May 10, 2014

Thompsons, Albany Defense Uproot Loyola in NCAA First Round

by Corey McLaughlin | | Twitter | McLaughlin Archive

Miles Thompson (above) and Lyle Thompson both moved past the previous NCAA Division I men's single-season points record in Albany's 13-6 win over Loyola on Saturday afternoon. (John Strohsacker/

BALTIMORE — The Thompson Show continues, with plenty of plot twists and character development worthy of an Emmy. Or as Albany coach Scott Marr called it, "a Disney movie."

What happened Saturday afternoon at Loyola's Ridley Athletic Complex?

The summary: Unseeded Albany uprooted No. 3 Loyola 13-6 in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

On the first possession of the game, Lyle Thompson worked against his counterpart for the day, Greyhounds defenseman Joe Fletcher, and scored a goal just over a minute in. With it, Thompson became the NCAA Division I men's single-season points record holder with 115, and he finished with eight points to boost his new record to 122.

His brother, Miles, is right behind, now second on the all-time list with 115 points, after notching five goals and two assists, and he stands five goals short of the single-season goals record held by Jon Reese (Yale, 1990).

Marr said after the game the brothers should be considered as co-winners for the Tewaaraton Award, which will be handed out three days after the national champion is crowned on Memorial Day. Albany's chances to get there will continue next week against Notre Dame in the quarterfinal round at Hofstra University on Long Island. The Irish beat Harvard 13-5.

"We talked all week about believing," Lyle Thompson said. "I think that is the difference, in believing in each other and our coaches and our team. We believed it ... that we could go up against these guys and get a win."

Lyle Thompson and Fletcher went tête-à-tête, with Thompson eventually finishing with three goals and five assists. The first goal, Fletcher said, he would like back but the other two he played as planned, not letting Thompson, often dodging around the right side, get topside and limiting his right hand. Thompson, though — to make it 7-3 with seconds left in the first half, for example — went one-handed to his left and threw a low-to-high hard shot to the top right corner.

"One thing we realized was they don't slide off of [Fletcher]," Thompson said. "I took advantage of that. I wasn't trying to blow by him. I knew I wouldn't because he plays really good position. I used by body going up against him, getting myself to where I was a threat and waiting for them to make a mistake. If they didn't' slide, I tried to open myself up for a shot. That's kind of what I did the whole game."

Cousin Ty Thompson had three goals to compete the day for the trio.

"All three of them are crafty players. They're all very intelligent. That's probably the one thing that separates them from other people," Fletcher said. "They're athletic, but they know what the defensemen are doing as well. It makes it a chess match. We practiced hard dodges. They're very good at that. They're patient. All three of them place the ball really well, they know where each other are. They're awesome lacrosse players."

The Thompsons were no doubt the headliners, but the supporting plot was just as important. It was the combination of an uncharacteristic offensive showing by Loyola, a locked-in day by Albany sophomore goalie Blaze Riorden and a clean game otherwise by the Great Danes that helped them beat the team ranked No. 1 in the human polls. Fourteen total turnovers, and only eight after the first quarter put their last nationally televised game, a 13-8 loss to Johns Hopkins, in the rearview mirror for good.

"We were very poised throughout," Marr said. "We were focused on taking care of the ball and not fouling. The guys played disciplined and smart. We didn't turn it over very much. We did a nice job of commanding the game. We played a really smart game."

There was also a 36-minute weather delay in the third quarter after a thunderstorm passed through the Baltimore area that didn't seem to affect either team.

The game-within-the-game, for both sides, was not sliding on defense. Early on, Albany was content to let Loyola's midfielders let it rip from up top, even after a successful dodge. The Greyhounds middies shot 1-for-17 and, as a team, none of their six goals were assisted. Great Danes close defenseman Cody Futia marked Loyola quarterback Justin Ward, who was limited to a pair of second-half goals.

Loyola, which had averaged 13 goals per game, scored six, the program's lowest output in a game since 2011, against a defense that entered the game ranked 51st nationally in goals allowed per game.

After a first quarter in which they took 15 shots but had only one goal to show for the chances, Loyola slowly stetted in, but Riorden had timely stops whenever the Greyhounds had good chances to cut into the lead. Loyola hit a handful of pipes, and there were a pair of disputed goals, one for each side.

"We got every look we wanted to get," Ward said. "We had our opportunities, but we had some 18-yard shots that you could call gumballs and they're out the other way. When you let that team run, they're the most dangerous team in the country. We just didn't execute mentally where we wanted to put the ball."

Riorden finished with 13 saves.

"He's unorthodox, in a good way," Ward said. "He's not your fundamentally-sound goalie. He's got unbelievable hands. He's a big lefty. When you're inside, he does a good job of matching sticks. I don't think he necessarily beat us. I think sometimes we hurt ourselves with poor decisions and poor shot location and a couple pipes."

Like Loyola, Albany didn't slide, putting trust in defensemen Futia and Doug Eich to handle the brunt of Loyola's attack. Futia, Marr pointed out, played against Lyle Thompson every day in practice. The idea was to limit Ward's assists.

"We put those guys on an island and rely on some low-angle shots going down the side," Marr said, before turning the attention to his goalie. "Blaze, you could see all week, he was focused. He was seeing the ball today, but we were also 25-of-25 on clearing. He commanded the defense."

The chess match continued all game long on both sides. Loyola went into a zone at times in the second half and Lyle Thompson said the Danes struggled against it, not getting a single goal, but "we kept working at it. One thing I said to Miles was, 'We need to push it.' We got [two] goals in the third quarter just off of transition."

The run continues.

"Last year we were just happy that we were in the tournament," Miles Thompson said. "This year there's a different attitude. We believe that we can do what we're capable of, going against the No. 1 team in the country and pulling off a good game."

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