A little pre-game adjustment helped Brian Schultz enjoy a career performance.
The senior attackman set a career high with six goals on 10 shots and added an assist to propel the top-ranked Loyola men's lacrosse team to a 13-5 rout of Patriot League foe Bucknell before an announced 1,303 at Ridley Athletic Complex in Baltimore on Thursday night.
The win did not mean much to the Greyhounds (12-1 overall and 8-0 in the conference) with regards to the conference's regular-season title, as they had already clinched that crown with Saturday's 15-6 victory over Boston University.
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But the result extended Division I's longest active winning streak to 12 games and Loyola will now wait for its semifinal opponent in the upcoming conference tournament, which it will host on April 25 and 27. The Greyhounds will face either Colgate, Bucknell or Navy next Friday at 4:30 p.m.
The loss dropped the Bison (7-7, 4-4) to the fifth seed in the upcoming tournament. That means that they will be forced to travel to No. 4 seed Colgate (8-4, 4-3) for Tuesday's quarterfinal. The setback rendered the Raiders' game at No. 11 Army (8-3, 6-1) on Friday night meaningless because they own the head-to-head tiebreaker over Bucknell.
Schultz, who graduated from Walkersville in Frederick County, credited his offensive explosion to a pre-game conversation with offensive coordinator David Metzbower.
“Even down at the shoot-around today, Coach Metzbower was telling me that I was moving my wrists wrong when I was finishing,” Schultz said. “So I guess what he said worked out.”
In addition to Schultz, the Greyhounds were powered on offense by senior attackman Justin Ward's goal and three assists and junior attackman Nikko Pontrello's three goals and one assist.
But Schultz grabbed the spotlight, and coach Charley Toomey joked that the coaches planned to watch game film to see if they could bottle Schultz's play and re-use it in May during the NCAA tournament.
“Matty Sawyer has had that kind of day, Kevin Ryan has had that kind of day for us,” Toomey said. “Tonight was Brian's day, and I think he'd give credit to Justin Ward putting it on his stick, to Nikko's dodging, to our middies kind of putting him on that opportunity. We didn't ask Brian to run by his matchup. We asked him to finish the ball in great spots, and that's exactly what he did for us tonight.”
Loyola was also overwhelming on defense. Not only did the unit hold the Bison below its season average of 9.1 goals per game, Bucknell did not score a goal for 37 minutes, 17 seconds spanning the latter portion of the first quarter and the beginning of the fourth. During that stretch, the Bison took 20 shots, and the Greyhounds scored seven unanswered goals.
Loyola was buoyed defensively by senior goalkeeper Jack Runkel, senior defenseman Joe Fletcher and junior defenseman David Manning. Runkel posted a game-high 14 saves, and Manning did not allow senior attackman Todd Heritage — who ranks third in Bucknell history with 116 career goals — to score.
Fletcher shut out junior attackman David Dickson, who entered the game with a 41-game point streak and as the Bison's leader in assists (24) and points (39). Fletcher, who also recorded an assist and picked up his second penalty of the year and fifth of his career, has blanked Colgate junior attackman Ryan Walsh, Navy sophomore attackman T.J. Hanzsche and now Dickson in his last four starts.
“We were a lot more organized,” Fletcher said of the defense. “That's one thing we've been practicing. Just helping each other out a little bit more and not letting our midfielders get stuck on extended dodges.”
Bucknell coach Frank Fedorjaka said the offense's futility was due in large part to the Greyhounds' ability to avoid sliding.
“We had trouble beating our men,” Fedorjaka said. “The one-on-one matchups were difficult. They pretty much won every one-on-one matchup. They didn't need to slide a whole lot. It's tough to have ball movement and work the ball in when you're unable to draw a slide. They did a really good job with their man-to-man defense, and they helped out when they needed to, and they made it real tough for us to get inside.”
Notes: Loyola improved to 4-0 against the Bison. … The Greyhounds are 6-0 at home this season. Bucknell fell to 1-6 on the road. … Loyola won 66.7 percent (14 of 21) of its faceoffs against a Bison squad that entered the game succeeding on just 35.8 percent (96 of 268) of opportunities at the X.