Loyola University Maryland makes its second trip to the Rocky Mountains this week as it travels to Denver for the ECAC Lacrosse League Championships.
The Greyhounds, who earned the top seed in the tournament with a 6-0 record in the league during the regular season, will face host Denver University, the No. 4 seed, in a semifinal game on Wednesday, May 2, at 5 p.m. (Mountain).
The winner of the Loyola-Denver game will face the winner of No. 2 Ohio State University and No. 3 Fairfield University in the ECAC Championship Game at 4 p.m. (Mountain) on Friday, May 3, in a game that will air on ESPNU.
Denver and Loyola will meet for the fourth time in series history on Wednesday with the Pioneers holding a 2-1 advantage in the first three games. Denver won regular-season games against the Greyhounds in 2010 and 2011, but the Greyhounds prevailed, 12-9, less than three weeks ago, on April 14, at Peter Barton Stadium.
Mike Sawyer scored three times, and Eric Lusby added a pair of goals, as nine Loyola players scored in that victory. Denver took its only lead of the game, 8-7, with 8:24 to play in the third quarter on an Eric Adamson goal, but Nikko Pontrello scored for Loyola less than three minutes later, sparking a 4-0 run that the Greyhounds would extend to 5-1 to close the game.
ECAC Championships History
Loyola was the No. 2 seed in the first ECAC Championships, which were also held at Denver last year. The Greyhounds lost, 11-9, to third-seeded Fairfield in the semifinal. The host Pioneers took home the title and earned the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament last season.
In The Polls
Loyola’s first loss of the season last Saturday, to then-No. 10 Johns Hopkins, dropped the Greyhounds from the top spot nationally where they resided for two weeks. The Greyhounds are now No. 3 in both the USILA coaches and Inside Lacrosse/Nike poll.
Denver is ranked 12th in the coaches poll, 11th in the media.
Record-Tying Win Streak
Loyola’s 12-straight to start the season tied the school record for consecutive victories, matching the number put up by the 1998 (March 14-May 17) and 1999 (March 6-May 8).
It also matched the best start to a season, equaling the 1999 team that finished the regular-season unblemished at 12-0.
Ratliff Named ECAC Defender Of The Year
Junior long-stick midfielder Scott Ratliff was named the ECAC Defensive Player of the Year on Monday, marking the second time in four years a Greyhounds’ long pole has received the award. P.T. Ricci earned the honor in 2009, as well.
Ratliff leads the ECAC with 30 caused turnovers (2.31 per game) and is seventh nationally in that category, and he is tops on the Greyhounds with 52 ground balls (4.0 per contest).
The native of Marietta, Ga., also has scored six goals and has six assists this year, keying the Greyhounds’ transition game on many occasions. He earned ECAC Co-Specialist of the Week twice during the year and was the Defensive Player of the Week early in the season.
Ratliff is one of two Greyhounds, along with Mike Sawyer on attack, who is a semifinalist for the Tewaaraton Award as the nation’s top player.
Toomey Tabbed ECAC Coach Of The Year
Loyola Head Coach Charley Toomey was named the ECAC Coach of the Year for the third time in his seven-year career. This season, Toomey guided the Greyhounds to a 12-1 mark during the regular-season and the ECAC regular-season crown with a 6-0 mark in conference play.
The Greyhounds became the second team in USILA Coaches Poll history to start a season unranked and ascend to the No. 1 spot in the rankings. The only other team was Duke in 2007 – a year after the Blue Devils had their season suspended in March – which accomplished the feat after being unranked in the first poll, moving to second in the next version and first in the third. Duke was knocked from its perch as No. 1 that season when it lost to the Greyhounds at the First Four in San Diego.
Earlier this season, Toomey won the 50th game of his coaching career, becoming the fourth coach in Loyola history to win 50 or more – Dave Cottle (181-70, 1983-2001), Charles Wenzel (62-104, 1954-1970), Jay Connor (61-46, 1975-1982). Toomey’s .611 winning percentage trails only Cottle’s .721 at Loyola.
Five Loyola players earned All-ECAC Lacrosse League honors form the conference’s coaches on Monday. Long-stick midfielder Scott Ratliff earned a spot as a defender on the First Team, where he was joined by Mike Sawyer on attack and Davis Butts in the midfield.
Sawyer led the ECAC during the regular-season, and was third nationally, in goals (41) and goals per game (3.15). Butts scored 15 goals and assisted on 11 from the Greyhounds first midfield line while also playing a role on the wings during face-offs with 33 ground balls.
Attack Eric Lusby and defender Joe Fletcher were tabbed to the All-ECAC Second Team. Lusby is second on the team and in the top-20 nationally with 34 goals, and he also has 10 assists this season. Fletcher came on as one of the top lock-down defenders around, earning Midseason All-American honors from Inside Lacrosse last month. He has 25 ground balls and 14 caused turnovers entering the post season.
Comeback Falls Short
The Greyhounds trailed Johns Hopkins, 9-5, with when Rob Guida scored with 14:13 to play in regulation, but Loyola held the Blue Jays scoreless for the remainder of the fourth quarter and scored four-straight goals to send the game to overtime.
With less than 10 seconds to play, Justin Ward dodged around the crease, and he whipped a shot past Blue Jays goalkeeper Pierce Bassett with 5.4 ticks left to tie the game at 9-9.
The Greyhounds won the face-off to start overtime and were able to get off two shots. Chris Layne had an attempt go wide left, and Eric Lusby’s shot hit the left post, after which Johns Hopkins picked up the ground ball.
Johns Hopkins’ first shot went wide left, and then with less than 10 seconds in overtime, Loyola’s Josh Hawkins trail-checked a John Ranagan shot from the right side, but the ball floated right to the stick of Zach Palmer, just below goal-line-extended on the right side. Palmer flicked a pass to Guida on the crease, and he one-timed a shot into the net with 2.3 seconds left in the period for the win.
Loyola recorded its second sellout crowd in the three-year history of Ridley Athletic Complex last Saturday when it hosted Johns Hopkins. Six-thousand people filled the stands on the school’s first official Homecoming event.
Close Calls Against Championships Competition
Loyola defeated the numbers, two, three and four seeds by one (8-7, Ohio State), two (8-6, Fairfield) and three (12-9, Denver) goals this season.
Overall this year, Loyola has outscored opponents by an average of 4.84 goals per game, the third-best scoring margin mark in the nation.
Before taking on Johns Hopkins on April 28, the Greyhounds last played at Ridley Athletic Complex on March 31 before embarking on a three-game ECAC Lacrosse League road trip that took Loyola over 2,200 miles for games against Fairfield, Denver and Hobart.
Loyola defeated the trio of teams to clinch the ECAC regular-season title.
Loyola finished its ECAC Lacrosse League regular-season schedule with a 6-0 record to win its first outright conference title since 2008.
The Greyhounds’ undefeated league record is the second in the history of the program – Loyola was an independent at the NCAA Division I level from 1982-2001 and again from 2003-2005. The Greyhounds won the 2002 Colonial Athletic Conference crown with a 5-0 mark.
Ratliff, Sawyer Named Tewaaraton Semifinalists
Juniors Scott Ratliff and Mike Sawyer were named to the Tewaaraton Award semifinal list as the game’s top players, making Loyola one of five schools – joining Johns Hopkins, Princeton, Massachusetts and Virginia – to have two players make the 25-man list.
Loyola is also one of six schools to have at least one male and one female semifinalist, as sophomore Marlee Paton made the women’s list from Loyola. The winners of both awards will be selected on May 31, 2012, in Washington, D.C.
Mike Sawyer scored four goals on April 21 at Hobart and added another versus Johns Hopkins, raising his season total to 41 through 13 games. Against Hobart, he became the first Loyola player to reach 40 goals in a season since Tim Goettelmann and Gavin Prout scored 50 and 41, respectively, in 2000.
In addition to being just the third Loyola player to score 40-plus this century, Sawyer is the seventh Greyhound to reach the mark since Loyola moved to NCAA Division I status in 1982.
Defense Standing Tall
The Greyhounds’ defense is ranked seventh in NCAA Division I, and tops in the ECAC, with a 7.31 goals allowed per game mark. It took 13 games for an opponent to reach double-figures in goals against Loyola when Johns Hopkins reached 10 with an overtime goal. The Greyhounds had been one of just two teams in the nation (Notre Dame) to limit opponents to nine or fewer.
Loyola used runs of three-plus goals at important junctures of its first 13 games, helping the Greyhounds to wins each time. In all, Loyola has scored three or more in a row on 25 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.
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.
Versus Johns Hopkins, the Greyhounds scored four in a row, holding the Blue Jays scoreless for the last 14:13 of regulation, to tie the game at 9-9, sending it to overtime.
On The Flip Side
Conversely, the Greyhounds have allowed a run of three or more goals just eight times this year, with the most recent coming when Denver scored three on two occasions. Only Johns Hopkins (five), Fairfield (five), Air Force (four) have scored more than three in a row this year.
Following six of the eight opponent runs of three or more, Loyola has answered in kind with a run of 4-0 or better.
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 duo has combined for 75 goals in 13 games this season, an average of 5.8 per game.
Sawyer has scored 41 goals, and his 3.15 goals per game average is third-best in Division I. Lusby, meanwhile is right behind with 34 goals and a 2.62 goals per game mark, a number that is tied for 14th in the country. Loyola is one of two schools to have two players in the top 14 of goals per game nationally.
The Greyhounds have not had two players score 32 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 game of the 2012 regular-season, sophomore goalkeeper Jack Runkel has risen to eighth in the nation with a 7.52 goals against average. In 11 games, nine starts, Runkel has made saves on 55.9-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 330 total shots while Runkel has been in goal this year, but just 179 have been on goal. Runkel made a career-high 14 saves against Johns Hopkins.
On The EMO
This season, the Greyhounds are ranked second in the nation in man-up offense, scoring 51.4-percent of the time. Only Lehigh (.553) 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).
The Greyhounds have now outscored opponents 47-19 in the third quarters of games and 88-44 overall this year in the second half (including overtime).
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.
Record At Ridley
After going 4-1 at Ridley Athletic Complex last season, the Greyhounds have gone 6-1 at home this year. Loyola is now 14-4 all-time at Ridley.