After a heartbreaking 14-13 overtime loss to No. 10 Virginia in the season opener, Loyola almost found itself in a similar spot Saturday when the No. 14 Greyhounds and No. 12 Penn State were tied, 11-11, at the end of regulation.
But junior attackman Nikko Pontrello guaranteed a different ending when he scored just 19 seconds into the extra session to deliver Loyola its first victory of the year.
“Our kids had a great week of practice, and I thought that emotionally for them to have success after truly working hard and wanting to get that taste out of their mouths after Virginia, I was really happy for the kids,” coach Charley Toomey said Monday morning.
“Quite honestly, I thought they got what they deserved. We had a great week, and I told you that Runk [senior goalkeeper Jack Runkel] was our guy. We expected him to play well, and that’s exactly what happened. They got what they deserved. They played well together, they stuck together in a tough environment, we made saves, we shot the ball well against a terrific goaltender [senior Austin Kaut] that we have a lot of respect for, and we had some success.”
Had the Greyhounds lost, they would have begun the season with back-to-back setbacks for the first time since 2007. Thankfully for them, they did not have to deal with such a scenario, and Toomey waved off any suggestion that two overtime losses in a row would have been devastating for a young team that is still growing and building cohesion.
“I think this is a team that is going to continue to develop as we get into the season, and I think you learn more when you play tough opponents,” he said. “Our kids have learned how to play top 10 teams very early in the year prior to getting into Patriot League play. Would I like to be 2-0? Yeah. But I’ll take 1-1 at this point, and now it’s time to start to get into league play after Towson.”
Speaking of Towson, the No. 18 Tigers visit Ridley Athletic Complex on Wednesday at 3 p.m. for what will be the first of just three midweek contests for Loyola. Towson (1-1) is still smarting from a 15-8 loss to No. 13 Johns Hopkins on Saturday, but Toomey said his focus is on being careful with his players’ physical readiness for Wednesday’s contest.
“You have to turn it around quickly,” he said. “You have to prepare with a little bit of time for a quality opponent like Towson. Obviously, Towson has to do the same thing. So it’s kind of a light day where you have to be smart on the players’ legs. It’s more of a cerebral week. We’ll be watching film on Towson and learning the scouting report, and it’s really not about putting a lot of new adjustments in. It’s about honing on what you do well and then trying to get the guys excited to come out and play a game on short rest.”