April 7, 2012

No. 4 Loyola Rallies in Fourth to Beat Fairfield, Stay Unbeaten

by Ivey Speight | LaxMagazine.com

Jack Runkel (12 saves) made a couple of big stops in the fourth quarter as Loyola overcame a 4-for-18 performance on faceoffs to survive against Fairfield and remain unbeaten.
© John Strohsacker/LaxPhotos.com (file) 

FAIRFIELD, Conn. -- It wasn't pretty, but Loyola coach Charley Toomey will take it.

"[We're] lucky to get out of here with one," Loyola's seventh-year head coach said after the Greyounds beat Fairfield, 8-6, on the road Saturday afternoon to remain unbeaten. "I think Fairfield had a great game plan and hats off to them, it was a good lacrosse game."

In a game that featured 31 turnovers between the two teams, the fourth-ranked Greyhounds edged the No. 14 Stags on a windy day at Lessing Field. Loyola improved to 10-0 for the first time since 1999 by scoring the game's final four goals to rally from a two-goal fourth-quarter hole.

"[It was] two teams that just left it all out on the field here," Toomey said. "I'm just proud of my guys because I think when there was a 50/50 ground ball a lot of the times we were the ones coming up with it."

Fairfield (9-2, 2-1 ECAC) used a 5-0 run - the longest of the season by a Loyola opponent - that spanned the second, third and fourth quarters to go up 6-4 on a John Snellman goal with 11:59 remaining in regulation.

Loyola, which won just 4-of-18 faceoffs for the game, won the ensuing draw and in an unsettled situation, Davis Butts fed a crashing J.P. Dalton who scored eight seconds after Snellman's goal to pull the Greyhounds within one.

Minutes later, Loyola's Jack Runkel, who had 12 saves, made a stop on a Colin McLinden shot. On the next possession and Eric Lusby found Justin Ward, who tied the score with 7:19 left. Mike Sawyer put the Greyhounds ahead 7-6 with 5:24 to go and, after another Runkel save, Sean O'Sullivan made it a two-goal lead with 2:47 left.

Loyola forced two Fairfield turnovers after that and two Stag shot attempts in the final minutes went wide.

"Anytime you go 14-of-18 at the faceoff X you expect to win the game," Fairfield head coach Andy Copelan said.

"We had a very specific game plan going in [and] I feel like for the majority of the time we stuck to that game plan," he added. "We just didn't shoot the ball particularly well and Loyola makes you earn every inch."

Loyola jumped out to an early 4-2 lead in the first half. Four different players scored. However, the Greyhounds held the slim lead despite turning the ball over seven times and not winning a single faceoff by halftime.

The Stags charged back after the break, scoring the first four goals in the second half and took the lead after tallies by freshman Colin McLinden and Snellman. But Loyola remained focused and went on a run of its own.

"It was just about getting a stop," Runkel said. "You get one stop then the ball starts rolling...we knew if we get one stop we're going to be fine."

"[The team said] don't wait for someone else to make the play, go out and make a play yourself," said Loyola junior Mike Sawyer (two goals).

And they did make a play. And fast. Eight seconds after they fell behind by two goals, Dalton cut the Fairfield lead to one. The goal lifted the team given the struggles at the faceoff dot.

"I really felt like [J.P. Dalton] got us going in the second half," Toomey said. "We scored an emotional goal and that's who this team is."

Loyola forced 17 turnovers with several of them coming in crunch time.

"I thought we were pretty careless with the ball at times," Copelan said. "When our guys needed to play through a little bit of pressure I don't know if we handled those situations particularly well."

Said Fairfield's Snellman: "I don't really want to say that we folded under the pressure but we were up by two goals with [11] minutes left and anytime you're at that point and they score four goals, it hurts."

Snellman, with the one goal, extended his scoring streak to 21 straight games.

But that's all he had. The Loyola defense held the top three scorers for the Stags (Snellman, Brent Adams, and Sam Snow) to only two combined goals in the game.

"I think anytime that you read our scouting report, one of the number one keys defensively is to take away the known's," Toomey said. "We challenged our guys but we also said that it has to be a team effort."

Ward finished the game as Loyola's leading scorer with three points on two goals and an assist, while Sawyer had a pair of goals. Butts recorded a goal and an assist, as well.

Scott Ratliff posted four caused turnovers, a game-high, while Josh Hawkins led Loyola with five ground balls.

Against Fairfield, Loyola allowed a run of three goals for only the fifth time this season. After all those runs they have shown resiliency and answered back with a streak of unanswered goals themselves.

"That's who this team is," Toomey said. "They root for each other. They play awfully hard out there. It doesn't matter whether it's the defense or the offense...somebody is going to get this team going and then we're all going to rally. That's what happened today."

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