Loyola University Maryland men’s lacrosse makes its Patriot League debut on Saturday, February 22, when it travels to Worcester, Mass., for a 1 o’clock game at College of the Holy Cross.
The Greyhounds had played three-straight overtime games, dating to last season’s NCAA Tournament, but they snapped that streak in a big way Wednesday, defeating Towson, 20-4.
Wednesday was the second time in as many years that Loyola had scored 20 or more goals in a game. Last year, the Greyhounds beat UMBC, 21-9, at Ridley.
Loyola’s 16-goal margin of victory was the largest by a Greyhounds team since Loyola defeated Fairfield University, 19-2, on April 21, 2007. It was the largest margin of victory for a game at Ridley Athletic Complex, and behind the Fairfield game, it was the second largest during the nine-year tenure of Charley Toomey as Loyola’s head coach.
Eleven players scored goals for Loyola against Towson, six of them had two or more, three had goals and assists, and three others had assists.
Nikko Pontrello maintained his team-lead in points (13) with a four-goal, one-assist performance.
Last Time Out
After playing two overtime games to start the season, Loyola dispelled the notion of needing extra time for its third game, scoring nine goals in the first quarter, and 10-straight overall, in a 20-4 win over Towson University on Wednesday at RIdley Athletic Complex.
The Greyhounds took a 10-0 lead on Pat Laconi’s second-consecutive goal 1:38 into the second quarter, and after Towson got on the board at 11:41, Loyola reeled off a 7-0 run that gave it a 17-1 advantage on Nikko Pontrello’s fourth of the game with 11:50 to play in the final quarter.
The Greyhounds’ defense, led by eight Jack Runkel saves, held the Tigers scoreless for stretches of 16:38 and 30:57 in the game.
Loyola shot .750 in the first quarter, scoring on 9-of-12 shots, and .488 (20-of-41) in the game.
Blake Burkhart won 10-of-14 faceoffs for Loyola, all in the first half of the game.
When Towson did gain possession, Loyola had 16 caused turnovers, three each by Pat Laconi and Zack Sirico.
Five players had their first collegiate points in the game.
Follow The Action
Saturday’s game will be broadcast on the Patriot League Network. All of Loyola’s non-televised home games, and Many of the Greyhounds’ road conference games will also be available on the free HD network.
Log on to LoyolaGreyhounds.com or PatriotLeague.tv to watch the home games on your computer, web-enabled televisions and most mobile devices.
In The Polls
Following the Greyhounds’ win at Penn State and an overtime loss at Virginia to start the year, Loyola moved up to ninth in the USILA Coaches’ Poll and 10th in the Warrior/Inside Lacrosse rankings.
Loyola and Holy Cross will meet for the first time on the lacrosse field when the teams take the field Saturday.
The Greyhounds are 14-6 all-time against teams from their new conference, having played Army, Bucknell, Lafayette, Lehigh and Navy in the past. Other than a series with Navy in 2010-2011, Loyola last played a Patriot League team in 1998 when it took on Lehigh.
Starting Off Strong
Loyola needed just 12 shots to score nine goals in the first quarter of Wednesday’s game against Towson, and the Greyhounds scored on nine of their 11 possessions in the quarter.
Meanwhile, the defense limited Towson to five shots, four of which were saved by goalkeeper Jack Runkel. Loyola forced four Towson turnovers, and Blake Burkhart won 7-of-9 faceoffs in the opening frame. Six different players scored in the first quarter for Loyola.
Burkhart On Restarts
After going just 2-of-10 on faceoffs in the Greyhounds first two games of the season, Blake Burkhart turned in a dominating performance on Wednesday against Towson. He finished 10-of-14 at the ‘X’, winning 7-of-9 in the first quarter as Loyola jumped out to a 9-0 lead.
Pontrello Putting Up Points
Nikko Pontrello had his third multi-goal game is as many contests to open the season on Wednesday when he matched his career-high with four goals against Towson. The junior attacker scored twice in the opener against Virginia, and he then recorded three versus Penn State. His final goal against the Nittany Lions came 19 seconds into overtime and lifted Loyola to a 12-11 win.
Pontrello leads the Greyhounds with 13 points through three games with nine goals and four assists. He is closing in on his goal total from last year when he finished his sophomore campaign with 16.
In his career, Loyola is now 5-0 in games that he scored three or more goals.
As a freshman in 2013, Tyler Albrecht saw limited action for the Greyhounds, mostly coming off the wings on faceoffs and occasional offensive midfield shifts. His role has changed dramatically in his second season, and the Canadian midfielder is making the most of it.
Albrecht is a starter on Loyola’s first midfield with Matt Sawyer and Brian Sherlock, and he has three multi-goal games in as many outings this year. Albrecht scored twice in the season-opener at Virginia, and he has recorded hat tricks with three each against Penn State and Towson. He is second on the team with eight goals, one behind Nikko Pontrello, the team leader.
In addition to his offensive work, Albrecht has continued to be a two-way middie, playing on the wings for faceoffs and defensive shifts. He had five ground balls and two caused turnovers against Towson.
Fletch, White And Blue
Senior defender Joe Fletcher was the long current collegiate player selected as part of one of 52 players who made up the United States Men’s National Team training roster this fall, and the day before Loyola’s season-opener, he found out he is one of 30 players who made the cut for the team that will compete at the 2014 World Cup in Denver.
Fletcher trained with Team USA throughout the fall, playing in two training weekends, the Play For Parkinson’s event in October and the Champion Challenge last month. He was one of seven defenders to make the 30-man roster.
In three games this year, Fletcher has nine ground balls and a team-high seven caused turnovers. He now has 120 ground balls and 52 caused turnovers during his career.
Jack Runkel posted 12 saves, including five in the fourth quarter, of the win against Penn State after making just three stops in the season-opener against Virginia.
The senior goalkeeper, who earned 2012 NCAA Championships All-Tournament honors, made five of the saves in the fourth quarter as Penn State took 13 shots.
Runkel then directed the Loyola to a dominating performance against Towson. He made four saves in the first quarter and allowed just two goals over more than 54 minutes of action, stopping a total of eight shots.
Quarterbacking The Offense
Justin Ward returns for his third year as a starter on attack for the Greyhounds and will once again serve as Loyola’s quarterback from ‘X’. Last season, Ward earned USILA All-America Honorable Mention after finishing tops on the team in points (62) and assists (35) and second in goals (27). His 62 points ranked tied for fifth in school single-season Division I history, and his 35 assists check in at third on that list.
With two assists in each of the last two games, Ward has moved into fifth-place in Loyola’s Division I history with 73. He trails Mike Ruland in fourth place by three. Ward is now tied with his former teammate, and future Charlotte Hounds teammate, Eric Lusby for 19th in career points with 115.
Not Just Defensive Midfield
Good transition play has been a key to Loyola’s success in recent years, and the dynamic has continued this year through three games. Five of the Greyhounds’ first 10 goals Wednesday came out of unsettled situations.
Pat Laconi, a preseason All-American short-stick defensive midfielder, scored a career-best two goals against the Tigers, and he also had three caused turnovers. Ryan Fournier scored his first career goal on a transition run in the third quarter.
Dennis Grabs Patriot League Honor
Romar Dennis was named the Patriot League Rookie of the Week on Monday after scoring a pair of goals in his first collegiate game at Virginia. Dennis tallied one in the first quarter and one in the fourth that tied the game at 12-12.
On The Tube
Loyola men’s lacrosse will make a minimum of four appearances on national television this year as part of the Patriot League’s agreement with CBS Sports Network.
The Greyhounds will host Duke University on Sunday, March 9, in a match-up of the last two NCAA Champions, and CBS will then feature the Greyhounds’ Thursday, April 17, game against Bucknell University, the top two teams in the Preseason Patriot League poll. The network will also feature two long-time rivals when Loyola hosts Johns Hopkins University, on Saturday, May 3.
Additionally, the Loyola-Georgetown game on Wednesday, March 19, in Washington, D.C., was added to the CBS Sports Network slate.
Both semifinal games in the Patriot League Championships will be broadcast on Friday, April 25, and the Patriot League Championship Game will also air live on Sunday, April 27.
As a first-year member of the Patriot League, Loyola was picked to win the conference title in a poll of the League’s coaches and sports information contacts. The Greyhounds drew 13 of the possible 16 first-place votes (schools are not allowed to vote for themselves) and edged Bucknell for first.
Loyola and Bucknell were followed (in order) by Lehigh, Army, Colgate, Navy, Holy Cross, Lafayette and Boston U.
Joe Fletcher was named the Preseason Patriot League Defensive Player of the Year, and he earned a spot with teammate Justin Ward on the Preseason All-Patriot League Team.