Oct. 7, 2005
Baltimore, Md. - Junior Rade Kokovic scored one goal and assisted on another, lifting Loyola to a 2-1 victory over Niagara on Friday afternoon at Diane Geppi-Aikens Field. The win gets the Greyhounds off to a 1-0 start in conference play with all eight remaining regular season matches against MAAC foes.
"This is new season for us," says Kokovic. "Everything that has happened to this point will not get us into the NCAA Tournament, but winning the MAAC will. It was very important to get this win today."
Playing on a rain-soaked pitch, the Greyhounds attacked the goal early and often. Sophomore Ray Hassett, who had four shots on the afternoon, nearly scored on a cross from junior Danny Wheelan in the 21st minute, but a save by Niagara goalkeeper Eric Sullivan kept the game scoreless. The Greyhounds remained persistent, however, and broke through with a goal at 26:23 when freshman Josh Taylor, who was set up perfectly by Kokovic, fired a low-liner into the lower left corner of the net for his first collegiate goal.
Wheelan almost doubled that lead in the 33rd minute, taking a Niagara defender one-on-one. Although he failed to score, he set up a corner kick for Kokovic and the two of them took advantage.
"I tapped the ball to Danny [Wheelan] and went around him," says Kokovic. "He gave it back to me and I scored."
Kokovic's score gave Loyola a comfortable 2-0 lead at halftime with the Greyhounds taking five shots to Niagara's one. The second half would have the same feel as the first, but several missed chances and a few nice plays from Sullivan gave Niagara a chance to get back into the game.
With both Hassett and Wheelan missing wide on countattacks and nice saves from Sullivan on shots from sophomore Frank Spanos (in the 66th minute) and Kokovic (in the 69th), the match was still 2-nil when Brian Leonard cut the deficit in half with an unassisted goal at 77:42.
"We conceded a goal, but held our line," says Loyola Head Coach Mark Mettrick. "Our freshmen stepped up and played very well. Phil Brierley made some key defensive plays while Josh Taylor played a solid game for us."
The Greyhounds had a third goal called back after sophomore Janson Blake's header was determined an offensive foul. Senior Mark Donnelly was also unlucky on his attempt in the 83rd minute and with 18 shots to Niagara's six, the game ended with a 2-1 score.
"Niagara came into this game leading the MAAC in almost every offensive category," says Mettrick. "They're a hot team right now and I'm proud of the way we hung in there and stuck to it. This is a good win to start the MAAC season."
Loyola is now 3-6-1 overall and 1-0-0 in the MAAC. They host Canisius on Sunday at 1 p.m.