Army scored three goals in the final eight minutes as the No. 19 Black Knights stunned No. 6 Loyola Maryland, 7-5, in the semifinals of the Patriots League men’s lacrosse tournament played at the Ridley Athletic Complex on Friday night.
The Greyhounds (11-4) now will have high anxiety over the next 48 hours about making the NCAA Division I tournament. They have two quality wins over Virginia and Johns Hopkins this season but the at-large pool might include a number of good teams, including the Blue Jays and Maryland.
If Loyola does get in the Greyhounds will likely have to play on the road.
“I apologize to Loyola for not having my team ready to play,” Loyola coach Charley Toomey said. “We have to look in the mirror and tomorrow we will come in and talk about where we are going. This is frustrating because this was another one of those big-boy games. We have to learn from this and hopefully the committee will give us a chance to keep our team together.
“I like our body of work over the course of the year but it is out of our hands now,” said Toomey.
Army attackman Nicholas Garofano scored on a high shot with 9 minutes, 40 seconds left to put the Black Knights (12-4) ahead, 5-3, and then attackman Sean O’Brien scored nearly two minutes later to push the lead to three.
From then on, Loyola had to pressure Army. The Greyhounds managed to pull within 6-4 on a goal by attackman Aidan Olmstead, but they never managed another serious threat.
Loyola, the No. 1 seed in the tournament, entered with an 8-1 record in conference championship games and the Greyhounds had won the title in 2014, 2016, 2017 and 2018. Army knocked Loyola out of the conference race in a 2015 quarterfinals game.
Loyola couldn’t figure out the Black Knights Friday night. The Greyhounds entered averaging 14.64 goals and 41.9 shots per game but Army controlled the pace with a deliberate offense and a close defense led by Griffin Schultz, Johnny Surdick and Tom Rigney.
Surdick did a good job controlling Loyola star attackman Pat Spencer (Boys’ Latin) one-on-one with little help from the rest of the defense. The Black Knights also got a strong effort from goalie A.J. Barretto (St. Paul’s). Barretto wasn’t superb but he was solid and had strong position to cut down on Loyola’s shooting angles.
“Yes, you could sense their frustration,” said Surdick. “They started forcing some feeds, throw the ball out of bounds and take some bad shots. We wanted to take them out of the transition game and force them into a six on six.”
Loyola was also sloppy, especially in the offensive midfield. The Greyhounds had six unforced turnovers by early in the fourth period, four of those in the second half. Spencer didn’t score and had only one assist.
Army led 2-1 at the end of the first period when midfielder Nicholas Garofano caught the carom off a shot and fed attackman Nate Jones for a goal just outside the right pipe with 7.7 seconds left in the quarter.
Loyola had little movement in the quarter and the Greyhounds were more content to try to run through double teams than distribute the ball.
“I’m really glad for our guys,” said Army coach Joe Alberici. “Everything was not falling for us and we overcame a hot goalie. But we were able to fall back on our defense and goalie at the end.”
Spencer had two point-blank shots in the quarter but was stopped both times by Barretto.
While the Greyhounds were stagnant offensively so were the Black Knights. Army, though, still led Loyola 17-10 in shots in the first period.
Army took a 1-0 when attackman Brendan Nichtern beat Loyola defender Cam Wyers outside the right pole with 7:24 left in the first period.
Loyola tied the game when midfielder Chase Scanlan, on an assist from attackman Aidan Olmstead, scored with 1:48 left on an extra-man situation.
Army controlled the tempo for most of the second period as well, collecting 14 ground balls to Loyola’s nine and outshooting the Greyhounds, 14-11. The Black Knights went ahead, 3-1, on a goal from attackman Sean O’Brien with 5:37 left in the second quarter but Loyola’s Kevin Lindley converted on a fast break to pull the Greyhounds within 3-2 at the half.
Army failed to capitalize on a 2-minute unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Spencer with about four minutes left. Army got off only one shot during that penalty time in the second period.
Army will play Lehigh in the Patriot Conference championship Sunday at noon at the Ridley Athletic Complex.
Lehigh 10, Boston University 9: The Mountain Hawks were able to hold a one- or two-goal lead for most of the second half.
Lehigh (9-7) beat Army, 11-8, on March 9 in a regular-season matchup. The Mountain Hawks were led in scoring by attackmen Lucas Spence, Tristan Rai and Ryan Klose who each scored two goals and Spence also had two assists. Attackmen James Burr and Matt Hilburn each had two goals for the Terriers (11-6).