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Loyola men’s lacrosse waits out weather, tops Virginia in NCAA tournament first-round game

The Loyola Maryland men’s lacrosse team had gone 13 days since it last played and would have to wait out a 2-hour, 14-minute weather delay caused by multiple lightning strikes around Ridley Athletic Complex in Baltimore.

The extended time off, however, had little effect on the sixth-seeded Greyhounds, who had 4-0 and 5-0 runs in the first half before withstanding visiting Virginia’s rally attempt in the second half to secure a 14-12 victory in an NCAA Division I tournament first-round game before an announced 2,407 on Saturday night.

Loyola improved to 13-3 and advanced to the quarterfinal round for the second time in three years. The team will meet No. 3 seed Yale (14-3) — a 15-13 winner over Massachusetts earlier in the day – on Saturday at Hofstra in Hempstead, N.Y.

The Greyhounds had not played since April 29 when they defeated Lehigh to capture the program’s fourth Patriot League championship in five years. They used the extra time to get through finals and fine-tune their schemes in practice. They looked refreshed and energized against the Cavaliers (12-6) despite the lengthy weather delay that began after lightning was spotted just before the opening faceoff.

“I was just proud of the way that our guys responded to that adversity,” Loyola coach Charley Toomey said. “I thought the energy was up when we stepped back on the field. We played with a tremendous amount of energy tonight, and I’m just really proud of our effort.”

Senior midfielder Jay Drapeau staked Loyola to a 1-0 lead with 10:20 left in the opening quarter before Virginia clapped back with goals from freshman attackmen Ian Laviano and Regan Quinn in a 37-second span for a 2-1 lead.

The Greyhounds scored four consecutive goals spanning the first and second quarters, including a tally from senior faceoff specialist Mike Orefice. And after freshman midfielder Matt Moore scored off a feed from sophomore attackman Michael Kraus to end a Cavaliers scoring drought of 11:51 with 12:04 left in the second quarter, Loyola ran off five straight goals ignited by a coast-to-coast goal from sophomore long-stick midfielder Ryan McNulty and then another tally from Orefice within a 12-second span.

Junior attackman and Tewaaraton Award finalist Pat Spencer had two goals and one assist in the first half to raise his season points total to 89. With an assist on a goal by freshman attackman Kevin Lindley with 11:09 left in the third quarter, the Davidsonville resident and Boys’ Latin graduate notched his 90th point to become the program’s single-season points leader, breaking the previous record of 89 set originally by Gary Hanley in 1981 and tied by Spencer in 2016.

Spencer downplayed his achievement (“I had no idea, but it’s cool,” he said,) and instead praised the offense’s ability to score 10 goals on 23 shots in the first half.

“Shooting-wise, that’s something we’ve been working on and focusing on as a team all year,” said Spencer, who finished with five points on two goals and three assists. “We kind of got to showcase that in the first half and not as much in the second half, and that’s why they were able to close that gap a bit. But we were able to build a big enough lead to [withstand] their comeback.”

In addition to Spencer, the Greyhounds got four goals on five shots from Lindley and three assists from freshman attackman Aidan Olmstead. Of the 10 goals he has scored in his career, Orefice – who went 12-for-26 on faceoffs with six ground balls – has scored five against Virginia this season.

Unlike the Cavaliers’ comeback from an 8-3 deficit in the third quarter that resulted in a 13-12 double-overtime win over the Greyhounds on Feb. 10, the Loyola defense was able to keep Virginia at bay in the second half. Cavaliers sophomore attackman Michael Kraus had one goal and two assists, but he was largely kept in check by senior defenseman Foster Huggins.

Sophomore midfielder Dox Aitken had nearly as many turnovers (three) as goals (four). Aitken, who broke a tie with Matt Poskay for the most points by a midfielder in a season in school history, was shut out through the first three quarters, scoring all four of his goals in the fourth quarter.

“I think one of the things we talked about with [Kraus], [Moore] and [Aitken], obviously they’re great players and they can shoot and they can pass and they can do everything and they’re very athletic,” Huggins said. “We just knew that if they dodged hard and there’s a pick, there’s an opportunity to double, and we just wanted to stay on them and try to get it out of their sticks as much as possible.”

Virginia freshman goalkeeper Alex Rode (St. Paul’s) made 11 saves, and Laviano and Moore each had two goals and one assist. But coach Lars Tiffany said the offense struggled against the Greyhounds through the first three quarters.

“Loyola’s defense was much stickier than the first time we played them,” he said. “They were all in our gloves. They were causing Dox and Matt Moore and Michael Kraus, our best dodgers, to not be comfortable. So I give their defensemen and their defensive scheme a lot of credit for that, that they didn’t let us be comfortable.”

Virginia 2 3 1 6 — 12

Loyola Maryland 4 6 3 1 — 14

Goals: V—Aitken 4, Laviano 2, Moore 2, Conners, D’Amario, Kraus, Quinn; L— Lindley 4, Drapeau 2, Orefice 2, Spencer 2, Brown, Duffy, McGovern, McNulty. Assists: V—Kraus 2, Conners, Laviano, Moore; L— Olmstead 3, Spencer 3, Harkins, McGovern. Saves: V—Rode 11; L—Stover 7.

edward.lee@baltsun.com

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