Loyola University Maryland opens a three-game regular-season homestand on Saturday, April 12, when it hosts Boston University at 1 p.m.
The Greyhounds are 4-0 this season, and 22-7, all-time at Ridley Athletic Complex.
Loyola has clinched one of the top two seeds in the April 25-27 Patriot League Championships and thus secured a by to the semifinals. The Greyhounds can clinch the Patriot League regular-season title, and earn the No. 1 seed and hosting rights for the semifinal and championship games, with a win over Boston University or Bucknell University (April 17) or a loss by the U.S. Military Academy to the U.S. Naval Academy (Saturday) or Colgate University (April 18).
The Greyhounds have not allowed an extra-man goal in the last three games, holding opponents scoreless on four man-up possessions during the stretch. Boston University, meanwhile leads the Patriot League with 19 extra-man goals this year.
Joe Fletcher leads all close defenders nationally in ground balls per game with 51 total and 4.6 per game.
Last Time Out
Brian Sherlock picked up the ground ball off a Graham Savio faceoff win to start the second overtime period, sent a pass to Justin Ward low in the offensive box, and Ward passed cross-crease to Brian Schultz who scored the game-winner last Saturday in a 7-6 win at the U.S. Naval Academy.
The Greyhounds took their first lead of the game at the end of a 3-0 third-quarter run when Ward scored with 2:53 left in the stanza.
The Midshipmen, however, evened the score at 6-6 Gabe Voumard's second of the game 5:28 into the final period of regulation, and the game ended up in overtime.
Jack Runkel made nine saves for Loyola, the last coming midway through the first overtime on a behind-the-head shot by Tucker Hull from the doorstep. The Midshipmen had another shot go off the pipe in the opening overtime.
Ward led all players with four points, scoring a goal and assisting on three, while Sherlock posted a team-best two goals.
Saturday's game, and all non-televised Patriot League games, will be broadcast on the Patriot League Network. Brent Harris of Comcast SportsNet and NBC Sports Network will call the play-by-play action
Log on to PatriotLeague.tv to watch the home games on your computer, web-enabled televisions and most mobile devices.
In The Polls
With Saturday's win at Navy, Loyola remained in the No. 1 spot of both the USILA coaches and Warrior/Inside Lacrosse media polls for the third week in a row.
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. This stretch is the longest the Greyhounds have been ranked first since spending nine-straight at the top from March 15-May 10, 1999.
Loyola will play Boston University, a first-year program, for the first time when the teams take the field Saturday. The Terriers are also in their first year as a member of the Patriot League. They joined the conference in June 2012, and Loyola accepted its membership less than two months later.
Get To Ten
Since Charley Toomey became head coach at Loyola in 2006, the Greyhounds have scored 10 or more goals on 64 occasions. After defeating Colgate, 10-8, on March 29, Loyola has won 81.3 percent of those games (52-12).
Loyola has the best winning percentage in NCAA Division I men's lacrosse since the start of the 2012 season. The Greyhounds are 39-7 during that stretch (18-1 in 2012, 11-5 in 2013 and 10-1 this season) for a .848 mark. Loyola's winning percentage of .909 this season is the best nationally.
Only Duke has won more games (41) than Loyola during the run, but the Blue Devils are second to the Greyhounds in winning percentage by more than seven percent (41-12, .774).
A pair of Greyhounds attackers are at or near the top of two offensive categories through games of Tuesday, April 8, in both total goals and assists. Nikko Pontrello is second in Division I with 37 goals, while Justin Ward is second with 36 assists.
The duo is the No. 2 point-scoring tandem in the country with 91 combined points (Ward, 48; Pontrello, 43). Albany's Lyle (65) and Miles (60) have a combined 125.
Tops Among Close Defenders
Joe Fletcher leads Loyola in ground balls, total (51) and per game (4.64), this season, but more impressive than that, he paces all close defenders nationally in the categories. Fletcher is 42nd overall in ground balls per game, while the 41 players who are ahead of him are either face-off specialists or long-stick midfielders who play on the wings during restarts.
Justin Ward has continued to be the quarterback of the Greyhounds' offense this year, passing out 30 assists in the last eight contests and 36 overall. He is second in the nation in total assists (36), and he is also third in the country and tops in the Patriot League, with 3.27 assists per game this year. His 36 assists are already third-most in school Division I single-season history, one off Brian Duffy's No. 2 total of 37 in 1995 and two shy of tying Sean Heffernan's single-season record from 1994.
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. His three at Colgate gave him 100 for his career, making him the second player in program history ever to record 100. Gary Hanley holds the all-time Loyola record with 160 assists. Ward is also ninth in school Division I history in total points with 153, one away from tying former teammate Mike Sawyer, who was on the receiving end of many of his assists, for eighth.
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.
Pontrello Putting Up Points
Nikko Pontrello was held without a goal for the first time this season on Saturday against Navy, snapping a streak of 10-straight games to start the season that Pontrello had two or more goals. Through games of Tuesday, April 8, Pontrello is second in the nation in total goals with 37.
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, three at Georgetown, five versus Lafayette and three against Colgate
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 37 goals and is second behind Justin Ward for the team-lead with 43 points through 11 games.
He leads the Patriot League and is second nationally in goals per game (3.70), while he is second and 11th in points per game (4.30).
After opening the season with a .214 save percentage in the opener at Virginia, Jack Runkel has played to a .639 mark, saving 108 out of 170 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 7.07 this season and a cumulative saves percentage of .607 through 11 games. He is fourth in the nation in both saves percentage and goals against average.
In three years as a starter for the Greyhounds, Runkel has a 7.75 goals against average and .561 saves percentage; he is fifth in Loyola's Division I history (since 1982) with 400 career saves. Runkel's record between the pipes is 36-6. He is second in wins among active goalkeepers, trailing only Maryland's Niko Amato who has 42 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. His honor on March 31 made him the first player in League history to earn five in a season.
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 five different occasions. In a pair of games against Towson and the Crusaders, he had 11 ground balls and three caused turnovers.
He later had 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.
Versus Colgate, Fletcher was matched up against Ryan Walsh, and he held the Raiders' leading scorer without a goal or assist for the first time in his career, a total of 42 prior games. He then marked Navy's T.J. Hanzsche, holding him without a point for the first time in 15 games.
Fletcher has been named Patriot League Defensive Player of the Week four times this year, the most any player in conference history has earned the award. He is second on the Greyhounds with 44 ground balls and caused turnovers (14). His 59 career caused turnovers are third all-time at Loyola behind the 90 of P.T. Ricci and 88 of Scott Ratliff.
As good of a match-up defender as Fletcher is, he is as good off the ground. He leads all close defenders nationally with 51 ground balls and 4.64 per game.
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, a goal at Georgetown and an assist versus Navy, bringing his season totals to six goals an two assists. He now has 11 goals and 11 assists in his four-year career.
Laconi posted four ground balls, matching his career-high, and three caused turnovers at Colgate, the final of each coming with less than 25 seconds remaining to help seal the win. He caused another three turnovers a week later at Navy. His team-leading 20 caused turnovers this season have brought his career total to 62, third most in school history.
Taking Care Of The Ball
Loyola continues to lead the nation in fewest turnovers per game, averaging 10.27 through 1 contests. The Greyhounds have committed 1.37 fewer turnovers per game than the second-place team in the nation, Marquette.
Near The Top At Both Sides
The Greyhounds is the only team to be in the top five of scoring offense and defense at the Division I level. Loyola's goals per game (13.09) rank fifth, and its goals allowed (7.27) are fourth.
While it is fourth nationally in scoring defense, Loyola is just third in the Patriot League in the category. Army (1st, 5.70) and Lehigh (2nd, 6.50) both rank ahead of the Greyhounds nationally.
Loyola has converted on just under half of its man-up possessions this year, scoring 15 goals on 32 opportunities. Its .469 success rate is good for 11th in NCAA Division I through games of Monday, April 7.
Nine of Loyola's extra-man goals have been assisted by Justin Ward.
Games Of Runs
Loyola has used significant runs in all 11 of its games this season, and it has had five stretches of seven or more unanswered goals. In all the Greyhounds have 18 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 March 9 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.
Schultz Stepping Up
In his first year as a starter on attack for the Greyhounds, senior Brian Schultz has scored 19 goals, second-most on the team through 11 games. He also had the game-winning goal 12 seconds into the second overtime at Navy.
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 in February. 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.