Loyola University Maryland will host the Patriot League Championships at Ridley Athletic Complex, beginning with the semifinals on Friday, April 25.
The top-seeded Greyhounds will play fourth-seeded Colgate University in the first semifinal at 4:30 p.m. The game will be followed by a semifinal between the U.S. Military Academy, the No. 2 seed and No. 3 Lehigh University at 7:30 p.m.
Colgate beat No. 5 seed Bucknell University, 10-9, in double-overtime on Tuesday, and Lehigh topped the No. 6 seed U.S. Naval Academy, 10-6.
Semifinal winners will meet in the title game at 1 p.m. on Sunday, April 27.
Loyola went 8-0 to win the Patriot League Regular-Season title.
Joe Fletcher leads all close defenders nationally in ground balls (61) and ground balls per game (4.69). In 13 games, the players Fletcher has been responsible for marking have scored 11 goals (several when Fletcher has been out of the game late in regulation).
Pat Laconi is tops among NCAA Division I non-pole players in caused turnovers (27) and caused turnovers per game (2.08).
Last Time Out
Brian Schultz scored a career-high six goals and matched his best with seven points last Thursday as the top-ranked Greyhounds defeated Bucknell University, 13-5.
Schultz logged his third career hat trick and an assist in the game’s first 25 minutes, and he added three more goals in the second half.
The teams played more than half of the first quarter without a goal, but Schultz took a Ward feed and scored at 7:27. Ryan Joseph responded with a goal fro the Bison, but Schultz fed Matt Sawyer for an in-close goal at 4:47, starting a 7-0 Loyola run.
The Greyhounds held Bucknell without a goal for 37 minutes, 17 seconds, taking an 8-1 lead into the fourth quarter.
Loyola out-groundballed the Bison, 39-31, with Joe Fletcher leading the way with seven. Graham Savio picked up five while winning 13-of-20 faceoffs, and Kyle Duffy had four.
All three games in the Patriot League Championships will be broadcast live, nationally on CBS Sports Network. Dave Ryan will call the play-by-play, and Evan Washburn will handle the analysis of the action.
The game is one of at least five that will feature the Greyhounds on the network. The entire Patriot League Championships, as well as game against Johns Hopkins University on May 3 will be broadcast live. Loyola’s games versus Duke University, at Georgetown University and against Bucknell University were also on the network.
In The Polls
With last Thursday’s win against Bucknell, Loyola remained in the No. 1 spot of both the USILA coaches and Warrior/Inside Lacrosse media polls for the fifth week in a row.
The Greyhounds have been ranked No. 1 at some point in each of the last three seasons. This stretch is the longest Loyola has been ranked first since spending nine-straight at the top from March 15-May 10, 1999.
Loyola and Colgate met for the first time earlier this year in Hamilton, N.Y., a game that was a 10-8 decision in the Greyhounds’ favor. The Raiders led 5-4 with 12:14 left in the third quarter before Loyola went on a 4-0 run that gave them an 8-5 advantage after goals by Jeff Chase, Justin Ward (two) and Nikko Pontrello.
Colgate pulled back within one on a Matt Clarkson strike with 13:33 left, but Matt Sawyer used a Ward feed to score from 10 yards out with 4:05 for the final margin.
Ward had a game-high five points with two goals and three assists, while Pontrello chipped in three goals and an assist. Clarkson scored three goals for Colgate.
Three Loyola players earned individual awards on Monday when the Patriot League honors were announced. Joe Fletcher was named Defensive Player of the Year, Jack Runkel Goalkeeper of the Year and Justin Ward Offensive Player of the Year.
Since Charley Toomey became head coach at Loyola in 2006, the Greyhounds have scored 10 or more goals on 66 occasions. After defeating Bucknell, 13-5, on Thursday, Loyola has won 81.8 percent of those games (54-12).
Loyola has the best winning percentage in NCAA Division I men’s lacrosse since the start of the 2012 season. The Greyhounds are 41-7 during that stretch (18-1 in 2012, 11-5 in 2013 and 12-1 this season) for a .854 mark. Loyola’s winning percentage of .923 this season is the best nationally.
Only Duke has won more games (43) than Loyola during the run, but the Blue Devils are second to the Greyhounds in winning percentage by more than seven percent (43-12, .782).
A pair of Greyhounds attackers are near the top of two offensive categories through games of Monday, April 21, in both total goals and assists. Nikko Pontrello is second in Division I with 43 goals, while Justin Ward is second with 42 assists.
The duo is the No. 2 point-scoring tandem in the country with 107 combined points (Ward, 55; Pontrello, 52). Albany’s Lyle (80) and Miles (77) have a combined 157.
Tops Among Close Defenders
Joe Fletcher not only leads Loyola in ground balls, total (61) and per game (4.69), this season, but more impressive than that, he paces all close defenders nationally in the categories. Fletcher is 46th overall in ground balls per game, while the 45 players who are ahead of him are either face-off specialists or long-stick midfielders who play on the wings during restarts.
And Short-Sticks, Too
Meanwhile, Pat Laconi leads all non-pole defenders nationally in caused turnovers and caused turnovers per game. With a career-high five against Bucknell, he has caused 27 this season while averaging 2.08 per game. He is eighth in the nation, and the seven players ahead of him in the rankings are all long-stick midfielders or close defenders.
Justin Ward has continued to be the quarterback of the Greyhounds’ offense this year, passing out 43 assists in 13 games. With his third and final assist on April 12 against Boston University, Ward passed Sean Heffernan for first-place in school single-season history at the Division I level.
He is second in the nation in total assists (42), and he is also second in the country and tops in the Patriot League, with 3.23 assists per game this year. The 42 assists are tied for fourth in Patriot League history, six shy of matching Bucknell’s David Dickson’s record of 48 from a year ago.
With four assists against Duke on March 9, 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 reach the century mark.
Ward now has 109 career assists. Gary Hanley holds the all-time Loyola record with 160 assists. Ward is also sixth in school Division I history in total points with 161, 19 away from tying Gewas Schindler (1996-99) for fifth place.
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 April 5 against Navy, snapping a streak of 10-straight games to start the season that Pontrello had two or more goals. He rebounded, however, with three goals and two assists versus Boston University and three goals and an assist versus Bucknell. Through games of Monday, April 21, Pontrello is third in the nation in total goals with 43.
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, Boston University and Bucknell.
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.
He leads the Patriot League and is second nationally in goals per game (3.31), while he is third and 17th in points per game (4.00).
After opening the season with a .214 save percentage in the opener at Virginia, Jack Runkel has played to a .647 mark, saving 132 out of 204 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 has earned a record five Patriot League Goalkeeper of the Week honors this year and has a goals against average of 6.86 this season and a cumulative saves percentage of .619 through 13 games. He is second in the nation in saves percentage and third in goals against average.
In three years as a starter for the Greyhounds, Runkel has a 7.67 goals against average and .567 saves percentage. Runkel’s record between the pipes is 39-6. He is second in wins among active goalkeepers, trailing only Maryland’s Niko Amato who has 43 victories. Amato, however, is a four-year starter, while Runkel did not start until early in his sophomore 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.
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. He then snapped the 41-game point-scoring streak of Bucknell’s David Dickson on April 17, holding him without a shot.
In all, the players Fletcher has had primary marking responsibilities for have tallied 11 goals in 13 games this year (including three each by the University of Virginia’s Mark Cockerton and Penn State University’s Shane Sturgis in the season’s first two games). Four of those goals have come when Fletcher was already out of the game late in the fourth quarter.
Fletcher has been named Patriot League Defensive Player of the Week five times this year, the most any player in conference history has earned the award. He leads the Greyhounds with 61 ground balls and caused turnovers (19). His 64 career caused turnovers are fourth all-time at Loyola behind the 90 of P.T. Ricci, 88 of Scott Ratliff and Pat Laconi’s 68.
Not Just Defensive Midfield
Pat Laconi has continued to show his versatility as one of the top short-stick defensive midfielders in the nation while being a player with offensive acumen. The Preseason All-American had a goal against Bucknell to bring his season total to eight goals and three assists and his career numbers to 13 and 12.
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 and then had a career-high five against Bucknell. His team-leading 27 caused turnovers are tops a this season have brought his career total to 68, third-most in school history.
Taking Care Of The Ball
Loyola continues to lead the nation in fewest turnovers per game, averaging 10.69 through 13 contests. The Greyhounds have committed 0.98 fewer turnovers per game than the second-place team in the nation, Princeton.
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 (13.23) rank fifth, and its goals allowed (7.00) are third. As a result, Loyola leads the nation in scoring margin (+6.23).
Games Of Runs
Loyola has used significant runs in all 13 of its games this season, and it has had five stretches of seven or more unanswered goals. In all the Greyhounds have 22 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
Schultz Stepping Up
In his first year as a starter on attack for the Greyhounds, senior Brian Schultz has scored 27 goals, second-most on the team through 13 games. He had the game-winning goal 12 seconds into the second overtime at Navy and less than two weeks later posted a career-best six goals in a win over Bucknell.
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 in February. Additionally, junior attacker Nikko Pontrello was added to the Watch List on March 20.
Fletcher and Ward 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. Earlier this month, they were selected as two of the award’s 10 finalists for this year.