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The Student News Site of Loyola University Maryland

The Greyhound

Men’s lax preview: Young squad looks to continue winning tradition


It was starting to look like the 2012 national championship season. The Loyola men’s lacrosse team was ranked No. 1 in the USILA coaches’ poll and the Warrior Media Poll, and had a number of players with championship experience from two years earlier.

But time eventually ran out on the Greyhounds’ season, as they were upset by Albany, 13-6, in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Albany’s Miles and Lyle Thompson were too much for Loyola to handle, and the Hounds’ 2014 season ended in heartbreak for the second year in a row.

It was still a season to remember, though. The Greyhounds sandwiched a season-opening loss to Virginia and the season-ending loss to Albany with 15 straight victories, a program record. Loyola took down two-time defending champion Duke, as well as arch-rival Johns Hopkins.

Loyola head coach Charley Toomey says his squad has not discussed last season’s early tournament exit in the locker room.

“This is a very different team,” Coach Toomey said. “We are very young all over the field. What we’re trying to take from last year is the type of team that we were: we were a really good practice team, and we had great senior leadership.”

The Greyhounds lost a lot of key seniors to graduation after last season, most notably Joe Fletcher, Justin Ward, Jack Runkel and Matt Sawyer. While this year’s team is much younger, Loyola will be leaning on two key seniors this season in Nikko Pontrello and Pat Frazier, who were both recently selected in the Major League Lacrosse (MLL) Collegiate Entry Draft by the Denver Outlaws and Florida Launch, respectively.

“Nikko is the [main] holdover from the 2012 season,” Toomey said of his senior attacker, who led the team with 51 goals last season, the third-most in school single season history. “He played in the National Championship Game. He’s done an incredible job for us year in and year out.”

Pontrello is the fourth Loyola player selected in the MLL Draft’s first round over the past three years, following Josh Hawkins and Mike Sawyer in 2012, and Fletcher in 2013.

Toomey is also impressed with how far Frazier has come since being a walk-on during the 2012 season.

“It’s just amazing to me to watch a kid that walked onto our program and has developed into being not only a great leader in our locker room, but a guy that’s recognized outside of our locker room, for being a top-level defenseman at Division I,” Toomey said. “We’re very fortunate that we’ve got that type of leadership.

Pontrello and Frazier are joined by sophomores Brian Sherlock and Ryan Fournier on both the Preseason All-America team and All-Patriot League team. As a redshirt freshman last season after transferring from North Carolina, Sherlock scored 29 points (19 goals, 10 assists) and collected 24 ground balls. Fournier emerged as one of the best long-stick midfielders in the nation last season as a freshman, finishing with 32 ground balls, nine caused turnovers, four goals and two assists.

Once again, the Greyhounds find themselves ranked in the top 10 in the national polls, starting the season ranked seventh in both the coaches’ poll and Warrior Media Poll. Loyola has been ranked No. 1 at least once during each of the past three seasons, and will hope to climb back to the top by season’s end. Toomey’s squad does not necessarily put too much stock in their ranking, though.

“I don’t think our guys really look up and worry about where they’re ranked. Our team has always done a great job of going out and preparing game to game and really worrying about the here and now, and not looking at the internet Sunday or Monday nights to see the rankings. We do like being a team that plays with a chip on our shoulder. I really feel good about the way this team has handled success.”

The Greyhounds are currently holding a three-way competition at goalkeeper to replace Jack Runkel, who played a big role during the 2012 championship run. Senior Pat McEnerney leads the race, followed by sophomore Sam Beazell and freshman Grant Limone.

“It’s a healthy competition,” Toomey said. “They work well together. I’d be hard-pressed not to start Pat as a senior against Virginia [in the season-opener]. Each one of them knows what’s expected of them, and they each bring something different to the table.”

McEnerney is already familiar with Virginia, after he stepped in for a struggling Runkel in last year’s season-opener against the Cavaliers. McEnerney played more than 20 minutes and into overtime to help spark a Loyola comeback, before the Hounds eventually lost for their only defeat of the regular season.

As expected, Loyola opens as the preseason favorite in the Patriot League as voted on by the coaches, with Army and Lehigh rounding out the top three. The Greyhounds swept their Patriot League opponents last season, and will hope to do the same this year, but will face stiff tests against Army and Lehigh, who are both ranked in the top-20.

Loyola will face some familiar nonconference foes as well, with games against No. 3 Duke, No. 10 Maryland, Georgetown, and obviously No. 9 Virginia in the opener.

“By February 7, we have to be as good as we can be to be able to win a top-10 game [versus Virginia],” Toomey said. “The attention to detail is really what we’re looking for as coaches.”

The Greyhounds will need that attention to detail to defeat a Virginia team that beat them last February, and to return to the top of the lacrosse world in May. But it all starts this Saturday at Ridley at 1 p.m.

(Photo via)

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Men’s lax preview: Young squad looks to continue winning tradition