Loyola attackman Eric Lusby played like he felt right at home Saturday.
The Severna Park native, who is a graduate student, tied career highs with five goals and six points to lead the Greyhounds to a 10-9 win over Denver in an NCAA men’s lacrosse tournament quarterfinal at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium before an announced 13,390, the fourth-largest crowd ever for this round.
Loyola, the top seed in the tournament, advances to the semifinals for the first time since 1998. It will travel to Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass., to face the winner of Sunday's quarterfinal between No. 4 seed Notre Dame and No. 5 seed Virginia at PPL Park in Chester, Pa.
On Saturday, Denver rallied with three straight fourth-quarter goals to pull within 10-9 and conjure up memories of the Greyhounds’ seven-goal fourth-quarter collapse when the two teams met May 2 in the Eastern College Athletic Conference semifinals.
The Pioneers had the ball and a chance to tie with 1:24 to go after a Loyola turnover, but Greyhounds sophomore goalie Jack Runkel stoned midfielder Wes Berg on the doorstep and sophomore defenseman Joe Fletcher blocked a shot with less than 30 seconds to go.
The Greyhounds (16-1) finished off a trifecta against the Pioneers (9-7) this season, having defeated them twice in Denver: 12-9 on April 14 and 14-13 in overtime in the ECAC tournament. This time, Loyola was aided by Denver’s lack of discipline; the Pioneers allowed four extra-man goals.
Attackman Mark Matthews led the Pioneers with three goals.
Loyola jumped out to a 2-0 lead on goals just 1:29 apart early in the first quarter. Junior attackman Mike Sawyer curled around from behind the net and whipped a sidearm shot past goalie Ryan LaPlante for his 51st of the season, setting a Loyola record. Lusby then ripped in a sidearm shot from about 15 yards off a feed from Sean O'Sullivan.
But Matthews, the Pioneers’ leading scorer, answered late in the quarter with a pair of tallies, the second coming off a feed from midfielder Jeremy Noble with 5.9 seconds on the clock.
Noble’s unassisted goal 6:14 into the second quarter gave Denver its first lead of the game, but it didn’t last long. Junior long-stick midfielder Scott Ratliff sneaked in a low shot from close to the goal to tie the score and end a scoring drought of 16:16 for Loyola. Sophomore attackman Kevin Ryan then fired a shot that bounced off LaPlante and into the net, putting the Greyhounds back on top.
The seesaw battle continued as Denver midfielder Cameron Flint scored 9:55 into the second quarter to tie the game at 4. Then it became the Lusby show, with sophomore attackman Justin Ward (Old Mill) setting him up twice in a 2:31 span to give the Greyhounds a 6-4 lead heading into halftime.
Only 1:53 after the break, junior midfielder Chris Layne adeptly flicked in a top-shelf goal to increase Loyola’s lead to 7-4. But Berg set up Flint’s second tally of the game and then scored one of his own a minute and a half later to cut the deficit to 7-6.
With the Greyhounds on their heels, they went to the guy with the cannon shot. Lusby fired in two extra-man goals in just over two minutes, restoring his team’s lead to three heading into the fourth quarter.
After a goal by Loyola junior midfielder Davis Butts, Denver answered with a 3-0 run -- Matthews added his third of the day, Noble scored 1:05 later and Berg got his second of the game to pull the Pioneers within a goal.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun