Loyola punches NCAA ticket by winning third Patriot League title in four years

April 30, 2017 | WNST Staff


BALTIMORE – For the second time in 10 days, Loyola University Maryland men’s lacrosse held the U.S. Military Academy to one goal in the second half, and the Greyhounds claimed their third Patriot League Championship in four years with a 13-4 victory at Ridley Athletic Complex on Sunday.

With the win, Loyola secured an automatic bid to the 2017 NCAA Championships, it’s fifth in six years. The Greyhounds will find out when, where and whom they will play on Sunday, March 7, during the NCAA Selection Show on ESPNU at 9 p.m. (EDT).

Loyola has won the Patriot League crown in three of the four years (2014, 2016, 2017) since it joined the conference. It also became the third team to win back-to-back championships.

Army West Point (11-4 overall) scored just one goal over the game’s final 45 minutes, a tally that came two minutes, 57 seconds into the second half but was midway through a 10-1 Greyhounds run. In the regular-season finale on April 21, Loyola limited the Black Knights to just a single goal after halftime, as well.

The Greyhounds (10-5) held Army West Point to 24 shots in the game, 10 in the second half. Jacob Stover earned Patriot League Championships Most Valuable Player honors after making 11 saves in the title game following a 12-save performance against College of the Holy Cross in Friday’s semifinals.

Army West Point committed 17 turnovers in the game, 11 that came via Loyola caused turnovers. Ryder Harkins, Jack Carrigan, Jared Mintzlaff and Alex Johnson each caused two for Loyola.

The close defense trio of Carrigan, Harkins and Foster Huggins combined to hold the Black Knights’ starting attack of Conor Glancy, Cole Johnson and Nate Jones without a goal or assist in the game. That group entered Saturday’s game with 71 combined goals and averaging 7.2 points per game.

Harkins had primary marking responsibility for Johnson, and he helped snap the All-Patriot League First Team attacker’s streak of 49-straight games with at least one point. Prior to Sunday, it was the sixth-longest active streak in the nation.

Over the last three games, Loyola has held its opponents to an average of 4.33 goals per game on a .162 shooting percentage. The Greyhounds have been credited with 32 caused turnovers on their opponents’ 48 miscues. Meanwhile, the offense is averaging 13.33 goals per game while outshooting teams 41.7-26.7.

In the third quarter, Pat Spencer recorded his 54th assist of the season, breaking Justin Ward’s 2014 Loyola and Patriot League single-season record.

Army West Point started out strong, holding possession for almost four minutes before registering a goal. The Black Knights won the game’s opening faceoff and took five shots before Matthew Donovan connected out of the right alley with 11:10 on the first-quarter clock.

Loyola, however, took possession with a faceoff win of its own, and Pat Spencer collected a rebound off a saved Jay Drapeau shot and scored 69 seconds later to erase what would be the Black Knights’ only lead of the game.

The Greyhounds scored twice more in the next three-plus minutes, taking a 2-1 lead on a P.J. Brown goal off a Spencer assist from behind at 8:56. Zack Sirico initiated the next tally, dodging from behind and spinning free of a double-team to throw a pass to Brian Sherlock on the interior of the Army West Point defense. Sherlock turned to his right and whipped a sidearm shot into the right post to make it 3-1 Greyhounds at 6:38.

Army West Point would even the game before the end of the quarter as Gunnar Miller and David Symmes teamed for a pair of goals. Symmes scored on a stepdown look from 15 yards with 4:36 to go in the frame, and with 3.7 seconds on the clock, he scored again off a Miller assist to knot the game at 3-3 heading into the second period.

Jay Drapeau put Loyola in front 65 seconds into the quarter, taking a short-stick defender from behind the cage and battling topside for a high-to-high look that would put the Greyhounds up for good. He struck again at 7:03, finishing a Romar Dennis skip pass for an extra-man goal that increased the lead to 5-3.

Dennis was on the scoring end just under two minutes later when he split-dodged his defender and cranked a 13-yard shot for a goal at 5:04. Sherlock scored his second of the day at 3:56, and a Stover save and quick outlet led to a Jared Mintzlaff transition goal with 2:45 left in the half.

Army West Point had an extra-man opportunitiy with 17 seconds left in the half, but Stover saved a stick-side-high shot by Ted Glessner with five seconds left, and Loyola went to the locker room with an 8-3 advantage.

Miller cut the Loyola lead to four with a goal off a Symmes assist at 12:03, but that would be the last time Army West Point scored in the game.

Fourty-five seconds later, Spencer sent a pass to Sirico for a goal that would kickoff another 5-0 Loyola run. The assist was Spencer’s record-setting 54th of the season, a total he would add to later in the contest.

Neither team scored for the next eight-plus minutes, a stretch in which the Greyhounds dominated possession and bled time off the clock. When the Black Knights did have the ball, they committed four turnovers, and their only shot was a Johnson look that was well high.

Dennis tallied his second of the day with another hard shot from 12 yards, pushing the lead to 11-4 with 2:38 remaining in the third.

Carrigan forced an Army West Point turnover on its ensuing possession, and Spencer hit Mike Perkins for a 12-yard shot that bounced under the crossbar and in for a goal at 1:15. Sherlock would add the only goal of the fourth quarter, an unassisted tally after he came up with a ground ball in traffic six yards out.

Sherlock finished with three goals and an assist, while Drapeau scored three times. Dennis had two goals and an assist, as well, out of the Greyhounds’ first midfield.

Loyola posted a 32-25 advantage in ground balls in the game with Graham Savio and Brian Begley each picked up five to tie for team-high honors.

Stover was joined on the All-Tournament Team by Spencer, Carrigan and Sherlock from the Greyhounds’ squad.