If history is any indication, attendees at Saturday afternoon's lacrosse season-opener are in for a treat. Virginia welcomes Loyola (Md.) to town, opening the Hoos' season against the Greyhounds for the third straight year.
Each of the last two match-ups have been barn-burners. In 2015, a five-goal Virginia lead in the third quarter dwindled down to only a one-goal win as the defense held off the Greyhounds for the final two minutes of the game. Attackman Zach Herreweyers scored all three of his goals for Loyola off the bench in the second half to spark the comeback.
The 2014 tilt in Baltimore was one of the all-time great regular season games in UVa lacrosse history. With the game tied at 4 after one quarter, Virginia ripped off an 8-0 run, only to see Loyola answer with a 9-0 run of its own. The Greyhounds took the lead with 18 seconds to play, but Ryan Tucker scored at the buzzer on an assist from James Pannell to send the game into overtime. Pannell scored the gamewinner halfway through the overtime period to stake Virginia to 1-0 on the season.
The Loyola squad that will roll into Klockner this year will have many familiar faces. The Greyhounds' top three leading scorers all return: Herreweyers, with his 47 goals from last year; middie Brian Sherlock, who was second on the team in goals, assists, and points; and middie Tyler Albrecht, who was third with 23 goals and had the fifth-most groundballs. Albrecht and Herreweyers were both drafted in this spring's Major League Lacrosse draft, as was senior defenseman and co-captain David Manning.
One name who won't be around is Nikko Pontrello, the team's assists leader in 2015. The second-team All-American was drafted 8th overall in the 2015 MLL draft, and lodged two goals and an assist against Virginia in 2015.
Two of the key players for Loyola to improve on last year's 7-8 record are Grant Limone in the cage and Graham Savio at the faceoff X. Limone started 11 games as a freshman, posting a goals-against average of 9.93 and a save percentage of .538. Savio took almost all of Loyola's faceoffs (more than 280), and won 59 percent of them.
A new face to watch for Loyola: freshman attackman Pat Spencer, who played high school ball at Baltimore prep power Boys' Latin. Spencer was #6 in Inside Lacrosse's 2015 Power 100 Freshmen and was a 2015 finalist for attackman of the year in the state of Maryland.
Faceoff is at 1 PM Saturday at Klockner Stadium. It's gonna be cold, so layer up and yell loud!