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Loyola, Maryland to play for NCAA lacrosse title

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Loyola of Maryland took a much slower route to the NCAA lacrosse championship game than the Greyhounds are accustomed to.

The top-seeded Greyhounds struggled against Notre Dame's tight defense, breaking through just often enough to pull ahead by four goals and hold off the Fighting Irish 7-5 in the semifinals Saturday.

It was the fewest goals the Greyhounds (17-1) scored in a game this season. Eric Lusby matched a career high with five goals, and Jack Runkel made up with 11 of his career-best 15 saves in the second half as Loyola held on despite failing to score in the final 26:41.

"They didn't want to let us run," Loyola coach Charley Toomey said. "They took us out of what we like to do and they made it a battle out there."

Loyola's previous low for the season was eight goals. Seven suited the Greyhounds just fine Saturday as they extended their winning streak to five and advanced to the title game for the second time.

"That shows the character of this team," Toomey said. "They'll recognize the situation and play to it."

The Greyhounds will play Maryland - a 16-10 winner over Duke in the second semifinal - in the title game Monday. Loyola lost to Syracuse in the 1990 championship game in its only other appearance in the final.

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Notre Dame finished 13-3.

The Irish dominated the faceoffs 13-1, but couldn't convert enough into points.

"I think the biggest problem was we didn't shoot well," said Sean Rogers, who scored in the fourth quarter for the Irish. "We've been playing really good offense thus far through the tournament and our shooting was the main reason for that. Today we didn't shoot in the right spots."

The Irish ended a scoring drought of 24:46 with goals in a 50-second span to pull to 7-5 with 6:28 left. Rogers had the first goal, and Westy Hopkins added his second of the game.

But Runkel was there to stop everything else that came his way and the Greyhounds held off several late pushes by the Irish

"He was big. He was as big as he's ever been in there for us," said Toomey, a member of Loyola's national runner-up team in 1990. "When there was a breakdown, Runk was right there to pick up the pieces."

Lusby scored three goals in the first half to help Loyola take a 5-3 lead, then added two more quick goals early in the second half. Lusby put Loyola up 6-3 26 seconds into the third quarter, and made it 7-3 with 11:40 left in the period.

"I thought we were going to get a couple more," said Lusby, who scored five goals for the second straight game and reached 50 for the season. "I'm playing pretty confident. I see net and I shoot for net. I don't really try to pick the corners. When you try to aim for the exact spot, then you start to mess with your head."