May 3, 2014

Loyola Runs Away with Charles Street Rivalry Win

by Corey McLaughlin | | Twitter | McLaughlin Archive

Greyhounds second-line midfielder Jeff Chase stepped up with a pair of goals as Loyola pulled away in the middle of the game from Johns Hopkins to win 13-10. (John Strohsacker)

BALTIMORE — Red light, green light. In his mind, Graham Savio had the yellow light.

Loyola's freshman faceoff man, who went 17 of 26 on Saturday in his first taste of the Charles Street rivalry against Johns Hopkins, also scored his first career goal in No. 1 Loyola's 13-10 win Saturday afternoon.

It came during a 10-3 Greyhounds' run that spanned the first through early third quarter after the Blue Jays ran out to a 3-0 lead four minutes into the game before a sellout crowd of 6,000 who watched the Baltimore neighbors go at it.

No one slid to Savio off a charge to the goal off a faceoff win, and he decided to let one trip with 3:43 left before halftime and give Loyola a 8-6 lead. Savio didn't necessarily know if he had the green light, although Loyola coach Charley Toomey said he did if he gets that deep in a defensive zone.

"We did say, 'Shoot it low and away, and if you missed the cage, we'll have back up,'" Toomey said. "He had the green light, absolutely."

"I'd say yellow light," Savio said as he left Loyola's post-game press conference.

It was a light mood, a good mood after Loyola dispatched Johns Hopkins — the schools are located a mile apart and you can see the Blue Jays' Homewood campus from the press box at Loyola's Ridley Atheltic Complex — in relatively comfortable fashion. Only after a first-quarter timeout where Toomey reminded his offensive players to "breathe," he said, the Greyhounds defense switched into a zone and put a long pole on midfielder Rob Guida, who scored two of Johns Hopkins' first three goals dodging down the left alley.

Loyola also dominated the ground ball battle, in part because of Savio's faceoff wins and 12 of his own, but also because contributions in that department all over the field. Short-stick defensive midfielder Pat Laconi and close defensemen Joe Fletcher and Pat Frazier each were credited with four, and starting attackmen Justin Ward and Nikko Pontrello had nine between them, which generated second-chance opportunities. Ward's five were almost as many as Johns Hopkins' team-leader, primary faceoff man Drew Kennedy, who went 7-for-18 with six scoops.

"It starts with Graham on faceoffs," Laconi said. "When he's winning faceoffs and getting ground balls, it makes our job a lot easier. It allows us to relax on defense and not play over and over and over again. On the defensive side, every one of our kids on defense, especially Joe Fletcher, the ball just gravitates toward him wherever it is. He has such a knack to get to the ball. Anytime the ball hits the ground, we know if there's a body next to you, you have to put him out and take the ball.

"It's your job to win it and if you don't, we get on you every day in practice," Laconi said. "We make fun of you, we say anything to make sure you get that ball."

Even in the midst of Loyola's first-half run, Johns Hopkins tied the game at six with 4:40 left before halftime, but Loyola went on a four-goal spurt, with Savio's goal included. When the Blue Jays pulled within 10-8 midway through the third quarter, the Greyhounds went on another run — this time three goals — to pull away for good.

"When we did get stops, we didn't come up with loose ball. They had a lot of second-chance offense," Johns Hopkins coach Dave Pietramala said. "Every time we were down two and had a chance to get it to one, we would make a mistake. We would get an opportunity and not take advantage of it. They would come up with loose ball."

Loyola had posted 40 shots entering the fourth quarter and finished with 47, using its trademark blend of early offense and six-on-six sets. The attack wasn't exactly on fire by Greyhounds standards, although Nikko Pontrello and Brian Schultz each had hat tricks after scoring pairs of second-half goals. Five other players scored, with freshman midfielder Brian Sherlock and second-line midfielder Jeff Chase each posting two in the first half.

"We've got middies that are very fast, very athletic and when they are running downhill, they're tough to cover," Toomey said. "We're getting ready to play some games where we fully expect our attack is going to be locked down. They're not going to get the same looks that they are used to getting. A lot of it is going to start with our midfielders, if they're able to create a matchup where they have to slide, it will open those guys up. If they don't slide, we have to stick those shots. We grew up today."

To where do these teams move forward? Toomey said he thought the Greyhounds locked up a NCAA tournament home game with the win over the Blue Jays. The numbers the NCAA tournament selection committee will weigh support it. He mentioned getting a boost in strength of schedule from Army playing Notre Dame — to a one-goal 18-17 Irish win, no less — and other Patriot teams playing ACC teams this weekend, like Syracuse-Colgate and Duke-Boston University.

"You start looking at the numbers a little bit," Toomey said, "but truthfully, this team is ready to play."

Pietramala said he felt Johns Hopkins has done enough to warrant an NCAA at-large bid as well. As of early Saturday afternoon, it looked promising for the Jays. But should Denver and Hofstra not win their conference AQs, as they are favored to do as the Big East and CAA top seeds, the Blue Jays' situation could get murkier with those teams being added to the at-large bubble.

"Whatever happened today, I believe we should be in the tournament," Pietramala said. "When you evaluate the numbers and the criteria ... and wins and bad losses, we don't have a bad loss. We probably have four losses to four seeded teams. The most disappointing thing is we took the opportunity to have our destiny in our own hands away from ourselves and put it in someone else's hands. But I know what I believe. I think this team is good enough to be in the tournament."

As for the Charles Street rivalry itself, which in this edition was actually played off Cold Spring Lane at Loyola's atheltic facility, it's future time and date — starting next season — is in question. But it won't be on the final Saturday of the regular season, both coaches said Saturday.

"We're going to play this game," Toomey said. "It's a game that should be played on a weekend, but priority one is to keep it on each other's schedule. We need to figure that one out."

The Big Ten's conference tournament next year is slated for Selection Sunday weekend next year, and Hopkins joins that new league. The Patriot League tournament is slated for the second to last weekend of the regular season. Both sides have yet to work out a date, but it looks most likely on a Tuesday or Wednesday early in the season before conference play begins.

It's a rivalry largely dominated by Johns Hopkins — still holding a 47-5 advantage all-time — but Loyola has won the last two.

"It's a playoff atmosphere. It prepares you for the playoffs," Pietramala said. "[Charley] and I have committed to do anything we can to find a place to put it. That's not been easy. It's a great game for both institutions. This is one we have no desire to lose."

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