guys,” he said. “They give me shots that I want to see. I’m a lot better up top seeing shots and saving them.”
The close defense of Fletcher (2 ground balls, 1 caused turnover), Reid Acton (3, 2) and Dylan Grimm (1 gb) and rope unit of Ratliff (5, 2), Hawkins (2, 2), Pat Laconi (1 gb), Kyle Duffy and Kevin Moriarty led the way in front of Runkel.
Justin Ward scored the only goal of the third quarter,wrapping around the crease and depositing a high-to-high shot into the goal at 10:12, making Loyola’s lead 6-3.
The fourth quarter offense, then, belonged to Lusby.
He took a Layne pass and whipped a hip-high shot for a goal with 11:12 on the clock, and he made it an 8-3 Greyhounds lead with 5:07 toplay when Layne worked the ball to Sawyer, and Sawyer found Lusby alone on the top right side, and he scored from eight yards in front of the crease.
Lusby scored his record-setting goal with 3:45 left on the clock after Maryland had called a timeout to set up a ride.
Butts carried the ball around a double team for the Greyhounds, and then when he appeared to be trapped near the top of the box, Butts split the defenders and raced toward the goal. He sliced a pass in front of the crease to Lusby who finished his fourth goal of the afternoon.
“I just got hot at the right time,” Lusby said of his 17-goal outburst in the Championships. “I knew going into the tournament, my shot was a little off. I kept missing the cage, so I knew I wanted to shoot for net. But I have to give credit to all the other guys in the offense. From the middies to Davis Butts and Pat Byrnes, all those guys.”
“They were dodging hard all weekend and drawing slides and giving me all the opportunities I had. And, Mike Sawyer drawing all the attention on his side of the field. When I had the opportunity to shoot andscore, I wanted to make sure I made it count.”
Lusby opened the Championships with three goals and two assists against Canisius, and he then scored five goals with two assists in a Quarterfinal win over Denver. Saturday, he tallied five goals and a helper in the Semifinals against Notre Dame, leading to his four-goal performance in the title match.
He eclipsed the previous record of 16 goals set in 2006 by Virginia’s Matt Ward and tied a year later by Duke’s Zach Greer.
Lusby’s 17 goals came on 40 shots, and his 22 points were just three shy of tying the Championships’ record set in 1977 by Cornell’s Eamon McEneaney and tied in 1987 by Cornell’s Tim Goldstein.
The Greyhounds, who had made one previous appearance in the Division I Championship Game (1990 when Toomey was a co-captain and starting goalkeeper) and one in the Division II title contest (1981), joined Cornell, Duke, Johns Hopkins, Maryland, North Carolina, Princeton, Syracuse and Virginia as teams that have won Division I titles.
“For our alumni, for our past presidents (Rev. Joseph Sellinger and Rev. Harold Ridley), for our current president (Rev. Brian Linnane), (Assistant Vice President/Director of Athletics) Jim Paquette, for (Athletic Director Emeritus) Joe Boylan, (Executive Vice President) Susan Donovan, the people (who) have supported us for so many years to allow this team to be what it is, I’m just so happy for those people,” Toomey said.
“This is a special group of guys. This is a special group of young men that fought through a lot of things this year to put themselves in position, and they stood tall on the biggest day.”