FOXBOROUGH, Mass.—When the final horn sounded, Loyola players ran toward their big goalie, Jack Runkel, who stood to the left of the goal with both arms outstretched over his head.
On a day when the Greyhounds wanted him to come up big, Runkel came up huge in No. 1 seeded Loyola's 7-5 win against No. 4 Notre Dame in an NCAA Division I semifinal in front of an announced 31,774 at Gillette Stadium on Saturday.
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Loyola (17-1) had others who played significant roles: attackman Eric Lusby scored a game-high five goals, offensive midfielders Chris Layne, Davis Butts and Sean O'Sullivan dominated Notre Dame's short stick midfielders.
Loyola also held Notre Dame (13-3) scoreless for more than 20 minutes twice, and Greyhounds short-stick midfielder Josh Hawkins stifled Fighting Irish midfielder Max Pfeifer.
But all season, the 6-foot-4, 225-pound Runkel was the Greyhounds' X-factor. Loyola's top 15 players were billed as the most talented bunch in the tournament, but no one knew how Runkel, a sophomore and first year starter, would respond in a postseason game.
And then came Saturday.
Runkel, who is from Fairfield, Conn, finished with 15 saves including 11 in the second half. Leading 7-5, Runkel twice stopped Notre Dame attackman Westy Hopkins with point blank saves from the top of the crease in the last minute, the final time with 24 seconds left.
Hopkins finished with two goals to lead Notre Dame, but neither he nor his teammates were a match for Runkel in crunch time.
"I think the first save I made was up top," Runkel said. "It kind of got me into a rhythm. My defense was giving me shots to see a very clear line from the shooter. So any goalie, I think, would gobble up those saves, and credit to my defense because they helped me out and let me see the shots I wanted to see."
"He was big," Loyola coach Charley Toomey said. "He was as big as he's ever been in there for us. When there was a break down, Runkel was right there to pick up the pieces. Definitely played his best game as a Greyhound for me."
Lusby, a senior from Severna Park High, was just as sensational, in three postseason games with 17 goals. His five goals Saturday marked the second straight game he has scored that many despite being locked off, double teamed or facing the opposition's best defensive player.
"I'm playing confident right now," Lusby said. "The past few games I've had a pretty good shooting percentage. I see net and I shoot for net. I don't try to pick corners. When you try to aim in an exact spot that's when you start messing with your head. So, I try to shoot for net and when I see an opening, I've been putting the ball where I want to, so that paid off."
Lusby had two goals in the first quarter when Loyola led, 2-1, at the end of the period, and he had two more to open the third, the second one with 11:40 left as the Greyhounds went ahead, 7-3.
In the first three quarters, Notre Dame couldn't contain Loyola's midfielders who drew slides, and then dumped off to Lusby. The Greyhounds were extremely effective against midfielders Devon Dobson and Quinn Cully.
But in the fourth period, Loyola's offense stalled and was hurt by turnovers. Notre Dame attackman Sean Rogers scored with 7:18 left in the game and Hopkins scored nearly a minute later to pull the Fighting Irish within 7-5. But Notre Dame couldn't overcome Loyola's swarming defense and Runkel.
The Fighting Irish had no rhythm and only one of their goals was scored in a 6-on-6 situation. Notre Dame finished tied with Loyola with 28 shots, but the Fighting Irish couldn't capitalize on winning 13 of 14 face-offs.
Notre Dame coach Kevin Corrigan gave some credit to Loyola's defense, but he was also disappointed in his offense. Before Saturday's game, Notre Dame had scored 13 goals against Yale in the first round, and 12 against defending national champion Virginia in the quarterfinals last week.
"It was almost inevitable that if we were going to score, we were going to score in spurts because we didn't possess the ball well," said Corrigan. "We weren't patient. We weren't protective in our shots. I don't think we have a bunch of great scorers. That's not who we are as a team. But we have a lot of guys who can score when we play good offense."