Boston University arrived at Ridley Athletic Complex on Saturday with 30 freshmen on its roster and up against its third consecutive ranked opponent.
It was a tall order for any team, much less one in its first season in Division I.
The Terriers then shocked the announced 1,004 in attendance when Mount St. Mary's transfer Alex Paroda scored less than a minute into the game. But an 8-1 run spanning the first and second halves sent No. 1 Loyola Maryland on its way to a 15-6 win and the Patriot League regular-season championship.
Greyhounds coach Charley Toomey said the Terriers played his team tougher than the vast majority of the first-year programs he has faced in his nine seasons at Loyola.
“A lot of young guys running around out there,” Toomey said. “I talked to coach [Ryan] Polley; I said he’s got a really bright future. They were probably one of the best first-year programs I’ve seen in a long, long time.”
For Loyola, a first-year member of the conference, it was the 11th straight victory since a season-opening loss to Virginia.
After a game Thursday against Bucknell, the Greyhounds (11-1, 7-0) will then have eight days off before hosting the league tournament, which begins April 25.
Toomey said winning the conference's regular-season title was a priority for Loyola and that the team will benefit from hosting the tournament, as well as a potential NCAA tournament matchup next month.
"That gets you ready for the [NCAA] tournament," Toomey said. "Having to play two games on short rest, we've had experiences in the [Eastern College Athletic Conference] tournament that have helped us going into May. So we're going to use that to our advantage."
After taking a 4-1 lead into halftime, Loyola gave up the first goal of the third quarter when Terriers freshman midfielder Craig Zebrowski dodged down the right alley and buried a shot past Greyhounds goalie Jack Runkel.
But that was as close as Boston (1-10, 1-6) would get.
With 11:22 to play in the third quarter, senior attackman Nikko Pontrello found teammate Kevin Ryan on a cross-crease pass to halt the Terriers' momentum. Less than a minute later, Loyola redshirt freshman midfielder Brian Sherlock beat his defender on a dodge from the left wing and put the ball into the bottom right corner of the net.
The Greyhounds added two more goals over the next 2:17 to make the score 8-2. The Terriers battled back to cut the deficit to 10-6 with just over seven minutes to play, but three late goals from Pontrello put the game out of reach.
"We had a feeling that it would click eventually, whether it took a quarter, two quarters, three quarters or whatever it was," Pontrello said. "Because we were playing hard. We were playing fast and we shot some shots that just were not falling."
Loyola outshot Boston 51-35 and won the ground-ball battle 47-23. Greyhounds freshman Graham Savio won 17 of 25 faceoffs, helping his team dominate possession for most of the game.
With the playoffs quickly approaching, Toomey said his team still needs to improve to make a run in May.
"Looking back at our locker room," Toomey said, "I think our guys know that, to a man, there are things that they can do to make themselves just a little bit better for this stretch run."
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