The Loyola Greyhounds advanced to the 2012 NCAA Men's Lacrosse Championship on Monday with a 7-5 win over Notre Dame. Loyola never trailed against the Irish, and stopped a late Notre Dame rally to clinch the win. The Greyhounds, who have lost only one game all season, will play in the title game for the first time since 1990. Loyola's Eric Lusby was incredible on attack, scoring a hat trick in the first half alone and five goals overall in a dominant performance. The grad student now has 13 goals in the tournament and he's been a huge part of his team's march from unranked to Monday's title game.
Loyola enjoyed a comfortable lead for much of the game, withstanding two brief Notre Dame runs on the strength of their excellent goaltender Jack Runkel, who made 14 saves. The seven goals were the lowest total of the season for Loyola, but Runkel and the defense ensured the low output held up. The Irish are one of the top defensive teams in the country but they struggled to get anything going on the other end of the field. They were undone by two incredibly long scoring droughts in each half.
Notre Dame went through a 20 minute stretch in the first half where they put only four shots on goal and committed six turnovers. But the Irish closed the half strong, scoring two goals in a six second stretch just before the two-minute mark. The second goal by Nicholas Beattie came right off the face-off and had the Irish sideline whipped into a frenzy. Loyola recaptured the momentum, however, by capitalizing on an ND turnover and burying a goal with two seconds remaining. Josh Hawkins charged up the middle and went to his left to fire an offspeed bouncer to put the Greyhounds back up 5-3.
In the second half, Notre Dame went another 20 minute stretch without a goal, putting up a bagel in the third quarter. The Irish finally broke through with just over seven minutes remaining in the game, taking a Loyola turnover the other way in transition for a Sean Rogers score. Less than a minute later, Westy Hopkins cut the lead to two by coming underneath and cutting across the front of the crease to make it 7-5. With momentum on the Irish side and despite losing almost every face-off, Runkel and the Greyhounds were up to the task over the final six minutes and salted away the win.
Loyola will play the winner of the second semifinal game between Duke and Maryland on Monday in the title game at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro.