2009 Men's Lacrosse In Review: Greyhounds Earn Share Of Second Straight ECAC Title

May 8, 2009

BALTIMORE - Despite facing LaxPower's third-toughest schedule in 2009, the Loyola men's lacrosse team demonstrated its toughness and perseverance all season long, going 9-5 against a daunting slate of opponents, with four of those losses coming to Top-Teams teams by a total of just five goals. In what is becoming the standard for Head Coach Charley Toomey, the Greyhounds were once again superb in conference play, going 6-1 to claim a share of their second straight ECAC Regular Season title.

And while a final-week win by Massachusetts coupled with a double-overtime loss to sixth-ranked Johns Hopkins prevented the Greyhounds, ranked ninth in the final regular season RPI, from advancing to their third straight NCAA Tournament, Loyola once again proved itself as a perenially ranked program.

Entering the 2009 season, Coach Toomey issued the following words to a reporter: "I don't know what is going to happen this season, but I can assure you that our team will give it 110 percent out on the field. We will not be outhustled or outworked."

True to form the Greyhounds followed the mantra of their coach, beginning with the season opener on Valentine's Day against Notre Dame. In front of 7,500 spectators in Powder Springs, Ga., the Greyhounds gave the Irish everything they could handle. Attackman Collin Finnerty scored a career-best four goals and assisted on another, but Notre Dame's Ryan Hoff scored the game-winner with 7:27 to play to take a 10-9 victory. It would be the closest anyone played still-undefeated Notre Dame all season.

Finnerty would continue to have the hot hand in the next outing, again scoring four goals while Matt Langan chipped in two as Loyola disposed of neighbor Towson, 11-8, in its home-opener.

After sitting out the first two games of the year, senior Shane Koppens showed no rust in his return against Penn State. The 2008 USILA Honorable Mention All-American scored three goals, as did his fellow attackman Cooper MacDonnell, to lift the Greyhounds to a gritty 8-7 road win over the Nittany Lions in the first of a three-game road swing over the College's spring break.

Next came a mid-week tilt against Siena in what could have been dubbed as the Ice Bowl II. In negative temperatures, the Greyhounds grinded out a 7-5 non-conference win as six different players scored. Loyola limited the Saints to only one goal in a stretch of more than 27 minutes that spanned from the second to the fourth period, with the defense being led by Steve Layne's career-best eight groundballs.

A return trip to Durham, N.C., where the Greyhounds lost in the first round of the 2008 NCAA Tournament, came next to face ACC-champ Duke. Koppens' fourth goal of the day trimmed the Duke lead to 10-9 with 7:27 to play, but the Blue Devils held off a furious Loyola rally and went on for an 11-9 victory at Koskinen Stadium. A Finnerty goal put Loyola up 8-7 to begin the fourth period, but Duke responded with a 3-0 spurt over the next few minutes to grasp control.

A stretch of four consecutive games at Diane Geppi-Aikens Field started with a March 10 date against Bryant. A pair of senior captains led the way in the 15-11 comeback win as Koppens scored three goals and a career-high six assists and P.T. Ricci established career-highs with three points and 13 groundballs.

With the day, Koppens became the first Loyola player to score nine points in a game since Gavin Prout scored six goals and three assists in a win back in the 2000 season. Midfielder Jimmy Daly, Finnerty and Cooper MacDonnell all added a pair of goals each as 10 different players found the scoring column.

Junior John Schiavone led No. 14 Loyola past No. 15 St. John's back on March 14, going a career-best 17-of-20 at the "X". After trailing after the first quarter , Loyola outscored the Red Storm 6-0 in the second period behind Schiavone, who won all six of his face-off attempts and went on to scoop 11 groundballs.

Next came a showdown of the ECAC's two premier teams on March 28: Massachusetts at Loyola. It would be the Minutemen, though, that claimed the 8-6 win, which would eventually propel them to the league's automatic qualifier. It would be the only conference loss of the season for Loyola, which fell behind 8-4 with 2:49 left in the third period. Two goals by MacDonnell climbed the Greyhounds to 8-6 in the fourth before being shutout over the the final 10:25.

A tough loss on national television to second-ranked Syracuse would follow . MacDonnell had a huge day, as his career-high fifth goal gave Loyola a 12-8 lead with 12:01 to play, but the Orange outscored the Greyhounds 6-1 the rest of the way to win the 14-13 non-conference thriller. After Syracuse cut into the lead, a goal by Daly stretched the Loyola advantage to 13-11 with 4:21 remaining, but Syracuse closed on a 3-0 spurt, with Dan Hardy ending the Greyhounds' upset bid with his game-winner with 1:17 remaining.

Standing at 5-4 after the game, Toomey stressed the importance of a four-game stretch in April that would ultimately decide their season.

Loyola responded adequately by sweeping four games in the month. It started with a road opener at Rutgers, as freshman Mike Sawyer scored three of his career-high four goals in the first half, while Finnerty and Koppens scored two apiece in the 12-9 win. Again, it was Schiavone and senior Michael Atkinson controlling the face-offs, as Loyola won 18-of-24 draws.

A trip to the nation's capitol came next for Loyola. In rainy conditions, Loyola held on for a dramatic 8-7 win over No. 18 Georgetown. MacDonnell again matched his career-high with five goals, four coming during a 6-1 Loyola spurt which spanned the third and fourth periods, and goalkeeper Jake Hageln made two critical saves in the waning seconds to preserve the victory.

Two final home games ended ECAC play for the Greyhounds. On April 18, after Fairfield scored the game's first goal, 15th-ranked Loyola responded with five unanswered and kept its foot on the pedal, cruising to a 12-7 victory over the Stags behind hat-tricks from Finnerty and Koppens seen in front of 2,104 fans in sunny conditions. A season-high 10 different Greyhounds registered points, while eight scored goals.

In Loyola's home finale against Hobart, 11 members of Loyola's senior class were recognized. And as they did so frequently during their careers, the group departed the field with the conference victory, pushing their record to 22-6 against ECAC foes. It was a junior though, Finnerty, who had the biggest day though, scoring four goals in the first 12 minutes to help Loyola jump out a 7-1 lead, as three Greyhounds, including D.J. Comer and Eric Lusby, added hat-tricks in the 16-7 win.

A short trip down Charles Street to race No. 6 Johns Hopkins ended the regularseason for Loyola. In a game of see-saw action, Hopkins jumped out to a 10-7 lead with 6:47 remaining, all but leaving the Greyhounds for dead. Showing its grit though, Loyola scored three goals over the final 3:49, including two in the final 23 tics.

After Jimmy Daly netted his shot high to climb within 10-9, Hopkins controlled the face-off. On the ensuing face-off, Hopkins controlled the draw. Taylor Ebsary, though, made a nice stick-check to force the turnover and passed it to P.T. Ricci, who, standing deep in his territory, launched a 35-yard bullet to Koppens. The attackman dodged left and sent in his shot to complete the improbable run. It would be Hopkins' Brian Christopher though who scored the game-winner in double-overtime with 3:35 remaining in the epic battle.

Here are a few highlights from a notable 2009 season:

-Loyola went 9-5 and clinched a share of its second straight ECAC regular season title.

-The nine victories are the most since the 2002 team went 9-4.

-A league-high six Loyola players were named to the All-ECAC Team, with P.T. Ricci being named Defensive Player of the Year and freshman Mike Sawyer tabbed Freshman of the Year.

-Along with Ricci, senior Shane Koppens was named to the first team for the second straight season. Sawyer led four players on the second team, along with attackman Cooper MacDonnell, defender Steve Layne and face-off specialist John Schiavone.

-A total of 11 members of Loyola's 2009 class- P.T. Ricci, Tyler Gale, Jimmy Daly, Dan Farruggio,Ryan Cunningham, Eric Kohl, Jake Willcox, Eddie Graham, Brian Gormley, Michael Atkinson and Sean Hecker- played their final games at Loyola, along with fifth-year senior Shane Koppens and graduate student Brian Cullinane.

-Together, the group accumulated a 29-24 overall record during the last four years, including a 22-6 record in ECAC play. The group went 6-6 in 2006, 7-6 in '07, 7-7 in '08, and 9-5 in 2009. They also advanced to two straight NCAA Tournament berths in 2007 and 2008.

-Loyola ranked fourth nationally with 38.29 groundballs-per-game. The team scooped 547 groundballs this season, the most since the 1999 team collected 551.

-The Greyhounds' face-off winning percentage of 0.566 stood fifth nationally.

-Junior John Schiavone's 0.587 winning percentage (149-253) ranks fifth individually.

-Loyola hit double-digits in eight games and scored 146 goals on the season. It was the most since the 2002 team scored 175.

-In 2009, long-stick middie P.T. Ricci led the country in caused turnovers (51) and was second in groundballs-a-game (6.36) among players not face-off specialists. For the year, he scooped 91 groundballs, good for fifth on the Loyola single-season groundball list.

-His 84 groundballs from 2008, when he was named a First Team All-ECAC selection, stands seventh on the list. His career numbers include 232 groundballs and 115 caused turnovers.

-Senior Shane Koppens led the team in scoring for the second straight year with 41 points (22 goals, 19 assists) despite missing the first two games of the season. He finishes his career fourth on the all-time Loyola assists list with 80 and eighth on the Loyola career points list with 151.

-Koppens also became the first player since Gavin Prout in the 2000 season to score nine points in a game. He scored three goals and six assists in the 15-11 victory over Bryant.

-The trio of Koppens (41), Collin Finnerty (37) and Cooper MacDonnell (38) each scored at least 30 points each, became the first set of Loyola teammates to all surpass the 30-point barrier since since Stephen Brundage (36) Chris Summers (34) and Gunnar Goettelmann (32) did it back in 2003.

-Eighteen different players scored goals for Loyola, including six-MacDonnell,

-Finnerty, Kopens, Jake Willcox (12), Eric Lusby (11) and Jimmy Daly (10) who scored at least 10. Mike Sawyer and Matt Langan each added nine goals and four assists.

-For the second straight season, Cooper MacDonnell led the team in goals with 30. -The attackman scored a goal in 13 of Loyola's 14 games and registered nine multi-goal games. He scored at least three goals on four different occasions, and had career-high five goal outings against Syracuse and Georgetown.

-Loyola's defensive held all seven ECAC opponents to single-digit goals and allowed just 8.67 goals-a-game.

-Sophomore Jake Hagelin was 15th in the country with a 7.93 goals-against-average. He also led the team with a .526 save percentage. Fellow goalie Alex Peaty appeared in five games for the Greyhounds, starting two.

-Loyola's 22 conference wins over the last four seasons top the ECAC. Georgetown is second with 21 during the span.