Five thoughts on top-seeded Loyola’s 17-5 defeat of Canisius in the first round of the NCAA tournament on Saturday. …
1. It was a major moment for Loyola. It’s hard to believe the Greyhounds – located in the heart of a lacrosse hotbed – hadn’t won an NCAA tournament game since 2001.
Consider Johns Hopkins and Maryland won games in last year’s tournament. Navy won a tournament game as recently as 2008 and reached the final four in 2004. UMBC and Georgetown advanced in the postseason in 2007. Towson made the quarterfinals in 2003.
That constitutes a breakthrough of sorts for a program that’s done plenty to re-establish itself as an elite team this season.
“I recognize the importance of it for the university,” Loyola coach Charley Toomey said. “It’s something that’s eluded us in my tenure as a coach. I’m certainly in uncharted territory right now. This team, all they’re going to be thinking about I guarantee you is North Carolina or Denver.”
Toomey mentioned this right after his team wrapped up. Denver went on to beat North Carolina in a first round game last night.
2. Loyola struck fast. Clearly, a stretch of 13 goals in 19 possessions will carry a team a long ways.
But the striking facet of Loyola’s 13-0 blitz in the second half was how little time it needed to pull it off. The combined time of possession in the Greyhounds’ second-half scoring possessions was 8 minutes, 23 seconds – or 38.7 seconds per score. Only one of those possessions took more than a minute.
“We definitely expect to go on runs,” Toomey said. “We don’t know when that run is going to happen.”
A willingness to act quickly certainly accentuates those surges when they occur.
3. Double trouble. Loyola has its first 40-40 scoring tandem since 2000, when Tim Goettelmann and Gavin Prout both collected 40 goals. This time, Mike Sawyer (50 goals after a five-goal game against Canisius) and Eric Lusby (40 goals after a hat trick against the Golden Griffins).
The question popped up yesterday about just how Sawyer has made such substantial strides over the course of his career. Some of it is his own impressive improvement. But getting Lusby back from injury this season has made Sawyer even more dangerous. With one more goal, he’ll set a school record for goals in a season.
4. Round Three on tap. If Loyola does reach the final four for the first time since 1998 (and only the third time in school history), it will do so by defeating Denver. And that would mean knocking off the Pioneers for the third time in seven games.
The popular cliche – which will warrant a little investigation this week, mainly from a sample size of ACC showdowns – is well known. At the same time, Loyola has won twice in the Mile High City and must travel all of 36 miles. As potent as Denver is, few teams understand how to matchup against the Pioneers like the Greyhounds.
5. Question about the cage. Loyola was explosive enough to overcome a few defensive lapses against Canisius. And while the Golden Griffins didn’t pepper Loyola with shots in the second half, it’s still notable that the Greyhounds didn’t make a save after the first quarter.
Make no mistake: It isn’t easy to play goalie for a team that loves transition as much as Loyola. At the same time, the Greyhounds will need more than three saves from Jack Runkel against Denver to advance to Foxboro(ugh).