April 14, 2012

Loyola Stays Undefeated, Downs Denver in Key ECAC Battle

by Alex Proietti | LaxMagazine.com | Live Blog Replay

Eric Lusby tallied two goals as Loyola scrapped for a 12-9 win on the road in Denver Saturday night.
© John Strohsacker/LaxPhotos.com 

DENVER -- Some games it's there, and some games it's just not. Saturday was one of those games for the Denver men's lacrosse team.

On a rainy night in Denver, fourth-ranked Loyola remained undefeated, scoring five of the game's final six goals to beat No. 10 Denver, 12-9. 

With the Eastern Collegiate Athletic Association playoffs lurking, this game was crucial to Denver's prospect for clinching a bid. With the loss, the Pioneers could face not qualifying for the tournament.

With the win, the Greyhounds (11-0 overall, 5-0 ECAC) clinched at least a share of the ECAC  regular-season crown. The Greyhounds, by virtue of any possible tiebreakers, also clinched the No. 1 seed in the May 2-4 ECAC Championships that will be held in Denver.

"I was so proud of how our guys played so hard for 60 minutes," Loyola head coach Charley Toomey said. "We didn't play the perfect game, but we played well enough. I thought that our guys defended every possession hard against some excellent offensive players."

Denver (7-4, 3-2), which came into the game tied with Ohio State for second in the ECAC, dropped to fourth after the loss, behind Loyola (5-0), Fairfield (3-1) and Ohio State (3-1).

"It was just a frustrating night because that's another big opportunity we had, and those are dwindling, so we've got to win," Denver coach Bill Tierney said. "We've got a chance to not be in the ECAC tournament, so we've got our backs against the wall."

The game also marked the end of Denver senior attackman and Tewaaraton Award nominee Mark Matthews's 39-game goal scoring streak, as he couldn't capitalize on any of his 10 shots. His 39-game point scoring streak, however, is still intact as he picked up a lone assist.

Reid Acton had primary marking responsibilities on Matthews.

"That is a credit to Reid and his temamates to hold Matthews without a goal because of what an immense talent he is," Toomey said.

Junior midfielder Chase Carraro won 21-of-25 face-offs for the Pioneers, but that wasn't enough. Loyola junior attackman Mike Sawyer and redshirt senior Eric Lusby scored three and two goals, respectively.

"Credit to them for taking away the breaks that Chase got," Tierney said. "There were just too many turnovers, too many bad offensive decisions. Their goalie played very well, but it's just frustrating that we didn't have a better result. But that's why they're No. 4 in the country."

Loyola opened the scoring in the game just 4:19 into the game when junior midfielder Davis Butts scored an unassisted goal for the Greyhounds. Three minutes later, senior midfielder Pat Byrnes chipped in another unassisted goal for Loyola before Denver answered less than 30 seconds later.

Denver junior midfielder Cameron Flint netted a goal off an assist from Carraro.

Loyola didn't allow Denver to stay within a goal for long as junior midfielder Scott Ratliff answered just one minute later at 7:04 to stretch the lead back to two goals at 3-1.

Denver came within one goal again at 5:59 in the first when junior attackman Eric Law netted his 17th of the season to make the score 3-2.

Loyola scored the next two goals, the first with 2:06 remaining in the first quarter. Junior midfielder Sean O'Sullivan's was assisted by Butts, and the second came just 28 seconds into the second quarter when Sawyer netted his 34th goal of the season, assisted by Ratliff.

"We were really happy with our ability to run between the lines," Toomey said. "Our Rope unit was tremendous with the combination of (Kyle) Duffy, Scott Ratliff, Josh Hawkins and (Pat) Laconi. We have become accustomed to getting some goals in transition this season, and we were able to do that tonight."

Loyola had a season-low seven turnovers in the game, while Denver committed 15.

"To play as fast as we did and only have seven turnovers really speaks to how our guys kept their composure," Toomey added. "We had a great offensive effort."

With Denver trailing 5-2 early in the second quarter, the Pioneers scored three unanswered goals to knot the score at 5-5. Freshman midfielder Wes Berg, senior attackman Alex Demopoulos and Noble each chipped in a goal for Denver as they tied the score with 6:13 remaining in the first half.

"I was really proud of the way these kids fought," Tierney said. "That's a good team we played tonight, and then to fight back and get that lead, sometimes it takes a lot of energy. We just talked all week about not being selfish, controlling the ball, being smart with the ball, and we weren't smart with the ball. The best lacrosse maybe we played all year was when we were down 5 -2 and we tied it up 5-5. We were smart, we won faceoffs, we controlled things and just really did a good job. But, credit to them, the defense, they've got good offensive players and the goalie played great."

Sawyer answered for Loyola with four minutes remaining in the half to regain the lead before heading into the locker room.

To begin the second half, junior attackman Patrick Fanshaw scored for Loyola before the Pioneers scored three straight goals to take an 8-7 lead.

Demopoulos and Noble each tossed in their second goals of the night in the third quarter, while Flint and Matthews picked up assists. Also scoring was freshman attackman Eric Adamson assisted by Law.

Loyola proceeded to score four consecutive unassisted goals beginning with 5:45 remaining in the third quarter. Freshman attackman Nikko Pontrello scored first, followed by Lusby at 4:44 and 7:15 of the fourth quarter and sophomore attackman Justin Ward with three seconds left.

Noble netted his third of the night with 1:54 remaining in the game off an assist from Demopoulos to make the score 11-9, but the Pioneers couldn't even the score before Sawyer scored his third of the game to make the score its final 12-9.

"They were one of the better teams we've seen all year," Tierney said. "They've got good short-sticks, good long-sticks, three decent defensemen and a very good goalie, so you've got to work for the goal, and 38 shots and you only get nine goals, that's not helping us. "

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