Loyola University Maryland returns to Ridley Athletic Complex to host a nationally televised game on Sunday, March 9, at 6 p.m., against Duke University.
The game features the last two NCAA Champions (Loyola 2012, Duke 2013).
The Greyhounds are fourth nationally in goals per game, averaging 15.25, and they are also fourth in scoring margin with a +7.0 mark in their five games.
Nikko Pontrello moved up to fifth in the nation in goals per game (3.75) after scoring four last Saturday at Lehigh.
Loyola has won its first two Patriot League games – at Holy Cross and Lehigh – by a combined score of 30-11.
Three Loyola players – Nikko Pontrello (offensive), Pat Laconi (defensive), and Jack Runkel (goalkeeper) – swept the Patriot League weekly awards on Monday following the win at Lehigh.
Loyola had used a 67-39 advantage in ground balls the past two Saturdays in wins over Holy Cross and Lehigh. Its 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.
The Greyhounds moved to 2-0 in the Patriot League with a 14-7 victory over then-No. 14 Lehigh in Bethlehem, Pa., on Saturday, March 1.
Kevin Ryan scored a career-high five goals, and Nikko Pontrello added four goals and an assist, in the win. Brian Schultz and Pat Laconi added one each.
Justin Ward posted his fifth multi-assist in as many games this season with four against the Mountain Hawks, while Jeff Chase recorded the first of his career with three.
After Loyola took a 3-1 lead in the first quarter, Lehigh scored two in a row to tie the game at 3-3 heading into the second quarter. Pontrelllo, however, scored three unanswered, and Schultz added one before the end of the half, and the Greyhounds were up 7-3 going into halftime.
Lehigh opened the second-half scoring with a goal at 11:39, but Laconi, Ryan (twice) and Matt Sawyer scored in the third quarter to put Loyola up 10-4 heading into the final 15 minutes.
Jack Runkel posted a season-high 13 saves in goal for the Greyhounds, and Graham Savio won 15-of-24 at the face-off ‘X’, picking up six ground balls.
Turn On The Television
Sunday’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 four that will feature the Greyhounds on the network. Home games against Bucknell University and Johns Hopkins University, as well as the Greyhounds contest at Georgetown University, will air on the channel.
In The Polls
Loyola moved up in the polls following its win last week over then-No. 14 Lehigh. The Greyhounds are now fifth in both the USILA Coaches’ Poll and Warrior/Inside Lacrosse media polls, and they are fourth in the Lacrosse Magazine rankings.
Duke enters the game ranked third in the in the Warrior/Inside Lacrosse and Lacrosse Magazine versions and fourth in the coaches’ poll.
Sunday will be the 27th meeting all-time between the Blue Devils and the Greyhounds, with Duke holding a 16-10 advantage in a series that dates back to 1946.
Including this year, the teams have played during the regular-season for 15-straight (since 2000). Twice during that span, 2008 and 2013, the teams have also met in NCAA Tournament action.
The Blue Devils won last year’s regular-season meeting, 9-8, outscoring Loyola 5-3 in the fourth quarter. Josh Offit’s goal with 12:26 left in regulation gave Duke its first lead since the second quarter, 6-5, but Sean O’Sullivan struck on an extra-man opportunity for Loyola, and the Greyhounds tied the game less than two minutes later. Offitt and Christian Walsh, however, scored back-to-back goals to put the Blue Devils in front for good.
The teams met again in the NCAA First Round, playing what would become to many the game of the year. Duke edged the Greyhounds, 12-11 in double-overtime. Case Mathias tied the game at 11-11 on a goal with 65 seconds left in regulation, and he scored the winner 2:20 into the second overtime.
Mathias led Duke with three goals, while Zach Herreweyers scored three for Loyola, and Justin Ward had five assists.
Duke had won five-straight over Loyola and eight of nine, before the Greyhounds defeated the Blue Devils, 13-8, on March 10, 2012, in Baltimore.
Games Of Runs
Loyola has used significant runs in all five of its games this season, and it has had four stretches of seven or more unanswered goals. In all the Greyhounds have nine 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 fifth multi-goal game is as many contests to open the season on Saturday when he scored a pair four goals at Lehigh. The game came a week after 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 7-0 in games that he scored three or more goals.
Pontrello leads the Greyhounds with 19 goals and 24 points through four games. He has already eclipsed his goal total from last year when he finished his sophomore campaign with 16.
He leads the Patriot League and is fifth nationally in goals per game (3.8), while he is second and 11th in points per game (4.8).
Ryan Racks Up Goals
Kevin Ryan has tied his previous, or set new career-highs in each of the Greyhounds’ last three games, bringing his season total to 11. The senior midfielder posted a pair of goals against Towson to match his previous best, and he then set a new high with three at Holy Cross.
Ryan broke that mark with a five-goal game at Lehigh last Saturday, scoring four in the second half to help push the Greyhounds to a 14-7 win. Loyola is 4-0 all-time when Ryan scored two or more goals.
Ward Playing The Role
Justin Ward has continued to be the quarterback of the Greyhounds’ offense this year, passing out nine combined assists in the last two contests. He is fourth in the nation, and tops in the Patriot League, with 3.0 assists per game this year.
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.
With four assists at Lehigh, Ward moved past into second place in Loyola’s Division I history with 82. He is two assists back of Jim Blanding for first place. Ward is also 17th in school Division I history in total points with 125.
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 47 percent of the team’s goals, a total of 35. Kevin Ryan has scored eight goals in the last two games and is second on the team with 11 total. Tyler Albrecht is third on the squad with eight goals, while Brian Sherlock has six goals and four assists.
After opening the season with a .214 save percentage in the opener at Virginia, Jack Runkel has played to a .662 mark, saving 45 out of 68 shots on goal he’s faced. In the last three games against Towson, Holy Cross and Lehigh, Runkel made 33 saves and allowed just 12 goals (.733).
The senior goalkeeper, who earned 2012 NCAA Championships All-Tournament honors, has a goals against average of 7.62 this season and a cumulative saves percentage of .585 through five games.
In three years as a starter for the Greyhounds, Runkel has a 7.93 goals against average and .551 saves percentage. His record between the pipes is 31-6. He is tied with Penn State’s Austin Kaut for second in wins among active goalkeepers. Runkel and Kaut trail Maryland’s Niko Amato who has 39 victories. Both Kaut and Amato, however, are four-year starters, while Runkel did not start until early in his sophomore season.
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, also scored twice against Towson, and his four goals match his total from a year ago when he scored four times and assisted on six. Laconi also is second on the team with seven caused turnovers this season.
Schultz Stepping Up
In his first year as a starter on attack for the Greyhounds, senior Brian Schultz has parlayed his opportunity into a solid start to the season. Through five games, Schultz has scored nine goals, third most on the team, and six assisted, second behind team-leader Justin Ward.
Entering this season, Schultz had seen most of his playing time on extra-man opportunities for the Greyhounds. As a sophomore and junior, he posted a combined three goals and five assists.
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 five 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.
Savio then took all of the faceoffs at Lehigh, winning a career-high 15-of-24.
As a unit, Loyola is winning 53.8 percent of faceoffs, up from last year’s mark of 46.5.
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 is second on Loyola with 18 ground balls, and he leads the squad with 10 caused turnovers. His 55 career caused turnovers are third all-time at Loyola behind the 90 of P.T. Ricci and 88 of Scott Ratliff.
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 five 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 third 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.
Tewaaraton Watch, Senior CLASS Award List Pair
Two of Loyola’s senior co-captains were named to the Tewaaraton Award Watch List when it was released last week. Joe Fletcher and Justin Ward were among the 50 players nationally to receive recognition.
They 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.
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.
Patriot League Honors
Loyola players have earned seven Patriot League weekly awards over the last two weeks. Nikko Pontrello (Offensive) and Jack Runkel (Goalkeeper) won their second awards in as many weeks on Monday, March 3, while Pat Laconi (Defensive, March 3), Joe Fletcher (Defensive, February 24) and Brian Sherlock (Rookie, February 24) also were honored.
Romar Dennis won the initial Rookie of the Week Award this year after scoring twice in the season-opener at Virginia.
The Greyhounds step back into Patriot League play on Saturday, March 15, when they host the U.S. Military Academy at Ridley Athletic Complex in a 1 p.m. game.