May 12, 2012

After Slow Start, No. 1 Loyola Rolls Over Canisius

by Gary Lambrecht |

Top-seeded Loyola University hit a curious pothole while en route to the school's first NCAA tournament victory in 14 seasons.

Man, did the Greyhounds shake it off.

After stumbling and fumbling through a second quarter during which it did barely anything right – and, in the process, allowed heavy underdog Canisius to think it could pull off a shocking upset – the Greyhounds did what they always do.

Tewaaraton finalist Mike Sawyer scored five goals to tie the Loyola single-season goal-scoring record (50) in the Greyhounds' first-round win over Canisius.
© John Strohsacker/

And by the time Loyola regained enough possession time to unleash its quick-strike, scoring machine, the Greyhounds had rolled the visiting Golden Griffs out of the Ridley Athletic Complex with a 17-5 rout, before a crowd of 2,018.

Led by junior attackman Mike Sawyer, who scored a game-high five goals and is now tied for the school single-season, goal-scoring record with 50, the Greyhounds turned an uncomfortable, 4-3 halftime lead into a laugher by scoring the first 13 goals of the second half.

The victory sends Loyola (15-1) into Saturday's quarterfinals round at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, where the Greyhounds will face Denver, a winner over North Carolina on Saturday night.

It marked another banner day for Loyola's sparking attack tandem of Sawyer and Eric Lusby. They combined for 10 points, including nine in the second half. Sawyer scored all of his goals after halftime. Lusby scored a goal early, and added two goals and two assists in the second half.

All of which illustrates how high Loyola turned up the heat on Canisius (6-8) after coming out of the halftime locker room.

"I thought Canisius came to play. They went toe-to-toe with us, went after every ground ball. They gave us everything we could handle," Loyola coach Charley Toomey said. "When we get going, we're pretty tough to handle. We definitely expect to go on runs. We don't' care when it comes."

It just took Loyola, which out-shot the Griffs, 47-22, a while to get things cranked up. Early on, even while the Greyhounds were getting out to a 4-0 lead, they were missing the cage after getting good looks, were interrupting their offensive flow with sloppy turnovers, and senior faceoff specialist J.P. Dalton was struggling against Canisius' Mike Moran.

Loyola held down the fort with their excellent rope unit on defense, led by junior LSM Scott Ratliff, who scored two of the team's first three goals in transition.

But the second quarter became a quagmire for Loyola, which had the ball for fewer than five minutes, while Dalton lost all four faceoff attempts. Canisius, which won the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference to earn an AQ into the tournament, held the ball patiently, out-shot Loyola, 9-7, and chipped away with three goals over a span of 10:13.

Attackman Jimmy Haney led the Griffs with three goals, including back-to-back scores in the second quarter. Haney's last goal of the quarter, which came as he was sprawled on the turf near the right side of the crease, cut Loyola's deficit to 4-3 with 2:48 left in the half.

By the time Haney scored his final goal, with 5:37 left in the game, he was stopping Loyola's bludgeoning run by trimming its lead to 17-4.

"I think we made a lot of silly mistakes, bad turnovers. That's something that reflects on us," Sawyer said. "[Canisius] got a goal, and we kind of lost momentum."

"We had a lot of energy going into the locker room [at halftime]," Moran said. "We had a feeling we could do it. The whole locker room was going nuts."

"The pace of the game slowed down in that second quarter," Toomey said. "We really just challenged our guys to come out [in the second half] and play with a ton of energy. I think they responded to that."

It didn't take long. First, Sawyer followed up a save by goalie Sean Callahan (11 saves) on a vicious shot by Lusby by burying it with 11:45 left in the third quarter to give Loyola a 5-3 lead – its first goal in over 24 minutes.

Toomey then made a switch by pulling Dalton (5-for-14) and inserting Ratliff on faceoff duty. He responded by winning his first draw as a collegiate player, which led to another score by Sawyer. Ratliff won two of his first three draws in the third quarter, while Sawyer was earning his 11th career hat trick during that stretch.

By then, the Greyhounds had found their stride. Their transition game was humming, their picking game was sharp, and Sawyer and Lusby were getting wide open at will. Lusby finished the third quarter scoring off a feed from Pat Byrnes that gave Loyola a 9-3 lead going into the fourth.

Sawyer and Lusby scored three of the next four goals to make it 13-3 four minutes into the quarter.

"It's OK [for me] to have a bad day," Dalton said. "People weren't freaking out when we weren't scoring goals or winning faceoffs. This is a very disciplined, focused team."

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