The No. 13 Greyhounds rolled to an 18-7 victory over Boston University on Saturday at Ridley Athletic Complex to polish off a perfect Patriot League run and clinch an automatic berth in the NCAA tournament.
"I've been privileged enough to appear four times [in the NCAA tournament] throughout my college career, and to do it with this group has been really special," said Loyola senior Marlee Paton, the tournament Most Valuable Player. "To make our mark on the Patriot League conference is definitely an honor. I'm really hoping we can take forward this momentum and keep it going to the championship."
The Greyhounds (14-4) cruised through the conference regular season by an average of 9.75 goals and won their closest game, 14-10, over Holy Cross in Thursday's semifinal. Their 18 goals Saturday tied the Patriot League tournament record for most in the championship game.
Boston University, also a Patriot League newcomer, held off the Greyhounds early with three saves from goalie Christina Sheridan. The Terriers (9-10) took the lead on Lindsay Weiner's free-position goal three minutes into the game.
Once Taryn VanThof tied it, however, the floodgates sprang open for Loyola.
VanThof's unassisted goal came with 19:12 left in the half. A little more than seven minutes later, she fed Kara Burke (Dulaney) for a 7-1 lead. Annie Thomas (John Carroll) then slipped a face guard to make it 8-1, finishing off the Greyhounds' second longest scoring run of the season.
After Jill Horka bounced one past Greyhounds keeper Molly Wolf (Bryn Mawr), Paton scored twice and Burke added another free-position goal for an 11-2 lead.
Paton and Burke scored five goals each as the Greyhounds attackers frequently looked to take the Terriers one-on-one.
"The past game that we played them," Paton said of a 19-8 regular-season win April 12, "we saw there were a lot of backs to the ball or their helping 'D' wasn't as strong as maybe we were used to in other games, so we really wanted to challenge every time we had the ball and be a threat from everywhere on the 8 [meter arc]."
The third-seeded Terriers, who defeated four-time defending Patriot League champion Navy in the semifinals, were playing their fourth game in seven days. They had to play a conference quarterfinal at home Wednesday, while top-seeded Loyola had a bye into the semifinals. Once the Greyhounds went on their eight-goal run, it was too hard for Boston University to rebound.
"They gained the momentum when that happened, and I think our one-on-ones could have been better," said Terriers midfielder Sofia Robins, a McDonogh graduate. "We didn't execute the way we wanted to, and it all just kind of crumbled down into what we didn't want to happen. I think when they kept getting the ball and they kept scoring, that made our defenders a little bit more hesitant and we didn't play the way we wanted to."
The Terriers pulled within 14-7 on Horka's third goal with 16:30 left, but Thomas then assisted Burke for her career-high fifth goal. Hannah Schmitt added her third goal, and Paton, named one of 27 Tewaaraton Award semifinalists Friday, finished off the game with two goals to seal the Greyhounds' 12th straight victory.
Boston coach Liz Robertshaw said she slowed the pace of her offense to try to keep the Terriers as fresh as possible, but that might have made her attackers a bit more tentative than usual. Loyola's game plan was just the opposite — go aggressively to goal. Winning 17 of 26 draws — eight by VanThof — fueled that strategy.
"It's always been my vision and plan to be playing our best lacrosse at the end of the season," Loyola coach Jen Adams said. "You don't want to peak too early, and we had some pockets of inconsistency [early in the season] and the Patriot League offered us an opportunity to really sink our teeth into the season and really accomplish some of those goals — one was to be undefeated in the Patriot League, the other was to win a Patriot League championship."
Loyola's first Patriot League title in any sport was the third conference title in four years for Adams' team, which won the Big East tournament in 2011 and 2012. The Greyhounds will visit former Big East rival Syracuse in their regular-season finale Saturday before finding out their opponent for the NCAA tournament opening round. The bracket will be announced May 4.
In addition to Paton, Loyola's Schmitt, VanThof and Maddy Lesher made the All-Tournament team. Boston University's Horka, Weiner and Becca Church were honored, as were Navy's Loren Generi and Aimee Gennaro.
BU 3 4 -- 7
L 11 7 -- 18
Goals: BU—Horka 3, Weiner 2, Morse, Collins; L—Burke 5, Paton 5, Schmitt 3, VanThof 2, A.Thomas, Habicht, Hulseman. Assists: BU—Hardison; L—A.Thomas 2, Schmitt, VanThof. Saves: BU—Sheridan 7; Meegan 0; L—Wolf 6: Caldwell 1.