Loyola coach Charley Toomey won yesterday because he won three years ago.
That's when he first learned about Greyhounds starting sophomore goalie Alex Peaty, then a junior at the Western Reserve Academy in Hudson, Ohio. The word in lacrosse circles was that Peaty, from Victoria, British Columbia, was headed to Syracuse. Toomey was relentless in his recruitment and eventually persuaded Peaty to sign with Loyola.
Yesterday, Peaty was magnificent, finishing with 15 saves, 10 in the first half, as No. 12 Loyola defeated ECAC rival and visiting Massachusetts, 10-8, at Diane Geppi-Aikens Field.
"Thank goodness Alex Peaty was in goal today," Toomey said. "I thought he was terrific in the nets. Every time we broke down defensively, he backed us up and made some great one-on-one saves in the crease today. He gave us a chance to stay in the game early, when UMass came out and played with a lot of energy."
There were a lot of great saves, like one on attackman Evan Blum, who tried to sneak from behind the goal late in the first quarter, and the low, one-hander Peaty knocked down from midfielder Brian Jacovina with three seconds remaining in the same quarter.
Massachusetts midfielder Brett Garber seemed to have the perfect angle on an outside shot early in the second quarter, but Peaty stopped that one. And midfielder Andrew Recchione seemed to have Peaty off balance when he double-clutched on a shot on an extra-man opportunity midway through the second period, but Peaty swatted that one away, too.
He was on, and Toomey was glad he was at Loyola.
"I saw him at the blue chip camp at McDonogh in the summer of his junior year," said Toomey. "Everybody said he was going to Syracuse and not to worry about him. I didn't give up. I just stayed on him knowing I was a goaltender myself and I could get to his heart, and tell him he was going to be coached every day that he was here, and that Loyola is a special place. He took his visits, but when he came to Loyola, he felt very comfortable and I think you can see we are very comfortable with him right now."
The Greyhounds (4-2, 3-0 ECAC) need Peaty because their offense is inconsistent. At times, Loyola can play with anybody, and there are times the Greyhounds would struggle with a good Division III team. They clearly outplayed Massachusetts (2-5, 0-1) but couldn't put away the pesky Minutemen .
Peaty had to come up big because Loyola was outshot 47-26 and had three more turnovers than the 12 Massachusetts had. But Loyola got two goals each from midfielders Cory Coffman and Greg Leonard and two assists each from attackmen Shane Koppens and Ryan Rabidou.
Loyola also converted three of six extra-man opportunities compared to three of nine last week against St. John's. The Greyhounds played a zone late in the second half for the first time this season, catching the Minutemen off balance. It certainly helped Peaty. Instead of 5- to 8-yard shots up close, the zone pushed Massachusetts shooters out to the 15- to 20-yard range.
"I was happy with my game, but it had a lot to do with the game plan," said Peaty. "We knew how to defend them. We watched a lot of film. The whole defense knew what to expect, and it made my job a lot easier. The coaches are putting us in position to succeed."
Loyola had a 5-3 lead at the half, but the Minutemen scored the first two goals of the third quarter to tie the game with 9:07 left in the period. But Loyola scored three goals in the remaining time, including one from 6-foot-6, 220-pound midfielder Jake Willcox, who bullied his way to the crease with 12 seconds remaining.
Loyola twice had four-goal leads in the first five minutes of the final quarter, but the Greyhounds kept shooting and losing possession. Sophomore midfielder Jim Connolly scored on a feed from Paul Manesis with 4:18 left in the game to pull the Minutemen within 10-8, but Massachusetts could get no closer, even though two shots hit pipes with less than 1:30 remaining in the game.
The Greyhounds play Syracuse at home next week, and Toomey knows his team has to play better or the Orange could make it a long day. Or Loyola will call on Peaty for another strong effort, but for four quarters instead of two.
Massachusetts 1 2 2 3 - 8
Loyola 2 3 3 2 - 10
Goals: M-Garber 3, Bailise 2, Pedrick, Connolly, Recchione; L-Coffman 2, Leonard 2, Spack, Richards, Bauers, Kenndy, Willcox, Graham. Assists: M-Pedrick 2, Connolly, Garber, Manesis, Recchione. L- Koppens 2, R. Rabidou 2, Coffman, Leonard, J. Rabidou, Richards. Saves: M-Schneider 6. L-Peaty 15.