Loyola opens NCAA Tournament Saturday against Albany

May 10, 2014 | WNST Staff

Loyola Greyhounds vs. Albany Great Danes

Saturday, May 10, 2014  |  12:00 p.m.

Baltimore, Md. | Ridley Athletic Complex | ESPNU

Quick Hits About The ’Hounds

Loyola University Maryland will host its sixth-straight home game on Saturday, May 10, when the University at Albany visits Ridley Athletic Complex for a 12 p.m. game in the NCAA First Round.

The Greyhounds are making their first appearance in as many years in the NCAA Championships.

Saturday’s game will mark Loyola’s 22nd appearance in the NCAA Championships, 20th at the NCAA Division I level (since 1982).

The game will be the second NCAA men’s lacrosse contest to be played at RIdley Athletic Complex in the facility’s five-year history.

Joe Fletcher leads all close defenders nationally in ground balls (76) and ground balls per game (4.75).

Pat Laconi is tops among NCAA Division I non-pole players in caused turnovers (32) and caused turnovers per game (2.0).

Justin Ward and Nikko Pontrello entered the week ranked second and fourth in assists and goals per game, respectively, in the NCAA at 3.31 and 3.13.

Jack Runkel is second in goals against avg. (6.91), third in saves percentage (.620).

Last Time Out

Johns Hopkins scored three times in the first four minutes, two seconds of last Saturday’s game, but Loyola outscored the Blue Jays, 13-5, over the course of the next 45-plus minutes.

Back-to-back Brian Schultz goals early in the fourth quarter put Loyola in front by five, and the Greyhounds ended up with a 13-10 victory in the regular-season finale for both teams.

Rob Guida bookended a Brandon Benn transition goal with two in the first five minuted, but Brian Sherlock put the Greyhounds on the board at 10:34, and Matt Sawyer scored on extra-man 21 ticks of the clock later.

Jeff Chase scored the first of his two second-quarter goals to put Loyola in front for the first time at 8:49, and after two ties thereafter, Brian Sherlock scored his second of the day to put the Greyhounds on top for good.

Graham Savio won 17-of-26 faceoffs, picked up a career-best 12 ground balls and scored his first career goal, four seconds after Sherlock’s second.

Nikko Pontrello and Sherlock each scored three, and Justin Ward had four assists.

Pat Laconi caused four turnovers.


Turn On The Television

The Greyhounds will make their seventh appearance of the season on national television when they take the field on Saturday. It will be the first on the ESPN family of networks.

Joe Beninati will call the play-by-play, while Paul Carcaterra handles analysis duties.


In The Polls

After its win over Johns Hopkins, Loyola remained in the No. 1 spot of both the USILA coaches and Warrior/Inside Lacrosse media polls for the seventh week in a row.

The Greyhounds have been ranked No. 1 at some point in each of the last three seasons. This stretch is the longest Loyola has been ranked first since spending nine-straight at the top from March 15-May 10, 1999.


NCAA Championships History

Loyola is making its 22nd all-time appearance in the NCAA Championships, 20th in Division I history (since 1982). The Greyhounds are 12-20 all-time in the tournament, 12-18 at the Division I level.

Last year, the Greyhounds played in the NCAA First Round at No. 8 seed Duke University in a game that was touted by many to be the best in collegiate lacrosse of 2013. The Blue Devils rallied to send the game to overtime, and Case Mathias scored the game-winner in the second extra frame for a 12-11 Duke win that helped send the Blue Devils on to the national title.

The Greyhounds won the first NCAA Division I Championship, in any sport, in 2012, when they defeated Maryland, 9-3, on Memorial Day. The win completed an 18-1 season for the Greyhounds in which they tied the NCAA Division I record for wins in a season, matching the 18-2 Duke team from 2008. Loyola entered the tournament as the No. 1 seed and defeated Canisius, Denver and Notre Dame en route to the title game.


Series History

The Greyhounds and Great Danes will meet for the second time when they step onto the field Saturday, both coming in NCAA First Round action. Albany hosted Loyola on May 13, 2007, and advanced to the NCAA Quarterfinals with a 19-10 win.

Dan Kallaugher won 27-of-33 faceoffs for Loyola and picked up 19 ground balls. His 27 wins are tied for seventh-most in NCAA single-game history and second-most in an NCAA Tournament game.

Andrew Spack, Paul Richards and Shane Koppens all scored twice in the game for Loyola, but Merrick Thomson tallied five for the Great Danes.


Streaking On Campus

Loyola’s 15-game winning streak – the Greyhounds have not lost since falling in overtime on February 6 in the season-opener at the University of Virginia – is the longest in school history.

Previously, Greyhounds teams in 2012 and 1998 held the longest winning streak in program history with 12-straight wins. Loyola’s 15-1 start is also tied for the best in school history through 16 games, matching that of the 2012 squad.


Alum Coaches

Led by Loyola’s staff with Head Coach Charley Toomey ’91, Assistant Coach Matt Dwan ’95 and Director of Operations P.T. Ricci ’09, there are eight Loyola alums on coaching staffs of teams in the NCAA Division I Championships.

The list includes: Richmond assistants Steve Layne ’10 and Paul Richards ’07, Air Force’s Bill Wilson ’94, Notre Dame volunteer assistant Kevin Anderson ’93 and Virginia volunteer assistant Tim McDermott MBA ’07.


All-League Awards

Three Loyola players earned individual awards when the Patriot League honors were announced last month. Joe Fletcher was named Defensive Player of the Year, Jack Runkel Goalkeeper of the Year and Justin Ward Offensive Player of the Year.

The trio was also named to the All-Patriot League First Team along with teammates Pat Laconi, Nikko Pontrello and Brian Sherlock. Kevin Ryan was named to the Second Team. Loyola’s seven All-League players were the most by any team this season.


Tournament Honors

Jack Runkel was then named the Patriot League Championships Most Valuable Player, and he was joined on the All-Tournament Team by Joe Fletcher, Justin Ward and Brian Schultz.

Runkel made 15 saves in the title game against Lehigh after posting 12 in the semifinal versus Colgate. Fletcher finished with 11 ground balls and eight caused turnovers, five of the latter tying her career-high in the Colgate game. Ward distributed seven assists and scored three goals, and Schultz tallied six goals and assisted on three.


Get To Ten

Since Charley Toomey became head coach at Loyola in 2006, the Greyhounds have scored 10 or more goals on 69 occasions. After defeating Johns Hopkins, 13-10, on Saturday, Loyola has won 82.6 percent of those games (57-12).


Since 2012

Loyola has the best winning percentage in NCAA Division I men’s lacrosse since the start of the 2012 season. The Greyhounds are 44-7 during that stretch (18-1 in 2012, 11-5 in 2013 and 15-1 this season) for a .863 mark. Loyola’s winning percentage of .933 this season is the best nationally.

Duke and Loyola have both won 44 games during the run, but the Blue Devils are second to the Greyhounds in winning percentage by nearly nine percent (44-13, .772).


Chart Toppers

A pair of Greyhounds attackers are near the top of two offensive categories through the end of the regular-season in both total goals and assists. Nikko Pontrello is third in Division I with 50 goals, while Justin Ward is second with 53 assists.

The duo is the No. 2 point-scoring tandem in the country with 131 combined points (Ward, 69; Pontrello, 62). Albany’s Lyle (114) and Miles (108) have a combined 222.

Goalkeeper Jack Runkel is also near the top of statistical rankings for his position. He is second in goals against average (6.91) and saves percentage (.620).


Tops Among Close Defenders

Joe Fletcher not only leads Loyola in ground balls, total (76) and per game (4.75), 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 tops all non-pole defenders nationally in caused turnovers and caused turnovers per game. With four against Johns Hopkins, he has caused 32 this season while averaging 2.0 per game. He enters the Albany game eighth in the nation, and the seven players ahead of him in the rankings are all long-stick midfielders or close defenders.


Record-Setting Quarterback

Justin Ward has continued to be the quarterback of the Greyhounds’ offense this year, passing out 53 assists in 16 games. In the Patriot League Championship Game against Lehigh, Ward became the conference’s single-season assist leader, passing Bucknell University’s David Dickson who had 48 in 2013.

With his third and final assist on April 12 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 (53), and he is also second in the country, and tops in the Patriot League, with 3.31 assists per game this year. The 45 assists are tied for second in Patriot League history, three shy of matching Bucknell’s David Dickson’s record of 48 from a year ago.

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 reach the century mark.

Ward now has 120 career assists. Gary Hanley holds the all-time Loyola record with 160 assists. Ward is also sixth in school Division I history in total points with 170, five away from tying Gewas Schindler (1996-99) for fifth place. His 69 points this season are tied for third in school single-season history, two away from matching Eric Lusby’s 2012 school-record total.

Of his 53 assists this year, 31 have gone to his fellow attack players. More than half of Brian Schultz’s 36 goals (19-of-36) have come off Ward assists, continuing a trend from when the pair were club teammates with the Maryland Roughriders. Nikko Pontrello has tallied 12 of his team-high 50 from Ward helpers, and Ward has also assisted on 11 of the Greyhounds’ 23 extra-man goals 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.


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 versus Boston University and three goals and an assist versus Bucknell.

As of the end of the regular-season, Pontrello is third nationally with 50 goals after recording three each in the Patriot League Championship Game against Lehigh and against Johns Hopkins.

Pontrello is the fourth player in school single-season history to score 50 or more goals in a year, joining Eric Lusby (54, 2012), Mike Sawyer (52, 2012) and Tim Goettelmann (50, 2000).

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, Boston University, Bucknell and Lehigh in the Patriot League title game. He has now scored two or more in 14 of 16 games this year.

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.


Stopping Shots

After opening the season with a .214 save percentage in the opener at Virginia, Jack Runkel has played to a .642 mark, saving 167 out of 260 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 earned a record five Patriot League Goalkeeper of the Week honors this year and was named the conference’s Goalkeeper of the Year. He has a goals against average of 6.91 this season and a cumulative saves percentage of .620 through 16 games. He is second in the nation in goals against average and third in saves percentage.

In three years as a starter for the Greyhounds, Runkel has a 7.63 goals against average and .573 saves percentage. Runkel’s record between the pipes is 42-6. He is second in wins among active goalkeepers, trailing only Maryland’s Niko Amato who has 46 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 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.

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. He then snapped the 41-game point-scoring streak of Bucknell’s David Dickson on April 17, holding him without a shot.

In all, the players Fletcher has had primary marking responsibilities for have tallied 16 goals in 16 games this year (including three each by the University of Virginia’s Mark Cockerton and Penn State University’s Shane Sturgis in the season’s first two games). Six of those goals have come when Fletcher was already out of the game late in the fourth quarter.

Fletcher has been named Patriot League Defensive Player of the Week five times this year, the most any player in conference history has earned the award. He is second on the team in ground balls (76) and caused turnovers (28). His 73 career caused turnovers are tied for third all-time with fellow captain Pat Laconi at Loyola behind the 90 of P.T. Ricci and 88 of Scott Ratliff.


Not Just Defensive Midfield

Pat Laconi has continued to show his versatility as one of the top short-stick defensive midfielders in the nation while being a player with offensive acumen. The Preseason All-American had a goal in settled offense against Johns Hopkins to bring his season total to nine goals and three assists and his career numbers to 14 and 12.

Laconi caused a career-high five turnovers against Bucknell and four versus Johns Hopkins. His team-leading 32 caused turnovers are tops on the team this season have brought his career total to 69, tied for third-most in school history.


Schultz Stepping Up

In his first year as a starter on attack for the Greyhounds, senior Brian Schultz has scored 36 goals, second-most on the team through 16 games, and his 14 assists are also second. He had the game-winning goal 12 seconds into the second overtime at Navy and less than two weeks later posted a career-best six goals in a win over Bucknell.

With a career-high six goals against Bucknell on April 17, four versus Colgate in the Patriot League Semifinal, a pair in the title game versus Lehigh and three versus Johns Hopkins, Schultz scored 15 goals, to go with four assists, in Loyola’s last four games.

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.


Near The Top At Both Sides

The Greyhounds entered the final of the regular-season as the only team to be in the top five of scoring offense and defense at the Division I level. Loyola’s goals per game (13.31) rank fifth, and its goals allowed (7.13) are second. As a result, Loyola leads the nation in scoring margin (+6.19).


Games Of Runs

Loyola has used significant runs in all 16 of its games this season, and it has had six stretches of seven or more unanswered goals. In all the Greyhounds have 31 runs of 3-0 or better. Here is a look at their four best scoring stretches:

Opponent Run Time Covered   Opponent Run Time Covered
at Holy Cross 14-0 38:58   Lafayette 12-0 26:53
Towson 10-0 16:38   at Virginia 9-0 14:18


On the flip side, Loyola’s opponents have made runs of 3-0 or better just seven times this year. Virginia and Penn State did it twice each in the first two games of the year, Army and Georgetown did it in back-to-back games in March and Johns Hopkins did it to open last Saturday’s game.


Quarter Or More Scoreless

Loyola has held opponents scoreless for 15 or more minutes on 18 occasions this season (chart on left). Six times, the Greyhounds have posted shutout streaks of better than 30 minutes of clock time.

The longest Loyola has held a team without a goal this season is 47 minutes, 13 seconds, in the February 22 game at Holy Cross.

The Greyhounds have played just two games this year – at Penn State and at Colgate – in which they have not held opponents scoreless for 15 or more minutes at a time.

Opponents have held Loyola without a goal for stretches of 15 or more minutes three (at Virginia, at Georgetown, at Navy). Only Virginia did so for more than 17 minutes. The Cavaliers went on an 8-0 run over 31:23, holding the Greyhounds scoreless in the second and third quarters before Loyola reeled off nine-straight in the fourth.


Tewaaraton Watch Trio, Senior CLASS Award Pair

Loyola is one of three schools (along with Duke) to have three players named Tewaaraton Award nominees. Joe Fletcher, Nikko Pontrello and Justin Ward are semifinalists for the honor of college lacrosse’s top player.

Fletcher and Ward are also two of 10 players nationally to be named finalists for the Senior CLASS Award that honors seniors who have performed at a high level athletically and in the classroom.