FAIRFIELD, Conn. – All season long Loyola (Md.) has used second-half runs to defeat its opponents, and Saturday’s game at No. 14 Fairfield was no different.
The fourth-ranked Greyhounds improved to 10-0 for the first time since 1999 by scoring the game’s final four goals to rally from a two-goal fourth-quarter hole, defeating the Stags 8-6 in ECAC Lacrosse League action Saturday afternoon at Lessing Field.
Loyola’s win clinched a spot for the Greyhounds in the ECAC Championships that will be held May 2-4 in Denver. The Greyhounds also notched their 10th win of the year for the first time since the 2001 season.
The Stags (9-2 overall, 2-1 ECAC) used a 5-0 run — the longest of the season by a Loyola opponent — that spanned the second, third and fourth quarters to go up 6-4 on a John Snellman goal with 11:59 remaining in regulation.
Loyola (10-0, 4-0) won the ensuing face-off, however, and in an unsettled situation, Davis Butts fed a crashing J.P. Dalton who scored eight seconds after Snellman’s goal to pull the Greyhounds within a goal.
Minutes later, Loyola’s Jack Runkel, who had 12 saves, made a stop on a Colin McLinden shot, and Reid Acton picked up the ground ball for the Greyhounds.
Two Sean O’Sullivan shots were off cage for Loyola, but the Greyhounds had both attempts backed up, retaining possession.
Off the second restart, Eric Lusby found Justin Ward who scored his second goal of the game, tying the score at 7:19.
The Stags got the ground ball on the next restart, but after running more than 90 seconds of offense, Scott Ratliff caused a Fairfield turnover, and Joe Fletcher came away with the ground ball.
Loyola cleared it effectively, and Ward fed Mike Sawyer who scored his second of the afternoon, making the Greyhounds’ advantage, 7-6, with 5:24 to go.
Fairfield again got the ball on the face-off — the Stags won 15-of-19 at the center-X — but Drew Federico had a shot blocked. The Stags then ran a play, and Eric Warden got free topside, but Runkel made a save on his shot from inside five yards.
A little over a minute after Runkel’s save, O’Sullivan ripped a shot to give Loyola a two-goal cushion with 2:47 remaining in regulation.
The Greyhounds forced two Fairfield turnovers, thereafter, and both Stag shot attempts went wide.
“We didn’t let the two-goal deficit stop us today, even though Fairfield had all of the momentum going their way,” Loyola head coach Charley Toomey said. “We made some good things happen on defense, like Scott Ratliff causing a big turnover, and [Jack] Runkel really standing tall in goal for us. The offense fed off that, and we got some good looks to convert on late in the game.”
Ward finished the game as Loyola’s leading scorer with three points on two goals and an assist, while Sawyer had a pair of goals. Butts recorded a goal and an assist, as well.
Ratliff posted four caused turnovers, a game-high, while Hawkins led Loyola with five ground balls.
Loyola took a 3-0 lead early in the second quarter after Chris Layne and Ward scored first-quarter goals, and Butts tallied an unassisted score 3:29 into the second stanza.
Eric Warden broke through for the Stags with a goal at 6:01, but Sawyer answered with a Loyola goal 2:52 before halftime, making it 4-1 Greyhounds.
Fairfield drew within two 26 seconds later on a Sam Snow score, the first goal of the Stags’ 5-0 run.
Shawn Honovich and Warden each scored for Fairfield in the third quarter, as the Stags shut out the Greyhounds in the frame, and McLinden tallied a go-ahead goal for the Stags 39 ticks into the fourth quarter.
The Greyhounds limited Fairfield’s leading scorer, Brett Adams to just two assists in the game, led by the defense by Ratliff. Snellman, who came into the game with a team-high 25 goals, was marked by Acton and held to just one goal.