Dec. 19, 2013
BALTIMORE - Loyola University Maryland's three seniors will who serve as team captains this year - defender Joe Fletcher, attacker Justin Ward and short-stick defensive midfielder Pat Laconi - were named to the Face-Off Yearbook Preseason All-America Teams by Inside Lacrosse.
The group leads a Greyhounds' team that has won 29 games over the last two seasons.Fletcher was named to the FOYB Preseason All-America First Team, while Ward was recognized on the second team and Laconi in honorable mention.
The senior defender from Syracuse, N.Y., 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. Earlier this year, Fletcher was 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.
Fletcher 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.
Laconi has garnered a reputation from coaches as one of the top short-stick defensive midfielders nationwide over the past three years. As a member of the Greyhounds' rope unit, Laconi has helped Loyola establish an excellent transition game that last year led the nation and set a Division I record by clearing the ball effectively 95.5 percent of the time.
He posted career-highs of 24 ground balls and 20 caused turnovers last year, and he also showed his ability to score on the offensive end. Laconi posted four goals and six assists as a junior after logging one and three during his sophomore campaign.
In addition to their plaudits on the field and in the locker room, Fletcher, Laconi and Ward have all excelled in the classroom, too. All three were named to the ECAC All-Academic Team last year.
They will lead the Greyhounds into their first season of competition in the Patriot League this year, a year that begins Thursday, February 6, when Loyola travels to Charlottesville, Va., to face the University of Virginia.