The Loyola Maryland men's lacrosse team had gone seven consecutive games without falling behind at halftime, since a 6-4 deficit to No. 2 Duke in an eventual 13-9 loss on March 10.
So when the Greyhounds found themselves trailing by a goal at halftime to visiting Boston University on Friday afternoon, they calmed whatever nerves they had and went to their bread-and-butter transition offense.
Loyola, the top seed in the Patriot League tournament, outscored the No. 6 seed Terriers, 7-1, in the second half to advance with a 13-8 win in a semifinal game.
Freshman attackman Kevin Lindley led all scorers with five goals, and junior attackman Pat Spencer (Boys' Latin) contributed two goals and three assists to become the Patriot League's all-time leading scorer with 253 points. The Greyhounds (11-3) will play in their fourth title game, scheduled for Sunday at noon. They will meet the winner of the second semifinal between No. 2 seed Navy (9-4) and No. 3 seed Lehigh (9-6).
Friday's result was nothing like Loyola's 23-9 rout of Boston University on April 14, but earning the chance to add a championship to the ones the 2014, 2016 and 2017 squads captured was the most important outcome.
"I'm proud of my guys, that we were able to battle at halftime," Greyhounds coach Charley Toomey said. "It was a dogfight out there and not the cleanest game, not the prettiest game that I believe either team has probably played. We gave up one really late, they get some momentum, and it was a pretty silent locker room. Our guys, I give them credit because they asked, 'What do we need to do?' We made a decision in there to go back to man [defense], and our guys just played hard, and that's what we did."
At halftime, the home crowd at Ridley Athletic Complex may have thought they were watching an upset in the making as Boston University took a 7-6 lead. But that advantage was short-lived as the Greyhounds scored all four goals in the third quarter.
"Our senior captains did a very good job of kind of telling us that everything's OK," junior goalkeeper Jacob Stover (McDonogh) said. "This was a team we've seen before, and it's not a style of play that we haven't seen throughout the season. It was a one-goal game. All it took was a little bit of momentum to go either way."
The goal that snapped a 7-7 tie also sparked Loyola. Stover stoned Terriers junior midfielder Brendan Homire on the doorstep and quickly threw an outlet pass to Ryan McNulty. The sophomore long-stick midfielder sidestepped two converging Terriers players, carried the ball in to the offensive zone, and bounced his shot from the high slot over sophomore goalie Joe McSorley (Calvert Hall) and into the top left corner of the net with 8:19 left in the period.
"Coming into the game, we kind of knew that plays needed to be made to kind of bring the energy," said McNulty, who added six ground balls to his third goal and fifth point of the season. "Coach Toomey and I were talking about it, that sometimes even if you come out flat, enough words can't be said. It needs to be a specific play."
After Spencer scored off a pick set by senior short-stick defensive midfielder Brian Begley with 2:25 remaining, the Greyhounds closed out the third quarter with an transition chance that ended with senior long-stick midfielder Zac Davliakos passing the ball to Spencer, who found Lindley alone on the right side of the crease with 4.2 seconds left.
Loyola opened the fourth quarter with two more goals to put the game away.
Junior attackman James Burr led Boston University with four goals, but coach Ryan Polley said the team failed to counter the Greyhounds' surge in the second half.
"Once they started going on that run, it was really important for us to get a goal to kind of calm us down, and we just never got that goal," he said. "We finally scored and we were down five and got it to four, but it was going to be tough to come back with the short amount of time that was left."