The Loyola Maryland men's lacrosse team has had less-than-stellar starts this season, but had never gone scoreless in a first quarter — until Friday afternoon.
Still, despite failing to make a dent in the scoreboard in the opening frame, the Greyhounds persisted, eventually finding their footing in cruising to a 13-3 victory over Holy Cross in a Patriot League tournament semifinal at Ridley Athletic Complex in Baltimore.
Top-seeded Loyola (9-5) advanced to its third conference title game in four years and will face No. 2 seed Army (11-3) in the final on Sunday at 1 p.m. The Crusaders, the No. 5 seed, fell to 5-10.
The Greyhounds' quest to add a tournament crown to their 2014 and 2016 championships appeared shaky after they took 11 shots in the first quarter, but failed to get one past freshman goalkeeper Jonathan Tesoro.
Fortunately, Holy Cross also struggled on offense and did not score in that period.
"We got a couple good looks, but the goalie made some great saves," said senior attackman Zack Sirico, who had three goals and one assist. "Our biggest thing after the first quarter was just to keep going, don't put our heads down. Sometimes we don't get the looks that we want, and sometimes when we do get the looks, we can't hit the cage all the time. So just keep going."
The catalyst for Loyola was sophomore attackman Pat Spencer, who finished with seven points on one goal and six assists. The Davidsonville resident and Boys' Latin graduate now has 52 assists for the season, tying his freshman-record total of a year ago. He needs just one more to tie former attackman Justin Ward's program mark of 53 set in 2014.
"[Offensive coordinator Marc Van Arsdale] did a very good job of breaking it down and getting us spacing on the field," said Spencer, who on Monday became the first player in conference history to be named the Offensive Player of the Year in each of his first two seasons. "So that made it easier for a lot of guys. All it for me was putting it on their sticks and they were just doing the job of finishing."
After that first quarter, the Greyhounds outscored Holy Cross 4-1 in the second period. Senior attackman Sean Kirkpatrick's goal with 12:18 left in the third quarter cut the deficit to two, but the Crusaders then tumbled into a 25:33 drought during which Loyola erupted for nine consecutive goals.
The three goals allowed by the defense marked a season low. Junior defenseman Foster Huggins limited Kirkpatrick, who entered the game with a team-high 30 goals, to a single goal and sophomore goalie Jacob Stover (McDonogh) made 12 stops for the second straight game.
"The result probably wasn't what we wanted in that first quarter, but I think it hardened us," Greyhounds coach Charley Toomey said. "I think it allowed our team to look at our defense and say, 'You know what? We're going to need you to show up a little bit today.'"
Senior midfielder Kevin Lux led Holy Cross with one goal and one assist, and Tesoro finished with 13 saves. But coach Judd Lattimore said the offense labored to get anything going.
"I thought our defense held up, and we just couldn't get anything to drop there in the first half," he said. "I think that kind of hurt us a little bit. Our guys started pressing in the second half, and that's just not how we play."
No. 2 seed Army 10, No. 3 seed Boston University 7: The Black Knights got three goals and one assist from senior attackman Cole Johnson and another hat trick from senior midfielder Avery Littlejohn (Severna Park) to advance to their third straight Patriot League tournament final.
Sophomore goalkeeper A.J. Barretto (St. Paul's) made 10 saves for Army, and sophomore defenseman Johnny Surdick held Terriers senior attackman Cal Dearth to one goal and one assist while finishing with six ground balls, three caused turnovers and one assist.
The Black Knights sprinted to a 4-0 advantage after the first quarter and never were tied or trailed. The closest Boston University got was 4-3 with 5:41 left in the second period, but Army scored two straight times to create some separation.
Junior attackman Jack Wilson posted two goals and one assist, and senior goalie Christian Carson-Bannister had 10 stops for the Terriers (12-4).