Loyola University Maryland plays its second-straight home game on Saturday, March 15, when it hosts the U.S. Military Academy at 1 p.m.
The game will be Loyola’s first home Patriot League contest since officially joining the conference on July 1, 2013.
The Greyhounds are third nationally in goals per game, averaging 14.83, and they are also third in scoring margin with a +7.0 mark in their five games.
Nikko Pontrello moved up to third in the nation in goals per game (4.0) after scoring five last Sunday against Duke.
Justin Ward is now third nationally in assists per game (3.17). Ward has posted two or more assists in all of Loyola’s six games thus far.
Loyola has won its first two Patriot League games – at Holy Cross and Lehigh – by a combined score of 30-11.
Three Loyola players – Matt Sawyer (offensive), Joe Fletcher (defensive), and Jack Runkel (goalkeeper) – swept the Patriot League weekly awards on Monday following the win over Duke.
Duke had a 13-10 advantage in faceoffs won last Saturday, but led by Joe Fletcher’s seven, the Greyhounds came away with a 35-34 lead in ground balls.
Loyola trailed Duke, 4-3, after the first quarter, but the Greyhounds scored 10 of the next 12 goals to go on to a 14-7 victory over the Blue Devils on Sunday night in front of a national television audience and 3,912 fans at Ridley Athletic Complex.
Matt Sawyer tripled his previous career-high with six goals, and Nikko Pontrello tallied five goals for the Greyhounds. The two needed just 14 shots for their 11 goals.
Sawyer and Pontrello scored goals within 1:07 of each other early int he second quarter, and Sawyer added two more in the frame to help the Greyhounds go into the locker room with an 8-5 advantage.
Pontrello then added the first two goals of the second half, and each had scores in the first two minutes of the third quarter, as did Justin Ward.
Ward finished with a goal and four assists, while Brian Schultz posted a goal and two helpers. Jeff Chase had the other Greyhounds goal.
Jack Runkel made nine saves in goal for the Greyhounds, as the defense allowed seven or fewer goals for the fourth-straight game.
Follow The Action
Saturday’s game, and all non-televised home games, will be broadcast on the Patriot League Network. Additionally, all of Loyola’s road conference games will also be available on the free HD network.
Log on to LoyolaGreyhounds.com/pln or PatriotLeague.tv to watch the home games on your computer, web-enabled televisions and most mobile devices.
In The Polls
Loyola moved up in the polls following its win last weekend over then-No. 4 Duke. The Greyhounds are now tied for second in he USILA Coaches’ Poll and second outright in both the Warrior/Inside Lacrosse media polls he Lacrosse Magazine rankings.
Army enters the game receiving votes in both the in the USILA Coaches and Warrior/Inside Lacrosse version.
Saturday will be the second meeting all-time between Loyola and the U.S. Military Academy and the first 71 years.
Army won the first meeting of the two teams at the end of the 1943 season, 9-3, in Baltimore.
Loyola has the best winning percentage in NCAA Division I men’s lacrosse since the start of the 2012 season. The Greyhounds are 34-7 during that stretch (17-1 in 2012, 11-5 in 2013 and 5-1 this season) for a .829 mark.
Only Duke has won more games (36) than Loyola during the run, but the Blue Devils are second to the Greyhounds in winning percentage by nearly eight percent (36-12, .750).
Five-Plus For Two
Matt Sawyer scored six goals, and Nikko Pontrello tallied five for the Greyhounds on Sunday against Duke, marking the first time in over a decade that two Loyola players have scored five or more in the same game.
The last pair to do so was Gavin Prout (six) and Tim Goettelmann (five) in a 14-9 win on March 25, 2000, at 14th-ranked Brown University.
Games Of Runs
Loyola has used significant runs in all six of its games this season, and it has had four stretches of seven or more unanswered goals. In all the Greyhounds have 11 runs of 3-0 or better. Here is a look at their four best scoring stretches:
|at Holy Cross
Matt Sawyer entered Sunday’s game against Duke with a single-game high of two goals, those coming in the season-opener at the University of Virginia. It took the senior from Waxhaw, N.C., just 15-minutes, 56-seconds against the Blue Devils to match that total, and 20:51 to exceed it.
Sawyer finished the game by tripling his previous high, totaling six goals on just seven shots. His lone shot that did not find the net was perhaps his hardest of the night, and it went off the far-side post.
His six goals raised his 2014 total to 10, tied for third on the team. He now has 14 goals in his career.
Sunday’s game was not the first time a member of the Sawyer family had put up six goals on Duke. Matt’s older brother, three-time All-American Mike, scored six goals and had two assists in a 13-8 win over the Blue Devils in March 2012.
Duke’s Jordan Wolf and Josh Dionne came into Sunday’s game tied for the team lead in goals (12 each), and the duo had a combined 235 career goals. Loyola, however, held them to just one goal each in the victory.
In four career games against Loyola, prior to Sunday, Wolf had scored nine goals.
Pontrello Putting Up Points
Nikko Pontrello had his sixth multi-goal game is as many contests to open the season on Sunday when he scored a five goals against Duke. The game came a week after he scored four at Lehigh and two since 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 8-0 in games that he scored three or more goals.
Pontrello leads the Greyhounds with 24 goals and 29 points through six 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 third nationally in goals per game (4.0), while he is second and seventh in points per game (4.83).
Justin Ward has continued to be the quarterback of the Greyhounds’ offense this year, passing out 13 combined assists in the last three contests. He is third in the nation, and tops in the Patriot League, with 3.17 assists per game this year.
With four assists against Duke – the second game in a row he’s posted that total – Ward set Loyola’s career Division I record (since 1982) in total assists (85), eclipsing the mark of 83 set from 1989-92 by Jim Blanding. Gary Hanley holds the all-time Loyola record with 160 assists. Ward is also 15th in school Division I history in total points with 130.
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.
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 more than 47 percent of the team’s goals, a total of 42. Kevin Ryan scored eight goals combined against Holy Cross and Lehigh, and he is second on the team with 11 total. Matt Sawyer’s six versus Duke moved him into a tie for third with 10 total, and Tyler Albrecht is fifth on the squad with eight goals, while Brian Sherlock has six goals and five assists.
After opening the season with a .214 save percentage in the opener at Virginia, Jack Runkel has played to a .643 mark, saving 54 out of 84 shots on goal he’s faced. In the last four games against Towson, Holy Cross, Lehigh and Duke, Runkel has made 42 saves and allowed just 19 goals (.689).
The senior goalkeeper, who earned 2012 NCAA Championships All-Tournament honors, has a goals against average of 7.51 this season and a cumulative saves percentage of .582 through five games.
In three years as a starter for the Greyhounds, Runkel has a 7.91 goals against average and .551 saves percentage. His record between the pipes is 32-6. He is second in wins among active goalkeepers, trailing only Maryland’s Niko Amato who has 39 victories. Amato, however, is a four-year starter, while Runkel did not start until early in his sophomore season.
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.
He earned his second Patriot League Defensive Player of the Week honor this year on Monday after picking up 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.
This season, the Preseason All-American is tied for Loyola’s team-lead with 25 ground balls, and he leads the squad with 11 caused turnovers. His 56 career caused turnovers are third all-time at Loyola behind the 90 of P.T. Ricci and 88 of Scott Ratliff.
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 six games, Schultz has scored 10 goals, tied for third most on the team, and eight assists, 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. He battled Duke All-American Brendan Fowler on Sunday, going 10-of-21 (.476) against the 2013 NCAA Tournament Most Outstanding Player.
As a unit, Loyola is winning 52.3 percent of faceoffs, up from last year’s mark of 46.5.
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 10 Patriot League weekly awards over the last three weeks. Matt Sawyer (Offensive) won his first award, while Jack Runkel (Goalkeeper) won his third-straight, and Joe Fletcher (Defensive) earned his second in three weeks on Monday, March 10. Prior to Sawyer winning the offensive award, Nikko Pontrello had earned two in a row, 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.