The Patriot League has been one of the most competitive in lacrosse for the entire season. However, the more things change (the emergence of Navy, Holy Cross), the more things stay the same.
Other teams were the story of the Patriot League all year. The Lehigh Mountain Hawks were much stronger than could have been expected. Boston University, in just its third season, nearly became one of the best stories in college lacrosse. Holy Cross made its first every playoff.
Meanwhile, coming into the season the Loyola Greyhounds had missed the NCAA tournament for the first time in four years. Nikko Pontrello was gone, and Loyola had to rebuild to get back to being an elite team. With the emergence of other teams, it appeared as if the PL may have finally caught up to the Hounds.
On Sunday afternoon, Loyola silenced many of their early season skeptics as the Greyhounds demonstrated they were still one of the elite by clinching the first spot in the 2016 NCAA tournament with a dominant 14-6 win over Army Black Knights. This is Loyola's 2nd Patriot League title in the three years the Greyhounds have been a part of the conference.
Freshman Pat Spencer, who has emerged as a star with Loyola this season, scored five goals and added five assists to lead the Greyhounds. Spencer tied the school's single-season points record of 71 with MLLers Justin Ward and Eric Lusby who also won a national title with Loyola.
Graham Savio was crucial in the effort as well, going 17-for-19 at the faceoff X against the Black Knights. Additionally, Zach Herreweyers, Jay Drapeau, and Justin Albrict also contributed two goals each on the afternoon.
Army's Connor Cook had two points to lead the Black Knights. Army, along with Navy, will have to wait for Selection Sunday regarding the NCAA Tournament as they sit firmly on the bubble. With the AQ, Loyola is the only Patriot League team guaranteed admittance to the Big BBQ. While Army had a five-game winning streak in the middle of the season and was frequently in the top 20, the Black Knights faded a bit going into the conference tournament, losing three out of their last five games. Army was 5-3 in the conference in the regular season.
In the game, Loyola outshot Army 37-33. A six goal first quarter set the pace for the game, and the Black Knights were never able to bounce back. Loyola did turn the ball over more than Army (16 to 12, respectively), and Army was also a perfect 13-for-13 in clears, while the Greyhounds failed twice out of their 19 attempts.
Loyola, with a 7-1 conference regular season record, has been one of the most impressive teams of the Patriot League since it joined the conference in 2014. This was a strong performance by Loyola and the team appears to be peaking at just the right time. Now with the AQ firmly secured the team can relax on Selection Sunday and focus on getting ready for the tournament.