Penalties, faceoffs, Lusby are the difference for Greyhounds

After watching his team lose for the third time this season to Loyola, 10-9, and seeing his season end in the NCAA quarterfinals, Denver lacrosse coach Bill Tierney started his press conference in the gruff style of New York Rangers coach John Tortorella.

First Tierney was asked how tough it was to overcome 10 penalties which led to four man-down goals.

“It’s absurdly difficult,” Tierney said.

Tierney was asked to expand on his answer.

“It was the story of the game,” Tierney said. “Question?”

It was an absurdly frustrating season for Denver (9-7), which lost six games by a single goal. After making the NCAA Final Four for the first time in program history last year, Denver fell a game short. As the penalties piled up, Tierney showed exasperation multiple times on the sideline.

Penalties were a factor. But also damaging the cause of the Pioneers was Loyola’s overwhelming edge on faceoffs. Greyhounds senior J.P. Dalton won 17 of 22 against Chase Carraro, who entered the game ranked No. 5 in the nation in faceoff win percentage.

Tierney was more expansive when asked about Loyola’s edge at the X.

“Great credit to [Loyola assistant] Steve Vaikness and the Dalton kid,” Tierney said. “We went from winning 21 of 25 (first meeting), to [17 of 31] in game two, to getting our brains beat in. That clearly shows how well these young guys were coached and how they responded as young men. Their wing play was very good. All credit goes to them.”

Junior long stick midfielders Scott Ratliff (five ground balls, one goal) and Josh Hawkins (six ground balls) played a major role on the wings for top-seeded Loyola (16-1), which got five goals and two assists from Eric Lusby, who took advantage of a Denver defense geared to stifle top goal scorer Mike Sawyer (one goal).   

Loyola will play the winner of Sunday’s game against No. 4 Notre Dame and No. 5 Virginia.