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No. 4 Loyola defeats UMBC 21-9 in men's lacrosse

The driving rainstorm that chilled the crowd at Ridley Athletic Complex in Baltimore had no impact on Justin Ward.

The junior attackman set career highs in both goals and points to power No. 4 Loyola to a 21-9 thrashing of visiting UMBC on Tuesday night in front of an announced crowd of 442.

The reigning national champion Greyhounds (3-1) bounced back from last Saturday's 12-10 loss to then-No. 3 Maryland, and they have Ward to thank. The Glen Burnie native and Old Mill graduate finished with a game-high10 points on seven goals and three assists.

The last time a Loyola player scored seven goals was May 15, 2000 when Tim Goettelmann scored seven against Notre Dame in the first round of the NCAA tournament. Ward said he hadn't even scored seven times in practice.

"We really focused on simplifying the offense tonight," Ward said. "We really only ran one set, and it was our bread-and-butter last year. With these conditions, let's keep it simple [with a] short preparation. Our middies did a great job of dodging hard all night long."

Ward, the third option on attack last year with Eric Lusby and Mike Sawyer, now leads the Greyhounds in goals (12), assists (nine) and points (21). Ward's emergence as a playmaker who can score should force opposing defenses to pay just as much attention to him as they do to Sawyer, a 2012 Tewaaraton Award finalist.

"In a way, yeah," Ward said when asked if future opponents will have to broaden their focus. "But obviously, I don't want to just put it on me. [Sophomore attackman] Nikko Pontrello is an even better dodger than I am. Mike is blessed at what he does, and I think people will soon realize that there's different things that this offense than just shooting the ball from 15 yards."

Loyola coach Charley Toomey said his own opinion of Ward shifted when he took it upon himself to score the game-tying goal of an eventual 10-9 overtime loss to Johns Hopkins last May. But Toomey also said he's no longer surprised at Ward's accomplishments.

"We see it every day," Toomey said. "He goes up against [junior defenseman Joe Fletcher] every day, and I think those two have great battles. They make each other better because we ask a lot of Fletch defensively. But with Justin, what you see is what you get. He's the first guy here in the offensive coordinator's office in the morning, watching film on Sundays, first guys here notebook in hand. He's everything we expect a Greyhound to be."

Ward — who was limited to a goal and an assist against the Terps — did most of his damage around the Retrievers net, curling from behind to beat senior goalkeeper Adam Cohen on close-range shots. Ward scored four of Loyola's nine goals in the pivotal third quarter that essentially put the contest out of reach.

Ward opened the scoring 4 minutes, 37 seconds into the first quarter, but the Retrievers responded when junior midfielder David Campbell drew two Loyola defenders and dumped the ball to senior attackman Scott Jones for a goal just off the left side of the crease with 8:30 remaining.

The teams then traded goals, the Greyhounds taking a short-lived lead before UMBC tied the score. But with 23.6 seconds left in the period, junior midfielder Conor Finch drew two Loyola defenders and passed the ball to freshman attackman Nate Lewnes to give the Retrievers their first lead of the contest at 4-3.

After exchanging a pair of goals in the first 2:02 of the second quarter, the Greyhounds scored four of the last five goals to take an 8-6 lead into halftime. That's when Loyola embarked on a 9-1 third quarter to distance itself from UMBC.

Pontrello recorded career highs in both goals (three) and points (six), and Sawyer added three goals and one assist.

Senior attackman Matt Gregoire and freshman midfielder Pat Young each scored two goals for the Retrievers (1-2), who couldn't keep pace with Loyola.

"They went on a run, and they smelled blood, and we couldn't stop them," UMBC coach Don Zimmerman said. "It's one of the things a team's got to be able to do. When the other team goes on a run, you have to reach down inside and stop the bleeding, and we just weren't able to do that. That was the ballgame."

edward.lee@baltsun.com

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