Playing against one of the nation's best defenses and a hot goalie in their fifth game in 15 days, No. 4 Loyola didn't have an easy time Saturday.
Despite never trailing, the Greyhounds couldn't pull away against Bellarmine, and Loyola needed to grind out an 8-6 victory in an Eastern College Athletic Conference game at the Ridley Athletic Complex.
"Five games in 15 days is quite a bear. I give my guys a lot of credit," Loyola coach Charley Toomey said about the stretch, which also included games against Delaware, Towson, Maryland and UMBC. "They continued to do what we asked them to do."
Loyola (4-1, 1-0 in ECAC) needed to do a lot against Bellarmine (3-1, 1-1), who entered the week ranked second in Division I in goals allowed per game (6.33).
The Greyhounds, who don't play again until Friday night at Duke, found some chances and held a 46-25 edge in shots, but Bellarmine goalie Dillon Ward made 16 saves and repeatedly frustrated Loyola, which kept possession for long stretches.
"We're a team that wants to run in transition, [and] very rarely are we ever going to take the foot off the pedal," Toomey said. "But today … it got to be an up-and-down game, [and] I thought he robbed us of a couple on the doorstep to keep the game tight. We just couldn't pull away. He kept them right there."
Mike Sawyer tried to help Loyola pull away midway through the game. He scored all three of his goals during a 4-0 run for the Greyhounds in 5:29 that gave Loyola a 7-2 lead with 11:17 left in the third quarter.
Sawyer said the Greyhounds adjusted a bit because of Ward's size (6 feet 5, 180 pounds), but kept firing away.
"You don't want to change what you're doing too much," Sawyer said. "You also want to take smart shots and took take anything out of your range. He got a lot of good saves on us, and made it a little tough there."
Justin Ward added two goals and an assist for Loyola, which also got help from its own goalie. Jack Runkel made 11 saves, several on the low shots he practiced stopping for much of the week.
Runkel said he and Toomey — a former Loyola goalie — had talked and felt that teams were taking a lot of low shots, so the junior spent a lot of practice time adjusting to that.
The Greyhounds needed Runkel's effort because the offense couldn't break the game open.
Bellarmine coach Kevin Burns, who also played at Loyola, said the Knights wanted to keep the Greyhounds away from the crease, a place where they can do a lot of damage. They stayed consistent on defense after Loyola took the five-goal advantage in the third quarter, scoring four of the game's final five goals to remain close. Michael Ward (three goals) led the way for the Knights, but the Greyhounds hung on for the victory.
"We just wanted to go out and kind of go toe-to-toe with them and just give up the shots that we want to give up," Burns said. "They're so good at moving the ball quickly and feeding it into the crease. If you can kind of keep them around the perimeter a little bit, you'll have a fighting chance against them."Copyright © 2015, CT Now