The toughest task No. 1 Loyola had over the weekend was holding onto all of the hardware.
After the Greyhounds routed Lehigh, 16-7, on Sunday at Ridley Athletic Complex to capture the Patriot League title, goalie Jack Runkel hoisted the championship trophy to the delight of the partisan announced crowd of 1,841.
And then Runkel, a team captain, collected the tournament Most Valuable Player award as Loyola attackmen Justin Ward and Brian Schultz, as well as defenseman Joe Fletcher, were named to the all-tournament team. It was that kind of weekend for the Greyhounds, who will conclude the regular season next Saturday at home against Johns Hopkins.
"They are the No. 1 team in the country, and they proved it," Lehigh coach Kevin Cassese said. "They have everything on offense, including one of the best feeders. They have some of the best shooters, guys who can break you down, and that's all in the top 6. If they are clicking on all cylinders, they will find the open guy."
After a poor performance in the first quarter, Loyola (14-1) played to near perfection in the final three periods.
Attackman Matt Sawyer scored four goals for the Greyhounds, and Schultz added three. Ward led Loyola with three assists, while Schultz and attackman Nikko Pontrello each had two. Runkel made 17 saves against the Mountain Hawks (13-5).
"We've been together so long that we can recognize each other's body language, and we know when we need to slow it down or keep up the fast pace," Ward said. "We like to keep playing fast because it keeps defenses on their toes."
Loyola led, 2-1, at the end of the first quarter. But the Greyhounds had six turnovers, including three unforced. Midfielder Tyler Albrecht and Pontrello each scored in the first quarter as Loyola struggled to find a rhythm.
Lehigh held possession for five of the first six minutes of the game, but the Mountain Hawks only scored once. Loyola dominated the second quarter to take a 7-3 lead into halftime.
Loyola outshot Lehigh, 21-7, in the second quarter as Sawyer scored two goals, the second on a feed from midfielder Brian Sherlock to put the Greyhounds ahead, 5-1.
After Greyhounds midfielder Kevin Ryan scored off an extra-man opportunity with 5:55 left in the half that increased the lead to 6-1, the Mountain Hawks scored twice in the final three minutes.
Lehigh attackman Dan Taylor scored on a high shot with 2:59 remaining before halftime, and defenseman Dylan O'Shaughnessy converted an extra-man goal 29 seconds later to cut Loyola's lead to 6-3. But Schultz halted Lehigh's momentum with a goal with 13.9 seconds left in the half.
"We talked about being smart," said Loyola coach Charley Toomey, about his team's first-quarter struggles. "I think when you're asking your team to play fast and trying to score some easy goals in transition, you might be willing to throw some balls away where people looked open but they really weren't open.
"I told our guys we wanted to play fast, but we needed to manage the transition and possessions."
Lehigh midfielder Kurtis Kaunas scored the first goal of the third quarter with 13:47 left, but Loyola scored three in the final 10 minutes of the period to turn the game into a rout. From then, the Greyhounds scored in almost every way possible.
As the final seconds ticked off the clock, the Greyhounds celebrated. But shortly into the postgame news conference, Toomey turned his attention to the battle of Charles Street against Johns Hopkins on Saturday at noon.
The Blue Jays have won five straight and hold a 47-4 advantage in the series. Loyola hasn't lost since a 14-13 setback to Virginia in overtime in the season opener, and the Greyhounds beat Johns Hopkins, 8-4, last year.
"Now, we got to be very smart," Toomey said. "One of things that this team does so well is that they move forward pretty quickly and don't think about the last accomplishment. We know we have a bear on our hands next week."