Top-ranked Loyola Maryland’s 13-5 thumping of Patriot League foe Bucknell on Thursday night had a deeper meaning considering who was among the announced 1,303 at Ridley Athletic Complex in Baltimore.
Kids and parents from Newtown Youth Lacrosse were in attendance as part of a relationship started by sophomore long-stick midfielder Jason Crane (Chesapeake-AA) after the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December 2012. The Greyhounds have traveled to Connecticut to participate in clinics and have hosted the youth league in Baltimore.
“The Newtown community was here in support of our guys today,” coach Charley Toomey said. “So it was a special night for Loyola not only to win a lacrosse game, but to do it in front of a very special crowd to this program. … It was a special night to have Newtown in the stands with us.”
Loyola players and coaches signed autographs and tossed and caught balls with Newtown players well after the win against the Bison, and senior defenseman Joe Fletcher said they enjoy the interaction just as much as the children do.
“That’s probably one of the best experiences we’ve had these four years,” he said. “Jason Crane has done an amazing thing, just creating that connection and having their jersey in the locker room and having a camp over the winter break. Just to see the people and there’s a lot of kids we actually recognize from last year, which is awesome.
"Even though we’re not with them a lot – it’s just two or three times that we see them – you see their big smiles, and they actually know our names and are yelling for us. It’s really cool to see them.”
Circling back to “Three Things to Watch” …
1) Loyola solved Bucknell’s defense. The Bison (7-7 overall and 4-4 in the Patriot League) entered the contest ranked 10th in Division I in defense, having allowed opponent to score just 8.2 goals per game. But they had no answer for senior attackman Brian Schultz, who enjoyed a career-high six goals.
He wasn’t alone as junior attackman Nikko Pontrello recorded three goals and one assist, and senior attackman Justin Ward (Old Mill) chipped in one goal and three assists. Bucknell coach Frank Fedorjaka indicated that his defense had trouble accounting for all of the Greyhounds’ threats on offense.
“With our defense, we slide all the time,” Fedorjaka said. “[Schultz is] a terrific off-ball player, and he knows how to find the seams, and Ward knows how to find the seams. ... He’s just a terrific time-and-room shooter, and he had enough time on some of them.
"We consider everybody a threat. We don’t ever want to give up a time-and-room shot. He has a quick release, and he made the most out of it. He was very accurate tonight.”
2) Loyola conquered Bucknell’s ride – for three quarters. The Bison’s highly-regarded 10-man ride was a non-factor through the first three quarters as the Greyhounds (12-1, 8-0) succeeded on 14 of 16 clears.
But they misfired on 4 of 8 clears in the final period, and Bucknell scored four goals in that frame. Loyola coach Charley Toomey was disappointed that the team got away from what had worked in the first three quarters against the Bison.
“I thought that maybe some of the failed clears where we wanted to be aggressive in the clear came back and hurt us,” he said. “I thought we gave them some second-chance opportunities that they finished. We’re going to look at that fourth quarter moreso than the probably first three.”
3) Loyola secured the ball. The Greyhounds finished with 14 turnovers, which is almost four more than their season average of 10.4 giveaways.
But six of those gaffes occurred in the fourth quarter when the game was pretty much out of reach. Despite the final number, Toomey seemed pleased with how Loyola protected the ball and kept Bucknell’s transition opportunities to a minimum.
“When you want to play fast and you play a team that’s going to 10-man you, we wanted to continue to try to stay aggressive,” he said. “I thought we came out of the locker room in the second half with a lot of energy. Credit them for their ride and being able to put the ball on the ground. But I really felt like our guys did do a good job of running away from pressure, making the extra pass, and somehow or another, always finding Brian Schultz on the backside.”