Loyola University Maryland opens a two-game Patriot League road trip on Saturday, March 29, when it travels to Hamilton, N.Y., to face Colgate University at 12 noon.
The Greyhounds, by virtue of a 21-4 win over Lafayette last Saturday, have scored 20 or more goals twice this season, marking the first time they have done so since the 1997 team scored 24 against Fairfield, 20 versus Towson and 21 in the NCAA First Round against Notre Dame. Earlier this year, Loyola beat Towson, 20-4.
Loyola’s 17-goal margin of victory over the Leopards was its largest since beating Fairfield 19-2 on April 21, 2007.
The Greyhounds had a 52-22 advantage in ground balls against Lafayette, the largest margin in the statistical category Loyola has posted since Charley Toomey became head coach in 2006. The previous high was 23 earlier this season at Holy Cross.
Nikko Pontrello has moved up to second in the country in goals per game (3.78) with his nation-leading 34 total.
Justin Ward is second in both assists per game (3.33) and total assists (32).
Last Time Out
Loyola’s starting attack of Nikko Pontrello, Brian Schultz and Justin Ward combined for 12 goals, and the Greyhounds defeated visiting Lafayette College, 21-4, last Saturday in Patriot League action.
Pontrello finished with five goals, while Schultz had four and Ward three. Ward led all players with seven points, chipping in four assists.
Nine Greyhounds in all scored goals against the Leopards as Brian Sherlock tallied three and two assists, while Romar Dennis had a pair along with one helper.
Led by Ward’s four and two each by Sherlock and Tyler Albrecht, 15 of the Greyhounds’ 21 goals were of the assisted variety.
Loyola’s 71.4 percent assist ratio matched its best of the season. The Greyhounds also assisted on the same percentage in a 14-7 win at Lehigh on March 1.
The Greyhounds won 18-of-29 faceoffs against Lafayette. Graham Savio was successful on 13-of-19, and Blake Burkhart made good on 5-of-8. Savio had a career-best 11 ground balls, as well as his first career assist.
Follow The Action
Saturday’s game, and all non-televised Patriot League games, will be broadcast on the Patriot League Network. Additionally, all of Loyola’s non-televised home games will be available on the free HD network.
Log on to PatriotLeague.tv to watch the home games on your computer, web-enabled televisions and most mobile devices.
In The Polls
Loyola moved up to the No. 1 spot in both the USILA coaches and Warrior/Inside Lacrosse media polls on Monday following its wins last week over Georgetown and Lafayette.
The Greyhounds have been ranked No. 1 at some point in each of the last three seasons, most recently in the first polls of the 2012 season.
Colgate checks in at 19th in the coaches rankings and 17th in the media version.
Loyola and Colgate will meet for the first time when the teams take the first on Saturday. It is the second time this year (Holy Cross) that the Greyhounds have played an opponent for the first time.
Get To Ten
Since Charley Toomey became head coach at Loyola in 2006, the Greyhounds have scored 10 or more goals on 63 occasions. After defeating the Leopards, 21-4, on Saturday, Loyola has won 80.9 percent of those games (51-12).
Loyola has the best winning percentage in NCAA Division I men’s lacrosse since the start of the 2012 season. The Greyhounds are 37-7 during that stretch (17-1 in 2012, 11-5 in 2013 and 8-1 this season) for a .841 mark.
Only Duke has won more games (38) than Loyola during the run, but the Blue Devils are second to the Greyhounds in winning percentage by more than eight percent (38-12, .760).
A pair of Greyhounds attackers are at or near the top of two offensive categories through games of Tuesday, March 25, in both total goals and assists. Nikko Pontrello paces Division I with 34 goals, while Justin Ward is second with 30 assists.
The duo is the No. 2 point-scoring tandem in the country with 39 each. Albany’s Lyle (48) and Miles (44) have a combined 92, 14 more than Pontrello and Ward
Pontrello Putting Up Points
Nikko Pontrello had his ninth multi-goal game is as many contests to open the season on Saturday when he scored five against Lafayette. Through games of Monday, March 24, Pontrello leads the nation in total goals with 34.
He scored two in the season-opener at Virginia and then had three each against Penn State and Towson before scoring a career-high six goals at Holy Cross. He then tallied four at Lehigh, five against Duke and three at Georgetown.
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 34 goals and is tied with Justin Ward for the team-lead with 39 points through nine games.
He leads the Patriot League and is second nationally in goals per game (3.78), while he is tied for first and 13th with Ward in points per game (4.33).
After opening the season with a .214 save percentage in the opener at Virginia, Jack Runkel has played to a .649 mark, saving 87 out of 134 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 7.14 this season and a cumulative saves percentage of .608 through nine games. He is fourth in the nation in saves percentage and sixth in goals against average.
In three years as a starter for the Greyhounds, Runkel has a 7.81 goals against average and .559 saves percentage; he is fifth in Loyola’s Division I history (since 1982) with 388 career saves. Runkel’s record between the pipes is 35-6. He is second in wins among active goalkeepers, trailing only Maryland’s Niko Amato who has 41 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 or Rookie) four-consecutive times.
Justin Ward has continued to be the quarterback of the Greyhounds’ offense this year, passing out 24 assists in the last six contests. He is second in the nation in total assists (30), and he is also second in the country and tops in the Patriot League, with 3.33 assists per game this year. His 30 assists are already tied for eighth in school Division I single-season history.
With four assists against Duke 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 against Lafayette, Ward now has 97 in his career. Gary Hanley holds the all-time Loyola record with 160 assists. Ward is also 10th in school Division I history in total points with 145.
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.
Loyola is one of only two teams nationally to rank in the top five in shooting percentage and fewest turnovers per game. The Greyhounds lead Division I by averaging 9.89 turnovers per game, nearly two fewer than Denver, which is second in the statistical category. Loyola is also fifth in shooting percentage (.354).
The Pioneers are the only other team to be in the top five of both categories, checking in second in turnovers per game (11.78) and shooting percentage (.380).
Near The Top At Both Sides
The Greyhounds are also one of just two teams to be in the top five of scoring offense and defense at the Division I level. Loyola’s goals per game (14.11) rank fourth, and its goals allowed (7.33) are tied for fifth.
North Carolina is the other team in the top five for both, matching the Greyhounds in goals allowed while it is second in goals per game (14.78).
While it is tied for fifth nationally in scoring defense, Loyola is just fourth in the Patriot League in the category. Army (1st, 5.50), Lehigh (2nd, 6.67) and Colgate (4th, 7.11) all rank ahead of the Greyhounds nationally. In conference games, however, Loyola and Army are tied at 5.25 per contest.
Loyola has converted on just under half of its man-up possessions this year, scoring 14 goals on 29 opportunities. Its .483 success rate is good for 10th in NCAA Division I through games of Monday, March 24.
Eight of Loyola’s extra-man goals have been assisted by Justin Ward.
Games Of Runs
Loyola has used significant runs in all nine of its games this season, and it has had four stretches of seven or more unanswered goals. In all the Greyhounds have 16 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 Lafayette 12-0 26:53 Towson 10-0 16:38 at Virginia 9-0 14:18
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.
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. Through nine games this year, Sawyer has scored 11 goals, good for fourth on the team.
Brian Sherlock, a redshirt freshman who transfered to Loyola after sitting out last year with an injury at North Carolina, had a career-high five points with three goals and two assists against Lafayette. He has now posted 17 points with nine goals and eight assists this season through nine games, and he also has shown his skill off the ground with 15 ground balls.
Fletch, White And Blue
Senior defender Joe Fletcher was the lone 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 is second on the Greyhounds with 37 ground balls and caused turnovers (13). His 58 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 14 caused turnovers this season have brought his career total to 55, 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 nine games, Schultz has scored 17 goals, second most on the team, and assisted on nine, second behind team-leader Justin Ward.
Entering this season, Schultz had seen most of his playing time on extra-man opportunities for the Greyhounds, posting a combined three goals and five assists.
Tewaaraton Watch Trio, Senior CLASS Award 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.