After winning title, Loyola won’t be able to fly under the radar

Question of the Day

What has been the biggest debacle on Obama's watch?

View results

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Loyola was an afterthought nationally when it embarked on its men’s lacrosse season more than three months ago.

Things won’t quite be the same next year. Not after the Greyhounds collected their first national championship.

“You see it with other teams that win the national championship and how everyone treats them,” midfielder Josh Hawkins said after Loyola throttled Maryland 9-3 in Monday’s national title game. “I’ve definitely noticed over this past month and a half what people do and say and act like toward you when you’re winning. It’s a special thing.”

Make no mistake, it was a special season.

The Greyhounds (18-1) won their first 12 games, came within a pinged pipe in overtime of toppling neighborhood rival Johns Hopkins, then rolled through May with six victories.

Loyola ranked eighth nationally in goals per game and fifth in goals allowed per game, a striking balance not fully appreciated until the Greyhounds’ championship weekend wizardry on defense secured a championship.

“It still feels like a dream, like it’s not happening,” junior long pole Scott Ratliff said. “It’s a pretty incredible feeling. It’s everything I expected it to be.”

The Greyhounds also were fortunate, as title teams often must be. Loyola started the same attack, midfield and close defense every contest. Three games in, goalie Jack Runkel claimed the starting job and never relinquished it. Hawkins missed the first four games with a back ailment, but the Greyhounds’ core group of contributors otherwise avoided serious injuries.

It led to Loyola’s best chance in more than a decade to finally secure the program’s first crown in 18 NCAA tournament appearances.

“It’s one thing to qualify for the tournament, which is difficult enough in itself,” said Loyola defensive coordinator Matt Dwan, who played for the Greyhounds in the early 1990s. “But then [we took] this step, which we did this year by winning against Canisius [in the first round], and then another step and another one and another one. They just happened to all come at once, so we’ll take it.”

The rapid ascent made Loyola a rare almost-out-of-nowhere champion in a sport with entrenched elite. Duke, the only other team since 1992 to win its first championship, did so in 2010 during its fifth final four in six years. Loyola was 11 years removed from its last postseason victory before this season.

Monday provided a potentially program-altering moment, a jolt of awareness about a school long overshadowed in its own city and state.

“It means I’m probably getting in the car to go recruiting tomorrow,” coach Charley Toomey said.

He’ll no doubt find a receptive audience.

“Any recruit you go in to try to get, he’s going to be interested in this program coming off a national championship,” Ratliff said. “With this coaching staff and the nucleus we’ve built - we have an amazing senior class, but we’re loaded with talent right now throughout all our classes, so I think the success will continue.”

Indeed, the Greyhounds are built to last. While senior attackman Eric Lusby, who scored a tournament record 17 goals this month, is a visible departure, only four of the 23 players to appear in Monday’s victory were seniors.

Attackman and Tewaaraton Award finalist Mike Sawyer will be back. So will Ratliff, Hawkins, midfielder Davis Butts and defensemen Reid Acton and Joe Fletcher. All earned at least honorable mention All-America status.

That’s a potent chunk of an outfit Toomey marveled at throughout the spring, more than once observing a coach could go his whole life and be lucky to have one team with the combination of discipline, toughness, selflessness and talent.

“I hope I lied to you,” Toomey said.

He’ll find out in 2013, and everyone in lacrosse will be watching from the start this time.

© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Comments
blog comments powered by Disqus
Get Adobe Flash player
You Might Also Like
  • Nathan Walker waits to take the ice during the Capitals' development camp at the Kettler Capitals Iceplex in Arlington on Monday, July 9, 2012. (Ryan M.L. Young/The Washington Times)

    Nathan Walker’s NHL dreams send him around the world

  • Washington Nationals' Anthony Rendon, third from left, smiles as he warms up with his teammates who were were wearing t-shirts in support of him for the All Star game before an interleague baseball game against the Baltimore Orioles at Nationals Park, Tuesday, July 8, 2014, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

    Anthony Rendon not an All-Star, but he’s been Nats’ MVP

  • Baltimore Orioles manager Buck Showalter speaks during a media availability in the dugout before an interleague baseball game against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park, Monday, July 7, 2014, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

    LOVERRO: Suck-up Buck Showalter needs history lesson

  • Argentina's Maxi Rodriguez, left, celebrates with goalkeeper Sergio Romero after scoring the decisive goal during the World Cup semifinal soccer match between the Netherlands and Argentina at the Itaquerao Stadium in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Wednesday, July 9, 2014. Argentina beat the Netherlands 4-2 in a penalty shootout to reach the World Cup final. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)

    Argentina beats Dutch in shootout to reach World Cup final

  • Washington Redskins safety Tanard Jackson speaks during a media availability after an NFL football training camp practice at Redskins Park, Friday, Aug. 3, 2012 in Ashburn, Va. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

    Tanard Jackson suspended indefinitely by NFL — again

  • Celebrities In The News
  • Hall of Fame Inductees, KISS, Paul Stanley, Peter Criss, Gene Simmons, and Ace Frehley speak at the 2014 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony on Thursday, April, 10, 2014 in New York. (Photo by Charles Sykes/Invision/AP)

    KISS rocker Gene Simmons touts 1 percent life: ‘It’s fantastic’

  • This image from video released by Funny Or Die shows President Obama, left, with actor-comedian Zach Galifianakis during an appearance on "Between Two Ferns," the digital short with a laser focus on reaching people aged 18 to 34. The president urged young people to sign up for the new health care plan through an appearance posted Tuesday, March 11, 2014, on the comic website Funny or Die, bypassing TV talk show titans like Jimmy Fallon or Jimmy Kimmel for an online audience. (AP Photo/Funny Or Die)

    Obama’s ‘Ferns’ interview gets Emmy nod

  • ** FILE ** In this Nov. 12, 2013, file photo, actor Alec Baldwin leaves court in New York. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)

    Alec Baldwin in talks to play Rob Ford-like mayor in new NBC drama