Facing one of the hotter lacrosse goalies in the country typically is not a promising way for a team to break out of a shooting slump, but Loyola made it happen yesterday.
In a game in which the Greyhounds had to win to keep alive any realistic hopes of getting an NCAA tournament berth, Loyola jumped on visiting Rutgers and senior goalie Greg Havalchak with an outstanding shooting display in the first half, then cruised to a 9-4 victory at rain-soaked Diane Geppi-Aikens Field.
Loyola junior attackman Dan Bauers tied his career high with three goals, added one assist, and scored all four of his points during a first half that marked the Greyhounds' most complete 30-minute period of the season. The Greyhounds (4-4), playing their first home game in a month, avoided a three-game losing streak by beating a Scarlet Knights team that was short on hustle and inspiration from the opening faceoff.
And Loyola, which entered the contest shooting just 25.3 percent on the season, got well against Havalchak, who started the day ranked fourth in Division I with a .640 save percentage.
The Greyhounds kept nonstop pressure on Havalchak early, scoring seven unanswered goals to take a commanding 8-1 halftime lead on sizzling 8-for-14 shooting. It helped that Loyola junior midfielder Andrew Spack won all five of his faceoff attempts in the second quarter - leading to five goals - to highlight a 10-for-12 afternoon.
"We had some concern with [Havalchak] coming into this week, especially with how bad our shooting has been, so getting up on him early was huge," Bauers said. "Our shooting was a hundred times better than it has been the last few games."
Rutgers (5-4) did not give its goalkeeper much help. The Scarlet Knightscould not maintain possession in the first half, got out-shot 14-7 by halftime, and did little to prevent Loyola from running its fast break or finding open shooters in its set offense.
Loyola, which has never lost to Rutgers in seven meetings, took advantage of its chances by burning Havlachak with crisp shots, many of them low and away. Six Greyhounds scored single goals. Six different Loyola players had assists.
"We shot the ball consistently hard to spots. We didn't let a very good goalie get going," said Loyola coach Charley Toomey, who was not thrilled with the Greyhounds' one-goal showing in the second half. "We've watched freshman goalies get comfortable against us. This is a very good goalie we felt like we were on top of early."
Junior midfielder Matt Gaines had a three-goal effort for Rutgers, which had its three-game winning streak broken.
The Scarlet Knights went 41 minutes without scoring before Gaines scored unassisted to make it 8-2 with 3:11 left in the third quarter. They blew four of five extra-man chances, often by not even getting off a shot.
"We kind of let [Loyola] take us out of what we wanted to do pretty early. We didn't handle the pressure particularly well early on," Rutgers coach Jim Stagnitta said.
The Greyhounds, who are unranked and 3-0 at home, badly needed this game. With four games remaining, including home dates with No. 2 Georgetown on Saturday and No. 7 Johns Hopkins on May 6, Loyola probably needs at least one upset to give itself a shot at its first NCAA tournament appearance since 2001.
Note -- A spokesman for Loyola defended the school's decision to fire former men's lacrosse coach Bill Dirrigl, who filed a lawsuit last week seeking $3.5 million in damages from the college for breach of contract and defamation. "The decision to place William Dirrigl on administrative leave and ultimately to dismiss him from the position of head men's lacrosse coach in December 2005 was made carefully after the college had lost confidence in Mr. Dirrigl's ability to lead the program," said Mark Kelly, the school's assistant vice president for public relations, in a written statement. "The college believes those decisions are appropriate and in the best interest of the educational needs of our student-athletes. Loyola strongly denies the allegations set forth in his complaint, and believes there is no basis for this suit." firstname.lastname@example.org
Rutgers 1 0 1 2 - 4
Loyola 3 5 0 1 - 9
Goals: R-Gaines 3, Ashcraft; L-Bauers 3, R. Rabidou, Leonard, Richards, Gale, Willcox, Coffman. Assists: R-White; L-Bauers, Crimmins, Leonard, J. Rabidou, R-Rabidou, Spack. Saves: R-Havalchak 5; L-Fretwell 9. A: 418.