Twenty-two years after he was the starting goalkeeper of the squad that was routed by the Orange in the 1990 title game, Toomey and the Greyhounds captured the university’s first national championship in lacrosse with a 9-3 victory over Maryland in the NCAA tournament final before 30,816 at Gillette Stadium on Monday afternoon.
Loyola, the top seed in the tournament, completed its most successful campaign in program history with its record 18th win in 19 games. The team finished the year on a six-game winning streak.
“I’ve been in that other locker room before,” Toomey said, referring to the 1990 squad’s setback in its only other appearance in a title game. “… We don’t bring up the 1990 team. We don’t bring up past history. This is our team. This is a special group of young men that fought through a lot of things this year to put themselves in this position, and they stood tall on the biggest day.”
The Greyhounds — who became the first No. 1 seed to claim the national crown since Virginia in 2006 — also tagged the unseeded Terps with their second consecutive loss in an NCAA final. Maryland dropped a 9-7 decision to Virginia at M&T Bank Stadium last May.
After fifth-year senior attackman Eric Lusby (Severna Park) and sophomore goalkeeper Jack Runkel paced Loyola to a 7-5 win against No. 4 seed Notre Dame in Saturday’s semifinal round, the team used the same formula Monday.
Lusby scored his 14th, 15th, 16th and 17th goals of the tournament, eclipsing the tournament record of 16 goals shared by former Virginia attackman Matt Ward in 2006 and former Duke attackman Zack Greer in 2007. The fourth quarter belonged to Lusby, as the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player scored all three of the period’s goals.
“We wanted to win a national championship, and if I had to score however many goals to get that done, I was going to do it,” said Lusby, who set a new school record for goals in a season with 54. “… Obviously, [the tournament record] means something right now. But the goal is to win a national championship.”
Runkel made six of his seven saves in the second half, and the rest of the Greyhounds defense kept the Terps off the scoreboard for the final 40 minutes, 40 seconds of the contest.
“They give me shots that I want to see,” said Runkel, who didn’t become the full-time starter until the fourth game of the season. “I’m a lot better up top seeing shots and saving them. Definitely credit to them.”
The Terps opened the scoring when Greyhounds freshman attackman Nikko Pontrello committed a turnover. Junior short-stick defensive midfielder Landon Carr collected the loose ball and hit a streaking Jesse Bernhardt. The junior long-stick midfielder converted a four-on-three fastbreak with a shot from the high slot that eluded Runkel with 9:34 left in the first quarter.
Loyola tied the score with 4:54 remaining on a nifty play between junior midfielders Chris Layne and Davis Butts. Layne dodged left from the right point and flipped the ball to Butts, who was criss-crossing behind Layne. Butts then fired the ball into the left side of the net.
The Greyhounds took their first lead of the game when Lusby curled around the left post, turned back to his right, and beat freshman defenseman Goran Murray and sophomore goalie Niko Amato with 1:55 left in the period.
Maryland regained the advantage within the first five minutes of the second quarter. Redshirt junior Mike Chanenchuk curled around the left post and slipped a shot past Runkel with 12:12 remaining. Ninety-two seconds later, senior attackman Joe Cummings (Loyola Blakefield) skipped a pass from the right wing to junior midfielder Kevin Cooper (Archbishop Spalding) standing alone at the left point, and Cooper nailed the top left corner.
That’s when Loyola embarked on a 6-0 run. The team got goals from senior midfielder Pat Byrnes at the 9:22 mark, junior attackman Mike Sawyer off a feed from Layne at 5:57 and junior midfielder Phil Dobson at 3:57.
Sophomore attackman Justin Ward (Old Mill) scored the only goal of the third quarter when he took Murray around the left post and hit the top right corner of the net with 10:12 remaining.
Amato finished with a game-high eight saves for the Terps, who are now 2-9 in championship finals. Maryland (12-6) has lost in seven consecutive title games since winning the program’s last NCAA crown in 1975.
“I think you come into every season and your goal is to win a national championship and to play for the state of Maryland, and to play for a university that loves lacrosse, it is an honor,” said a teary-eyed Cummings. “It’s awesome. We came up just short of our goal.”
Loyola's Charley Toomey is not the first men's lacrosse head coach to guide a team to the national championship in his first trip to the NCAA Final Four. Incorrect information was provided by the NCAA.