College lacrosse: No. 1 Loyola survives against Navy, 7-6, in double overtime

April 5

On Navy’s first possession in overtime against No. 1 Loyola in men’s lacrosse on Saturday, a shot hit the bottom of the goal post, stopped for a second and then spun away. On Navy’s second possession, a shot hit the crossbar and bounced away.

The Midshipmen did not have a third chance. Loyola won the opening faceoff in the second overtime and scored 12 seconds later for a 7-6 victory before 4,422 at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium.

The game between the Midshipmen (4-6, 3-4 Patriot League) and Greyhounds (10-1, 6-0) didn’t look as if it would be close.

Navy entered 1-22 all-time against teams ranked No. 1.But there were portents that Saturday might be different.

Navy honored the 10-year anniversary of the 2004 squad that reached the NCAA title game. Along the way to the NCAA final, that 2004 team defeated then-No. 1 Maryland in an early-April game.

The current team came close to emulating that feat.

On Saturday, Navy freshman Brady Dove won the opening faceoff in overtime. Senior Sam Jones got the ball on the wing when he fed classmate Tucker Hull, who was standing on the crease.

The immediate problem: Hull’s back was to the goal. But Hull quickly shot over his head; the ball bounced on the lower part of the goal, stopped and rattled away.

Loyola senior goalie Jack Runkel initially turned around, thinking the ball had eluded him and the game was over.

“It’s crazy, just that one bounce,” Navy Coach Rick Sowell said. “Instead of zigging, it zagged. [If it zagged] then it’s an entirely different game.”

On the ensuing possession, Loyola worked the ball to junior Nikko Pontrello. He entered the game second in the nation in goals-per-game (3.7). To that point, he had not scored.

And he remained scoreless after his close shot was saved by sophomore John Connors, one of his 14 saves.

Navy’s second and final possession in overtime had a wrinkle as well. Loyola senior defenseman Joe Fletcher is the only current college player selected to the 30-man roster for the U.S. national team, which will compete in the World Games this summer in Denver.

Navy sophomore T.J. Hanzsche had the misfortune of appearing on the scouting report as the No. 1 scoring threat — and thus, he was guarded by Fletcher.

Hanzsche entered the game leading the Midshipmen in goals and shots. On Saturday, he didn’t score, didn’t have a shot in regulation and was on the bench for Navy’s final possession.

His replacement, classmate Patrick Keena, took a shot from eight yards that pinged the corner of the crossbar and bounced away.

Loyola won when senior Justin Ward, an Old Mill High grad who leads the nation in assists, got the ball in transition. He faked a shot and then threw a cross-field pass to senior Brian Schultz, who scored on a close shot.

Ward finished with a goal and three assists for the Greyhounds. Hull and junior Gabe Voumard each had two goals for Navy and senior Nik Mullen held Pontrello scoreless.

“Hats off to the Naval Academy, they came out ready to play,” said Loyola Coach Charley Toomey. “John Connors put them on his back at times. . . . I’m not so sure the right team won today.”

The Midshipmen were undone in large part by struggles on extra-man opportunities. Not only did Navy go 0 for 3 on extra-man; it didn’t attempt a shot in those situations.

Navy’s problems prompted Loyola in the fourth quarter and overtime to use a zone defense, which closely approximates a man-down defense.

Navy came close to scoring against the zone, and the No. 1 team, only for the goal itself to intercede twice.

●NORTH CAROLINA 11, VIRGINIA 10: Senior Mark Cockerton scored four goals for the No. 9 Cavaliers (8-4, 1-3 ACC), but it wasn’t enough in Chapel Hill, N.C. The fifth-ranked Tar Heels (9-2, 2-2) scored twice in the final 2 minutes 33 seconds, including the winner from senior R.G. Keenan.

●GEORGETOWN 10, PROVIDENCE 8: Freshman Peter Conley scored three goals for the host Hoyas (4-7, 1-3 Big East). By beating the Friars (3-9, 0-3), Georgetown kept alive its hopes of reaching the conference tournament. Senior Andrew Barton scored four goals for Providence.

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