BALTIMORE | Loyola scooted off the Ridley Athletic Complex after a feeble second quarter Saturday against Canisius, rushing into the locker room and leaving behind a miserable stretch of lacrosse.
There was plenty to say, and coach Charley Toomey started quickly. Perhaps too quickly. Thanks to television, halftime lasts longer during the NCAA tournament.
“We finished with five minutes to go and we’re all looking at each other,” Toomey said. “Then I yelled at the seniors and said ‘You better come out and get them going. This is your turn now.’ And they did. They responded. I’ve seen us come out of the locker room and win third quarters an awful lot at Ridley. These kids stepped up to that challenge again today.”
The Greyhounds looked every bit like the top-seeded team in the NCAA tournament after the break, turning a one-goal lead into a 17-5 throttling of the Golden Griffins to advance to the quarterfinals for the first time since 2001.
Mike Sawyer scored five goals and Eric Lusby added three for Loyola (15-1), which scored 13 consecutive goals —- all in a stretch of 19 possessions.
“A lot of the guys are very disciplined and know people aren’t freaking out when we’re not scoring goals or winning faceoffs or getting groundballs,” midfielder J.P. Dalton said.
In many ways, it’s the essence of the unheralded Greyhounds. Unfettered and unconcerned about a scoreless second quarter and unwilling to fret much a surprisingly slim 4-3 lead, Loyola simply repeated what it did throughout an impressive regular season.
It strung together goals. It scored quickly. It unabashedly pushed the pace when the opportunity presented itself.
And just as quickly as Canisius (6-8) made things interesting, Loyola banished any possibility of becoming the first No. 1 seed to lose in the first round.
“That’s what makes this team so fun to be around,” said Toomey, whose team will face North Carolina or Denver on Saturday at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium. “They don’t talk about the importance of getting to Annapolis. They talk about the importance of winning the third quarter, the importance of winning the fourth quarter.”
There’s also no question it was an important milestone in a season littered with them.
There was the program’s first No. 1 ranking since 1999. Saturday marked Loyola’s first game as a No. 1 seed since 1999. It was the Greyhounds’ first NCAA tournament home game since 2000.
Now they have their first postseason victory since 2001 to savor.
Some of the credit goes to Sawyer, who earlier in the week was named the program’s first Tewaaraton Award finalist. Silenced in the first half, Sawyer deposited a rebound a little more than three minutes into the third quarter.
“That first goal was kind of a garbage goal, but it kind of got me going,” said Sawyer, who tied Tim Goettelmann’s 12-year-old single-season school goals record with 50. “After that, everything else started to fall into place.”
It was a blitz the overmatched Golden Griffins were ill-equipped to handle after Loyola gradually took away Canisius’ ability to monopolize possession. Most importantly, it happened quickly.
In the rare bad times and the many good ones, it’s what the Greyhounds do.
“They came out and gave us everything we could handle,” Toomey said. “When we got going, I think we’re a tough team to handle, too.”
—- Patrick Stevens