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Late UVA goal downs No. 8 Loyola in thriller

By: Desmond Boyle

Last year, the Loyola Greyhounds men’s lacrosse team made a statement in their season opener with a dominant victory over the Virginia Cavaliers in Charlottesville, but they wouldn’t be able to make that same statement this year in one of the premier games of the weekend. Loyola made a 4-1 run in the fourth quarter to tie the game twice, but the No. 6 Greyhounds could not hold off the No. 14 Cavaliers as they fell 16-15 at Ridley Athletic Complex in northern Baltimore.

“It was an up and down game,” Loyola head coach Charley Toomey said. “We want to give Virginia a lot of credit. They made plays and they probably made just one more play than Loyola did in that second half.”

Loyola’s stud sophomore Pat Spencer got to work quickly and fired to first shot on target of the game in the opening minute after Loyola won the initial faceoff. Loyola probed for an opening for most of the opening three minutes and got their reward when senior midfielder Mike Perkins ripped a shot into the upper 90 from the edge of the box.

North Carolina transfer Alex McGovern had a tremendous debut for Loyola with two goals and three assists.

Virginia began to get more of a foothold in possession as the first quarter progressed and after sophomore stopper Jacob Stover stood tall with a couple of early saves, freshman midfielder Dox Aitken equalized for the Cavaliers.

Virginia worked hard defensively for much of the opening quarter and frustrated Loyola’s potent attack while outshooting the Greyhounds 11-7.

Virginia utilized quick transitions and sharp passing that first-year UVA coach Lars Tiffany had so much success with at Brown in past season to score their second and third goals in the game as Chad Rafferty found open space 10 yards away from the goal before Jason Murphy ripped a shot past Stover.

Jay Drapeau had the first highlight reel goal of the season in between those two Virginia goals. The junior middie made a cut and received a pass from Alex McGovern before shooting behind the back and into the net.

Virginia continued to utilize a physical defense to nullify Loyola in the second quarter, forcing the Greyhounds into several turnovers and tough ground ball pickups.

Cavalier attacker Michael Kraus took advantage of some lazy defending from Loyola to score the second quarter’s first goal after sprinting past a Greyhound defender from behind the goal before converting a shot on from a narrow angle.

After a timeout, the Greyhounds began to gain composure on offense and made smarter passes to open up the Cavaliers. Brian Begley pulled Loyola back to within one just seconds later after scoring an unassisted goal after a mazy run from the midfield past several UVA defenders.

Zach Sirico found open space in the slot and scored to tie the game up for the Greyhounds. Graham Savio capped the quick scoring spree for Loyola with an unassisted effort after collecting the ball from midfield and darting into the attacking area.

Dave Smith ended the run from the Greyhounds and pulled Virginia back on level terms with a bounce shot from the edge of the area. Ryan Luckacovic sliced right through the Greyhound defense with a sharp pass that found Mike D’Amario in front of goal before the junior attacker scored with a behind-the-back effort.

Loyola put a lot of pressure on the Cavaliers before Aitken scored his second goal of the game after a solid transition from the Cavaliers. Virginia concluded the scoring for the first half with the first extra-man goal of the game from senior attacker Zed Williams.

Virginia’s high tempo transitions and solid defense proved to be overwhelming for the Greyhounds in the opening half as the Cavaliers took an 8-5 lead into the half and outshot Loyola 24-16.

The Cavaliers again were too quick for Loyola and dominated possession early in the second half before Joe French ripped a shot from the slot past Stover to extend their lead. UVA’s goalie Will Railey then made the toughest saves of the game on a point-blank shot from McGovern.

Ryan Conrad added to the Cavalier tally as UVA continued to pass around the Greyhound defense and find space at will.

Loyola’s freshman midfielder Peter Swindell gave the Greyhounds their first signs of life in the second half with a goal from the edge of the area. McGovern almost pulled Loyola to within three when he hit the post on an extra-man opportunity before John Duffy did manage to score for the Greyhounds just as the penalty expired.

Virginia began to make sloppy passes from the back and Loyola constantly pressed to get the game level again as the third quarter progressed. Duffy again came through for Loyola after receiving a tight pass from Perkins and finishing pass Railey.

Going into the final quarter the Cavaliers still had a two goal lead, but Loyola had all the momentum. Loyola won the faceoff to start the fourth and smothered the Cavaliers with pressure and peppered shots at Railey until McGovern found a way to put the ball into the back if the net and pulled the Greyhounds to within one.

Ryan Mitzlaff was the one to tie the game up and send Ridley Complex into a thunderous roar after a lightning quick transition from Loyola allowed the junior midfielder to have space to shoot.

Just seconds after the Greyhounds had a would-be go-ahead goal waved off for a crease violation, Aitken silenced the crowd and restored UVA’s lead. Conrad doubled the lead with an unassisted goal that bounced just past Stover and into the net.

Loyola pressed on and would not give up easily as they chased the Cavaliers for much of the fourth quarter but failed to win several crucial faceoffs. With ten minutes to play Spencer fed a pass to Drapeau who managed to shoot and score despite being draped with two Virginia defenders before Michael Kraus quickly restored Virginia’s two-goal lead.

The Greyhounds pulled Stover for junior Grant Limone but the change did little to stop the Virginia offense as Aitken scored just one minute after the change.

Begley then scored his second goal before the Greyhounds had an extra man opportunity with seven minutes to go. McGovern would step up and complete his hat trick on the crucial extra man opportunity.

The Greyhounds pushed for the equalizer for several minutes as the game ticked down to the end. With five minutes to play, McGovern rifled a quick pass to Sirico who lifted a shot into the upper 90 of the net and once again tie the game.

Limone made two low saves to deny Aitken and Conrad keep the game tied at 14 but Virginia stayed composed in the offensive and Lukacovic scored with 3:05 to play.

Savio took just seven seconds to pull Loyola back after collecting the ground ball from the face-off and driving into scoring position before scoring. Conrad scored the game’s decisive goal after the Cavaliers again opened up Loyola with smart, incisive passes.

After a crazy groundball exchange Loyola turned it over to Virginia but had a chance to tie the game with a minute and a half to play after forcing a turnover of their own.

Sherlock pushed the pace on the transition for Loyola before ripping a shot at Railey that the stopper managed to snag. Virginia then passed the ball around for the final thirty seconds and secure the 16-15 win.

Loyola will look for their first win next Saturday when they made a short trip down Charles Street to take on rival Johns Hopkins at Homewood Field.

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Desmond Boyle

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