Loyola University Maryland wraps up ECAC Lacrosse League play on Saturday, April 21, 2012 when it concludes a three-game road trip with a 12 noon face-off at Hobart College in Geneva, N.Y.
The Greyhounds will meet Hobart for the 15th time in series history when the teams take the field on Saturday and the eighth time as ECAC foes. Both programs joined the league for the 2005 season.
Loyola holds an 11-3 advantage in the previous 14 games that have been played between the teams, including an 11-8 victory on April 23, 2011, at Ridley Athletic Complex. Four Greyhounds – Patrick Fanshaw, Matt Langan, Stephen Murray and Mike Sawyer – scored two goals each.
In The Polls
The Greyhounds rose to No. 1 in the Nike/Inside Lacrosse media poll and are tied for the top spot in the USILA Coaches ranking with fellow unbeaten Massachusetts. More on the rankings later.
Loyola is ranked No. 1 in the nation (in the USILA poll) for the first time since May 10, 1999, when the Greyhounds completed a 12-0 regular-season. Loyola was ranked first in the final nine polls of that season, and it was No. 1 for two weeks during the 1994 season (April 12 and 19) and one week in 1992 (March 31).
The Greyhounds are just the second team since the USILA poll was introduced in 1973 to go from being unranked to No. 1 in the same season. The other team to accomplish the feat was the 2007 Duke team that went from being unranked in the first poll of the year to No. 2 in the second and first in the third.
Since the inception of the ECAC Lacrosse League in 2000, Loyola is the second conference member to attain a No. 1 ranking, joining former member Georgetown, which was in the top spot for a week in 2007.
Loyola is also ranked first in the initial version of the RPI released by the NCAA.
Loyola has used second-half comebacks to win its first two games of its current ECAC road trip, scoring the last four gaols of the game to beat then-No. 14 Fairfield, 8-6, on April 7, before using a 5-1 run to close the game in a 12-9 win at then-No. 8 Denver.
The Fairfield game was the first time this season Loyola had trailed in the fourth quarter, and the 4-4 tie going into the final stanza was the first time it had not led outright entering the frame.
The Greyhounds held Fairfield scoreless for the final 11 minutes, 59 seconds of action, and they then kept Denver off the board for 22:32 in the third and fourth quarters while they scored four unanswered.
Defense Standing Tall
The Greyhounds’ defense is ranked sixth in NCAA Division I, and tops in the ECAC, with a 7.18 goals allowed per game mark, as they have not allowed more than nine goals in a single game this season. The Greyhounds are one of three teams (Massachusetts and Notre Dame are the others) who have allowed fewer than 10 in each outing this season.
ECAC Spot Locked Up
Loyola’s win at Denver secured the No. 1 seed in the upcoming ECAC Championships for the Greyhounds, as well as at least a share of the ECAC regular-season crown. It is Loyola’s third time sharing, or winning outright, the ECAC title since joining the conference in 2005.
Loyola used runs of three-plus goals at important junctures of its first 11 games, helping the Greyhounds to wins each time. In all, Loyola has scored three or more in a row on 21 occasions this season.
Loyola used four three-goal runs against Duke, including one three-goal streak that put Loyola up 4-1 at the beginning of the second quarter. The Greyhounds never trailed after that initial three-goal run and extended their lead to 13-5 after its fourth three-goal spurt of the game.
The Greyhounds had their longest run in almost two years against Air Force, scoring 10 in a row to open the second half. The last time Loyola scored 10 or more in a row was on March 20, 2010, when it had 14 straight against Air Force.
Loyola then used a 6-0 run to break a 5-5 tie early in the third quarter with Georgetown on the way to a 11-6 victory.
The Greyhounds then scored seven in a row on the back end of a 10-1 run last Saturday at UMBC, and after falling behind 3-2 in the second quarter against Ohio State, the Greyhounds strung together four in a row to go ahead 6-3 by the end of the third quarter.
At Fairfield, Loyola scored the final four goals of the game to rally from a 6-4 deficit to win 8-6. The Greyhounds then scored four in a row during the third and fourth quarters at Denver that brought them from down 8-7 to a 12-9 victory.
On The Flip Side
Conversely, the Greyhounds have allowed a run of three or more goals just seven times this year, with the most recent coming when Denver scored three on two occasions.
Only Fairfield (five) and Air Force (four) have scored more than three in a row this year.
Following six of the seven opponent runs of three or more, Loyola has answered in kind with a run of 4-0 or better.
Taking Care Of The Ball
Loyola was outshot, 39-34, and Denver had seven more ground balls (32-25) than the Greyhounds last Saturday, but Loyola used a significant turnover margin to its advantage in the win. The Greyhounds committed a season-low seven turnovers against the Pioneers who had 16.
The Greyhounds lead the ECAC this year with the fewest turnovers per game, averaging 13.45, more than 1.5 fewer than Fairfield which is second with 15.17. Loyola is seventh nationally in the stat category.
Nine Loyola players scored in the win over Denver with Mike Sawyer (3) and Eric Lusby (2) leading the way as the only players to score multiple times. Only once this season, Air Force (10) have more Loyola players scored in a game.
This season, four Greyhounds – Mike Sawyer (36), Eric Lusby (29), Sean O’Sullivan (12) and Davis Butts (11) – have 10 or more goals, and four others have 10-plus points.
Loyola used three goals in unsettled situations to its advantage on the way to the win at Denver. Long-stick midfielder Scott Ratliff was involved in all three, scoring a goal and an assist, and clearing the ball for an unassisted Mike Sawyer dodge-and-goal in another.
Ratliff, a Tewaaraton Award Nominee, is tops on the team in ground balls (45) and caused turnovers (24) and has scored five goals and assisted on three this season.
Defense Digs In Again
Loyola’s defensive unit held Denver to more than three goals fewer than its season average. The Pioneers came into the game averaging nearly 12.7 goals per game, but the Greyhounds limited them to just nine.
Denver’s Mark Matthews sported a 39-game goal scoring streak coming into the game, but Loyola held him to just a single assist, snapping what had been the nation’s second-longest streak.
Another Defensive Honor
Loyola players have won six of this year’s nine ECAC Defensive Player of the Week awards and each of the last four. Scott Ratliff won the initial award following the season-opener against Delaware, and goalkeeper Jack Runkel earned the honor on March 12.
Runkel again won the award on March 26, starting a four-week stretch in which he and defender Reid Acton have alternated garnering the honor.
Acton was named the most recent recipient on Monday after he drew primary marking responsibilities on Denver’s Mark Matthews, holding the All-American without a goal for the first time in 40 games.
Sawyer, Lusby Form Rare Tandem
Graduate student Eric Lusby and junior Mike Sawyer have formed the top attack tandem in the ECAC Lacrosse League this year and one of the most balanced in the nation. The Tewaaraton Award nominees have combined for 65 goals in 11 games this season, an average of 5.9 per game.
Sawyer has scored 36 goals, and his 3.27 goals per game average is third-best in Division I. Lusby, meanwhile is right behind with 29 goals and a 2.64 goals per game mark, a number that is tied for the country. Loyola is the only school to have two players in the top 15 of goals per game nationally.
The Greyhounds have not had two players score 29 or more goals in the same season since 2000 when Tim Goettelmann set the school single-season record with 50, and Gavin Prout tallied 41. As a side note, the Goettelmann-Prout duo has gone on to highly successful professional careers. Goettelman recently retired from Major League Lacrosse as the league’s all-time leading scorer with 268 goals in 11 seasons.Prout has been an MLL Champion and has scored 314 National Lacrosse League goals to go with 625 assists as a multiple-time all-star.
Runkel Moving Up Stats Charts
Entering the final two games of the 2012 regular-season, sophomore goalkeeper Jack Runkel has risen to seventh in the nation with a 7.32 goals against average. In 10 games, eight starts, Runkel has made saves on 55.3-percent of shots on goal he’s faced, the No. 17 mark in the country.
While Runkel has picked up three weekly conference awards this year, much of the credit can also go to the defensive unit as a whole. Opponents have taken 255 total shots while Runkel has been in goal this year, but just 141 have been on goal.
Loyola’s defense is fourth in Division I in caused turnovers per game, averaging 9.64 a contest. Four Greyhounds – Scott Ratliff (2.1), Reid Acton (1.18), Dylan Grimm (1.18) Joe Fletcher and Dylan Grimm (both 1.0) – are averaging more than one per game. Ratliff ranks ninth in Division I in the category.
On The EMO
Loyola continued its success on extra-man opportunities, going 2-of-2 against Denver last Saturday, both during the closing 5-1 run.
This season, the Greyhounds are ranked second in the nation in man-up offense, scoring 54.8-percent of the time. Only Lehigh (.583) has a better mark this year. The last time Loyola finished above .500 in man-up offense was in 1997 when it converted 39-of-77 (.506).
Loyola’s 8-7 victory on March 31 against Ohio State marked the first time this year that the Greyhounds played a game decided by less than three goals. Previously, Loyola’s closest victory was 11-8 on March 3 at Bellarmine, and no other game was within five goals.
Since then, however, all three of Loyola’s games have been decided by three or fewer goals.
Lusby, Ratliff Join Sawyer On Tewaaraton Watch List
Loyola’s Eric Lusby and Scott Ratliff were named to the Tewaaraton Award Watch List, joining fellow Greyhound Mike Sawyer who was named to the group before the season. Lusby is second on the team with 29 goals and 38 points, while Ratliff paces the team in caused turnovers with 24 and ground balls, 45.
Loyola continued a trend of strong second-half play this season by pulling away from Denver in the second half, outscoring the Pioneers, 6-4.
The Greyhounds have now outscored opponents 41-5 in the third quarters of games and 73-38 overall this year in the second half.
The second-half scoring continues a trend from the last two seasons. Last year, Loyola outscored opponents, 69-52, after halftime (including two overtime goals), and 77-56 two years ago.
Toomey Wins 50th
Head coach Charley Toomey earned his 50th-career win Wednesday, March 7, as Loyola beat Michigan, 15-8.
Toomey, who is in his seventh season, has led Loyola to eight-plus wins in each of the last three seasons and has had the Greyhounds finish .500 or better in all seven seasons since coming to the Evergreen campus.
Bonitatibus, Runkel Both Win First Starts
Junior Michael Bonitatibus made his first collegiate start in goal for the Greyhounds against Delaware after having played less than two minutes prior to this season.
Bonitatibus, who played 65 seconds in his collegiate debut last year at Duke, made seven saves for the Greyhounds and allowed just eight goals. He also picked up five ground balls and caused two turnovers.
Bonitatibus became the first Loyola goalkeeper to win his starting debut in nearly 11 years. The last was Mark Bloomquist who also defeated Delaware, 8-7, on February 24, 2001.
Jack Runkel made his first career start against Michigan and also won his initial outing as a starter. He tallied five saves against the Wolverines, and he then posted a career-high 12 against Duke.
Record At Ridley
After going 4-1 at Ridley Athletic Complex last season, the Greyhounds have opened their third year at the stadium with six wins at home. Loyola is now 14-3 all-time at Ridley.
Loyola returns to Ridley Athletic Complex for its final regular-season game on Saturday, April 28. The Greyhounds will host Johns Hopkins University in a 1 o’clock face-off.