Five Loyola lacrosse players earn USILA All-America honors

May 22, 2014 | WNST Staff

Five Loyola Men’s Lacrosse Players Earn USILA All-America Honors

BALTIMORE – Joe Fletcher became Loyola University Maryland’s first men’s lacrosse player to earn U.S. Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association All-America First Team honors in back-to-back years since 1998-99 on Thursday, and the senior close defender was joined on the All-America teams by four of his Greyhounds teammates.

Senior short-stick midfielder Pat Laconi, senior goalkeeper Jack Runkel and senior attacker Justin Ward all were named to the Second Team, and junior attacker Nikko Pontrello earned Honorable Mention.

Fletcher is the first player to be a repeat First Team All-American at Loyola since midfielder Mark Frye accomplished the honor in 1998 and 1999. It is also the first time in Loyola’s Division I history (since 1982) that the Greyhounds have placed four players on the first and second teams. The only other time in program history that happened was in 1981 when four were named to the First Team.

Fletcher is also one of five finalists for the Tewaaraton Award as the nation’s top player; with that recognition, he became just the second player in the 14-year history of the award to be named a finalist as a close defender. He leads all close defensemen nationally in ground balls (80) and ground balls per game (4.71), and he also set a career-high with 31 caused turnovers.

The All-America honors add to an already crowded shelf of awards Fletcher has earned this year. He was named the Patriot League Defensive Player of the Year and the Patriot League Men’s Lacrosse Scholar-Athlete of the Year, to the Capital One Academic All-District I At Large Team and to the USILA Scholar All-America Team.

He played in all 65 games that Loyola has played the last four years, starting 53. In those contests, he picked up 191 ground balls and caused 76 turnovers, the third-most in school history and most by a Greyhounds close defenseman. Additionally, Fletcher was whistled for just five penalties and only two of the one-minute variety over his time on the field.

Laconi solidified his reputation as one of the top cover short-stick defensive midfielders and transition players this year, posting career-highs in goals (11), ground balls (31) and caused turnovers (34). The only short-stick defensive midfielder to be named to the First or Second Team this season, he 34 caused turnovers and 2.0 per game mark rank eighth nationally and tops amongst all non-pole defenders in Division I.

He also more than doubled his goal-scoring total from his first three seasons at Loyola (five) this year. An All-Patriot League First Team performer and USILA Scholar All-American, Laconi played in all 65 games for Loyola over the last four seasons and finished with 89 ground balls, 75 caused turnovers, 16 goals and 12 assists. His caused turnover total is the most by a Loyola short-stick player and fourth-most in school history.

Runkel saved his best collegiate season for his senior year, as he posted excellent performances between the pipes. The Patriot League Goalkeeper of the Year is third in NCAA Division I in goals against average (7.20) and saves percentage (.611) while making a career-high 181 saves in the cage.

The first Loyola goalkeeper to earn First or Second Team All-America honors since Tim McGeeney was recognized on the Second Team in 1995, Runkel posted 10 or more saves on 10 occasions this year and had a season-high of 19 against the U.S. Military Academy. Runkel was named the Patriot League Championships Most Valuable Player after stopping 27 shots in the two games, 15 in the title game against Lehigh University. Over his four years at Loyola, three as a starter, Runkel compiled a 42-7 record as the goalkeeper of record for the Greyhounds. He had a goals against average of 7.71 and a .569 career save percentage.

Ward was a three-year starter on attack as the Greyhounds’ offensive quarterback, and he has his most statistically productive season in 2014. He shattered Loyola’s Division I single-season and career records for assists this year, passing out 53 assists to better the 1994 mark of 38 by Sean Heffernan. An Honorable Mention All-American in 2013, Ward also tied Eric Lusby’s 2012 record for points in a season, totaling 71 this year. His 3.12 assists per game this year rank second in Division I.

His career assist total finished at 120, breaking the school Division I mark by 36. He eclipsed the total of 84 that Jim Blanding recorded from 1989-92. This year, Ward was the Patriot League Offensive Player of the Year and USILA Scholar All-American after recording two or more assists in 16 of Loyola’s 17 games. He tallied three or more for a 12-game stretch, as well during the year.

Pontrello burst into the nation’s lacrosse consciousness with one of the top goal-scoring seasons in school history. After scoring 20 goals in his first two seasons at Loyola, he finished with 51 this year, the third-most in school single-season history. He also had 12 assists for a total of 63 points, the sixth-most in school single-season history, and his 3.0 goals per game this season rank fifth nationally.

After scoring a combined five goals in the Greyhounds’ first two games of the season at the University of Virginia and Penn State University, Pontrello combined for 19 in a four-game stretch that included five in a 14-7 win over Duke University. An All-Patriot League First Team honoree, he scored two or more goals in Loyola’s first 10 games of the year, had multiple goals in 15-of-17 outings and at least one goal in 16 contests.