No. 3 Loyola Maryland had to battle two opponents Saturday. The Greyhounds had to play through the emotions of a big win against Duke last Sunday and then take on a tough Army team.
The Greyhounds survived, holding off Army in the final seconds for a 7-6 win before an announced 2,624 at Ridley Athletic Complex. After the Greyhounds (6-1) had a three-goal lead with 8:52 left, the Black Knights (4-3) pulled within one on a goal from sophomore attackman Will Mazzone with 2:18 remaining, but couldn't convert on several shots in the final six seconds.
The win was the sixth in a row for Loyola after a season-opening overtime loss at Virginia.
Army coach Joe Alberici thought this was the perfect time to play Loyola, and his team almost pulled the upset.
"I'm really impressed with Loyola, how they beat Duke the way they did," said Alberici. "You have everybody congratulating you, patting you on the back all week. You have to work through that, and I think they did. You have to give them credit — they won."
But this wasn't the Loyola team that embarrassed the No. 6 Blue Devils, 14-7. Army sufficiently cut off the Greyhounds' fast break, and Loyola's offense failed to dodge and work hard for open shots in the first half. The Greyhounds also ran into a hot goalie in Sam Somers, who finished with 16 saves.
Loyola, after going nearly 25 minutes without a goal, won because of a run it had to close out the third quarter and start the fourth. It started when senior midfielder Kevin Ryan picked up a loose ball outside the crease and stuffed it in for a goal with 6:53 left in the third to tie the game at 4. Then senior attackman Brian Schultz came from behind the goal to score with 2:23 remaining to put the Greyhounds ahead 5-4 at the end of the quarter.
Greyhounds attackman Nikko Pontrello scored on an extra-man situation with 10:45 left in the fourth, followed by a goal from junior defenseman Pat Frazier nearly two minutes later.
That goal seemed to give Loyola momentum, but Army regained it in the closing minutes.
"Army came in and played a tremendous game," said Loyola coach Charley Toomey. "The most important thing for us was that we got the win, we came out and got the 'W.' But we're looking in the mirror at the moment. We have to ask ourselves, did we dodge as hard as we're capable of, did we draw slides or were we willing just to let one guy defend us and push us to weak spots? We have to come out Monday and challenge ourselves to be a better lacrosse team.
"You knew this was going to be a tough game; they are a typical service academy team," said Toomey. "They played great defense, packed it in and were very physical. Their goalie did an excellent job, especially early in the game, and there were times when he made us double-clutch on shots."
Loyola's goalie Jack Runkel was just as good. He finished with 19 saves as Army outshot the Greyhounds 45-35. Loyola also got another strong effort from senior defenseman Joe Fletcher, who held attackman John Glesener, the Preseason Patriot League Offensive Player of the Year, to two goals. One of those came off an unsettled situation. Glesener took 22 shots, and only seven were on goal. But that's what made Army so dangerous — the Black Knights shoot from anywhere.
"I didn't really think I would have 19 saves, going into the game," said Runkel. "I just thought I had to be ready at all times in the game. It keeps you on your toes. You just got to stay in there and see the ball from shot to shot. In practice this week I had some guys who I felt were strong shooters stay after and give me some extra shots."
Loyola took a 2-0 lead in the first 41/2 minutes as senior midfielders Pat Laconi and Ryan scored. Loyola went ahead 3-1 when Pontrello scored his first goal of the game with 2:41 left in the first quarter, but in the final minute, freshman midfielder Gunnar Miller scored on a low shot and Glesener connected from long range to tie the score at 3.