Loyola University Maryland plays its second game of the week on Saturday, March 22, when it hosts Lafayette College at 1 o’clock.
After winning four games by an average of 10.5 goals, and none by less than seven, the Greyhounds have won two-straight by one goal.
Loyola committed just seven turnovers on Wednesday night at Georgetown to reduce its nation-leading turnovers per game mark to 10.0.
Nikko Pontrello, who on Thursday was added to the Tewaaraton Award Watch List, scored three goals against the Hoyas and now leads the NCAA in total goals with 29. He is fourth nationally in goals per game (3.625).
Justin Ward passed out four assists Wednesday in addition to scoring a goal to raise his season total to 26, also tops in the country.
Kevin Ryan is 10th nationally in shot percentage. He has scored goals on 51.9 percent of his shots (14-of-27) this year.
Pat Frazier picked up a career-high four ground balls on Wednesday night at Georgetown. He’s also third on the team with eight caused turnovers.
Last Time Out
Nikko Pontrello scored all three of his goals in the second half on Wednesday night, his final tally coming with 51.4 seconds left to lift Loyola to a 10-9 non-conference victory at Georgetown.
Pontrello had tied the game with 7:55 left, shot-faking from the crease after a Justin Ward pass, and with less than a minute to play in regulation, he dodged from behind the crease and rolled toward the goal, beating Jake Haley low with his shot.
Georgetown won the ensuing faceoff, and the Hoyas called two timeouts to set up a final shot. David Manning, however, stripped Bo Stafford of the ball with less than seven seconds left, and Joe Fletcher picked up the ground ball to secure the win for the Greyhounds.
Georgetown scored three-straight goals that spanned the second and third quarters to take a 7-5 advantage 3:30 into the third. Brian Schultz bookended Pontrello’s first goal to push Loyola back in front with 2:47 left in the third.
The Hoyas rallied to regain the lead, however, with 11:19 to go in regulation. The game finished with seven ties and five lead changes.
Follow The Action
Saturday’s game, and all non-televised home games, will be broadcast on the Patriot League Network. Additionally, all of Loyola’s road conference games will also be available on the free HD network.
Log on to LoyolaGreyhounds.com/pln or PatriotLeague.tv to watch the home games on your computer, web-enabled televisions and most mobile devices.
Brett Hollander will call the play-by-play, and Chris Gunkel ’90 will provide the analysis.
In The Polls
With last Saturday’s win over Army, Loyola remained at No. 2 in the USILA Coaches, Warrior/Inside Lacrosse and Lacrosse Magazine media polls. Prior to Saturday’s games, Loyola was tied for second in the coaches’ version with Johns Hopkins University.
Loyola and Lafayette will play for the second time in series history, but Saturday’s game will be the first meeting since Loyola’s opening game of the 1939 season. In that contest, the Greyhounds beat the Leopards, 15-1.
Get To Ten
Since Charley Toomey became head coach at Loyola in 2006, the Greyhounds have scored 10 or more goals on 62 occasions. After defeating the Hoyas, 10-9, on Wednesday, Loyola has won 80.6 percent of those games (50-12).
Loyola has the best winning percentage in NCAA Division I men’s lacrosse since the start of the 2012 season. The Greyhounds are 36-7 during that stretch (17-1 in 2012, 11-5 in 2013 and 7-1 this season) for a .837 mark.
Only Duke has won more games (37) than Loyola during the run, but the Blue Devils are second to the Greyhounds in winning percentage by nearly eight percent (37-12, .755).
A pair of Greyhounds attackers lead the nation through games of Wednesday, March 19, in both total goals and assists. Nikko Pontrello paces Division I with 29 goals, while Justin Ward is first with 26 assists.
Pontrello Putting Up Points
Nikko Pontrello had his eighth multi-goal game is as many contests to open the season on Saturday when he scored three in the second half against Georgetown. Through games of Wednesday, March 19, Pontrello leads the nation in total goals with 29.
He scored two in the season-opener at Virginia and then had three against Penn State and Towson before scoring a career-high six goals at Holy Cross. He then tallied four at Lehigh and five against Duke.
Two of his goals have been game-winners in one-goal contests. Pontrello scored 19 seconds into overtime to give Loyola a 12-11 win at Penn State, and he then tallied one with 51.4 seconds left in regulation to push the Greyhounds past Georgetown, 10-9.
Pontrello leads the Greyhounds with 29 goals and 34 points through eight games. He has already eclipsed his goal total from last year when he finished his sophomore campaign with 16.
He leads the Patriot League and is fourth nationally in goals per game (3.65), while he is first and 12th in points per game (4.43).
After opening the season with a .214 save percentage in the opener at Virginia, Jack Runkel has played to a .646 mark, saving 82 out of 127 shots on goal he’s faced. In a six-game stretch against Towson, Holy Cross, Lehigh, Duke and Army, Runkel made 61 saves and allowed just 26 goals (.701).
The senior goalkeeper, who earned 2012 NCAA Championships All-Tournament honors, has a goals against average of 7.51 this season and a cumulative saves percentage of .603 through five games. He has moved up to fourth in the nation in saves percentage and seventh in goals against average.
In three years as a starter for the Greyhounds, Runkel has a 7.89 goals against average and .557 saves percentage; his record between the pipes is 34-6. He is second in wins among active goalkeepers, trailing only Maryland’s Niko Amato who has 40 victories. Amato (as of Monday), however, Amato is a four-year starter, while Runkel did not start until early in his sophomore season.
Runkel picked up his fourth-straight Patriot League Goalkeeper of the Week honor on March 17, becoming the first player in League history to win any of the weekly honors (Offensive, Defensive, Goalkeeper, Rookie) four-consecutive times.
Justin Ward has continued to be the quarterback of the Greyhounds’ offense this year, passing out 20 assists in the last five contests. He leads the nation in total assists (26) and is third in the nation, and tops in the Patriot League, with 3.25 assists per game this year.
With four assists against Duke – the second game in he posted that total – Ward set Loyola’s career Division I record (since 1982) in total assists, eclipsing the mark of 83 set from 1989-92 by Jim Blanding. Following his four at Georgetown, Ward now has 93 in his career. Gary Hanley holds the all-time Loyola record with 160 assists. Ward is also 12th in school Division I history in total points with 138.
Ward is in his third year as a starter on attack for the Greyhound after earning USILA All-America Honorable Mention last year 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.
Kevin Ryan scored twice against Army, needing just two shots, and he added a first-quarter goal against Georgetown. Through eight games, the senior midfielder has scored on 14 of his 27 shots for a shooting percentage of .519, the 10th-best shooting percentage in the nation this year.
Take out an 0-of-5 performance in the season-opener at Virginia, and Ryan has found the net on 13-of-17 shots (.764) in the Greyhounds’ last six games. He has three games this year – at Holy Cross (3-of-3), at Lehigh (5-of-5) and Army (2-of-2) – in which he has scored on all of his shots.
Loyola has converted on exactly half of its man-up possessions this year, scoring 13 goals on 26 opportunities. Its .500 success rate is good for a tie for ninth in NCAA Division I through games of Thursday, March 20.
Seven of Loyola’s extra-man goals have been assisted by Justin Ward.
Five-Plus For Two
Matt Sawyer scored six goals, and Nikko Pontrello tallied five for the Greyhounds on Sunday against Duke, marking the first time in over a decade that two Loyola players have scored five or more in the same game.
The last pair to do so was Gavin Prout (six) and Tim Goettelmann (five) in a 14-9 win on March 25, 2000, at 14th-ranked Brown University.
Games Of Runs
Loyola has used significant runs in all eight of its games this season, and it has had four stretches of seven or more unanswered goals. In all the Greyhounds have 13 runs of 3-0 or better. Here is a look at their four best scoring stretches:
Opponent Run Time Covered Opponent Run Time Covered at Holy Cross 14-0 38:58 Towson 10-0 16:38 at Virginia 9-0 14:18 Towson 7-0 18:37
Matt Sawyer entered the March 9 game against Duke with a single-game high of two goals, those coming in the season-opener at the University of Virginia. It took the senior from Waxhaw, N.C., just 15-minutes, 56-seconds against the Blue Devils to match that total, and 20:51 to exceed it.
Sawyer finished the game by tripling his previous high, totaling six goals on just seven shots. His lone shot that did not find the net was perhaps his hardest of the night, and it went off the far-side post.
His six goals raised his 2014 total to 10, tied for third on the team. He now has 14 goals in his career.
Sunday’s game was not the first time a member of the Sawyer family had put up six goals on Duke. Matt’s older brother, three-time All-American Mike, scored six goals and had two assists in a 13-8 win over the Blue Devils in March 2012.
Duke’s Jordan Wolf and Josh Dionne came into the March 9 game tied for the team lead in goals (12 each), and the duo had a combined 235 career goals. Loyola, however, held them to just one goal each in the victory.
Against Army, Loyola faced another top scorer, John Glesener. Through six games prior to facing the Greyhounds, Glesener had scored 15 goals, but he was held to two on 22 shots by the Loyola defense.
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.
Against Holy Cross, Fletcher set a career-high with eight ground balls, eclipsing his previous total of seven set on three different occasions. In a pair of games against Towson and the Crusaders, he had 11 ground balls and three caused turnovers.
He earned his second Patriot League Defensive Player of the Week honor this year on Monday after picking up seven ground balls and causing a turnover against Duke. He also was primarily responsible for holding the Blue Devils’ All-American attacker Jordan Wolf to one goal. Fletcher was again honored on March 17 after limiting Army’s John Glesener to two goals on 22 shots.
This season, the Preseason All-American leads the Greyhounds with 32 ground balls, and he is tied for the squad lead with 12 caused turnovers. His 57 career caused turnovers are third all-time at Loyola behind the 90 of P.T. Ricci and 88 of Scott Ratliff.
Not Just Defensive Midfield
Short-stick defensive midfielder Pat Laconi was named the Patriot League Defensive Player of the Week on March 3 after matching his career-high with two goals at Lehigh.
The senior, who is a team co-captain and Preseason All-American, had a goal an assist versus Army and a goal at Georgetown, bringing his season totals to six goals an one assist. He now has 11 goals and 10 assists in his four-year career. His 12 caused turnovers this season have brought his career total to 53, tied for fourth most in school history.
Schultz Stepping Up
In his first year as a starter on attack for the Greyhounds, senior Brian Schultz has parlayed his opportunity into a solid start to the season. Through eight games, Schultz has scored 13 goals, third most on the team, and eight assists, second behind team-leader Justin Ward.
Entering this season, Schultz had seen most of his playing time on extra-man opportunities for the Greyhounds. As a sophomore and junior, he posted a combined three goals and five assists.
Tewaaraton Watch, Senior CLASS Award List Pair
Two of Loyola’s senior co-captains were named to the Tewaaraton Award Watch List when it was released last week. Joe Fletcher and Justin Ward were among the 50 players nationally to receive recognition.
They were also two of 20 players nationally to be named candidates for the Senior CLASS Award that seniors who have performed at a high level athletically and in the classroom and who have used their platforms as student-athletes to make positive impacts in the community.
In addition to the senior duo that is on the Tewaaraton Award Watch List, junior attacker Nikko Pontrello was also named to the group on March 20.
The Greyhounds play their next two games, both Patriot League tilts, on the road. They head to Hamilton, N.Y., for a Saturday, March 29, game at Colgate University before traveling to the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., on Saturday, April 5.