Through the first half of Tuesday night’s game against visiting UMBC, No. 4 Loyola played like it was still reeling from Saturday’s 12-10 loss to then-No. 3 Maryland. But the reigning national champion Greyhounds got back to their signature ways in the third quarter, using a 9-1 third quarter to turn an 8-6 lead at halftime into a 21-9 demolition at Ridley Athletic Complex in Baltimore.
Loyola improved to 3-1 and – just as importantly – buried the memory of that disappointing setback to the Terps, who claimed the No. 1 ranking.
“It’s hard when you come off a really emotional game and you have to come into a midweek game like this,” senior long-stick midfielder Scott Ratliff admitted. “So I just told the team before the game that we’ll see what kind of men we are. With no cameras in the stands, no fans in the stands, you really have to win out a gritty game, and I think that’s what we did today. So it was huge.”
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The Greyhounds didn’t have much time to prepare for the Retrievers, who also had played Saturday. Add a driving rainstorm and winds that gusted up to 38 miles per hour, and the table was set for Loyola to perhaps check out mentally.
Coach Charley Toomey said he tried to rally the troops at halftime, but was met by a few blank stares. So he turned the pep talk over to co-captains Reid Acton, Davis Butts, Mike Sawyer and Ratliff to get the message across to their teammates.
“We came out on short preparation and really dug in,” Toomey said. “… It was anybody’s game at halftime. We challenged our locker room. We made some defensive adjustments, and in the second half, they really dug down deep.”
Junior attackman Justin Ward set career highs in both goals (seven) and points (10), sophomore attackman Nikko Pontrello did the same (three goals and six points), and junior short-stick defensive midfielder Pat Laconi recorded a career best with four caused turnovers. But individual accomplishments paled in comparison to getting back into the win column, according to Ward.
“It was huge, very important for us,” he said. “… We realized that this game, we really needed to get on a roll offensively and defensively to set ourselves up going in-conference.”
*Here are some numbers to chew on from Tuesday night’s contest. The 21 goals scored by the Greyhounds were the most since April 26, 2000, a 21-7 thumping of Villanova. The output was the second-highest this season, trailing only Maryland’s 23-6 rout of Mount St. Mary’s on Feb. 12. Ward’s seven goals tied Army senior attackman Garrett Thul and Ohio State senior attackman Logan Schuss for the most this year. Ward’s 10 points tied Schuss for the most this season.
*Jack Runkel’s seven saves were the fewest in a win this season, but it was a solid outing for the junior who was pulled just a little more than four minutes into the third quarter against the Terps. Still, Toomey said the defense needs to do a better job of supporting Runkel, who overcame a first quarter in which he surrendered four UMBC goals and made just one save. “It was important for him,” Toomey said. “We need to give him a chance, and I just don’t feel like we’re giving him a chance in most of the games. We have to let him see a 12-yarder and pluck the first one. I played that position and it’s tough. It’s tough when you’re looking up at the scoreboard, and you’ve given up four and had one save because you start thinking. You start thinking about the next one, and that’s the worst thing that can happen. We want him to have fun out there. When Runk’s having fun and he’s fist-pumping and we’re playing good, solid defense in front of him, he’s a bear to get the ball by, and we have to get back to that. We have to take pressure off our short sticks, take pressure off our goalie, and allow them to have fun out there and see some 12-yarders.”
*The short-stick defensive midfield personnel of Laconi, junior Kyle Duffy and freshmen Joe Baker and Tyler Albrecht performed better, but the Retrievers did have some success attacking that group in the first half. Senior Josh Hawkins’ return would help – especially this Saturday against Eastern College Athletic Conference rival Bellarmine – but Toomey wouldn’t say whether Hawkins would return from a suspension that has now reached four games. “If you see a guy with dreadlocks out there, you’ll see him,” Toomey said.
*UMBC made a change in the net, substituting sophomore Wes DiRito for senior Adam Cohen for the start of the fourth quarter. Cohen finished with six saves and allowed 17 goals, while DiRito posted one save and surrendered four goals. Coach Don Zimmerman said afterward that the outcome would have no impact on Cohen remaining as the team’s starting goalie. “I think Adam hung in there,” Zimmerman said. “The goalie is the guy who takes the brunt of it on our missed slides and our fouls. Adam was kind of hung out there a little bit. We wanted to take him out. Adam’s been playing well. He played real well for us last week. He had a good first half. Second half, they got to him, and we wanted to get him out and give Wes a shot.”
*One silver lining was that the Retrievers actually owned leads of 4-3 in the first quarter and 5-4 in the second period before wilting. They need that kind of effort in every game for a chance to capture the America East tournament and represent the conference in the NCAA postseason. “We were playing well,” Zimmerman said. “Our guys were excited and came over ready to play. But what we have to do is we have to find a way to stick to the game plan and keep playing our game for 60 minutes and be able to fight through some adversity. We’ll do that. This is a good team, and we learned a tough lesson tonight. But it’s a good team, and I’m confident we’ll bounce back.”