Jan. 29, 2014
CENTER VALLEY, Pa. - Fresh off his weekend training with Team USA at the Champion Challenge in Florida, Loyola University Maryland senior co-captain Joe Fletcher was named the Patriot League Preseason Defensive Player of the Year by a vote of conference coaches, it was revealed on a media conference call this morning.
Fletcher joined his fellow captain, senior attacker Justin Ward, on the Preseason All-Patriot League Team.
The Greyhounds, who became members of the Patriot League on July 1, 2013, will start the year as the conference's preseason favorite. Loyola earned 13 of a possible 16 first-place votes - teams are not allowed to vote for themselves - and garnered 123 points to sit atop the poll.
Earlier in the week, Loyola was ranked 12th in the United States Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association (USILA) Preseason Coaches Poll and 16th in the Warrior/Inside Lacrosse Media Poll. Last year, Loyola finished with an 11-5 overall record and reached the NCAA Tournament.
Bucknell University checked in second in the Patriot League poll with 109 points and three first-place votes, and Lehigh University was just a point behind with 108 overall and the remaining two for the top spot.
The U.S. Military Academy was selected fourth (86), followed by Colgate University (73), the U.S. Naval Academy (56), College of the Holy Cross (42), Lafayette College (35) and first-year program and another Patriot League newcomer Boston University (16).
Fletcher and Ward were joined by 10 others on the Preseason All-Patriot League Team. Army attacker John Glesener was named the Preseason Offensive Player of the Year, and he was paired with Ward and Bucknell's David Dickson on attack. In the midfield were Bucknell's Thomas Filbotte, Holy Cross' Terry McKenna and Colgate's Jimmy Ryan. Fletcher was joined on defense by Bucknell's Jackson Place and Lehigh Ty Souders.
Army's Alex Daly was tabbed to the face-off specialist, and Navy long-stick midfielder Pat Kiernan was named to the defensive midfield spot. Lehigh's Matt Poillon was selected to the goalkeeper position.
Earlier this month, Fletcher and Ward were both selected by teams in the 2014 Major League Lacrosse Collegiate Entry Draft. Fletcher was the third overall pick, and the top defender selected, by the New York Lizards, while Ward was picked 23rd overall by the Charlotte Hounds.
Fletcher finished last season as one of the best defenders in the nation, earning All-America First Team honors from the United States Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association (USILA). In doing so, he became the first Loyola player to earn the recognition since Gavin Prout in 2001. He is the only current collegiate player named to the U.S. National Team training roster and is vying for a spot on the squad that will compete at the 2014 World Cup in Denver.
The senior defender from Syracuse, N.Y., was the 2013 ECAC Lacrosse League Defensive Player of the Year as he finished the season with 64 ground balls, tops amongst close defenders in the conference. He also had 17 caused turnovers and was a key member of the Greyhounds' clearing unit that led the nation and set a Division I record by successfully clearing the ball 95.5 percent of the time. A noted student leader outside of lacrosse, Fletcher is co-president of Loyola's Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, and he is one of 14 students school-wide to serve on the Green & Grey society, a group of student leaders who serve as liaisons to Loyola's president, board of trustees and administration.
Ward has been the quarterback of the Greyhounds' offense for the last two seasons, and as a junior in 2013, he turned in a fantastic season that earned him USILA All-America Honorable Mention and All-ECAC honors. The attacker finished 11th in Division I in assists per game (2.19) and 19th in points per game (3.88), culminating the season with 27 goals and 35 assists for 62 points.
His 35 assists ranked third on Loyola's single-season chart at the Division I level, and his 62 points were tied for fifth. Ward enters the season with 67 career assists, good for seventh at the school in the Division I era, and his 106 career points to date are 22nd. He had one of the most prolific games by a Loyola player in recent years last season when he became the first Greyhound since Gavin Prout in 2001 to score seven goals in a game, and the first since Tim Goettelmann in 2000 to post 10 points, when he tallied seven goals and three assists against UMBC in February.
In addition to their plaudits on the field and in the locker room, Fletcher and Ward have excelled in the classroom, too. Both were named to the ECAC All-Academic Team last year.
The Greyhounds get their 2014 regular-season schedule underway in just over a week when they take on the University of Virginia on Thursday, February 6, in Charlottesville, Va.