Dave Townsend wasn't the obvious candidate for Most Valuable Player when the 15th annual Loyola Budweiser Invitational Tournament began, but the honor was his after the Greyhounds topped Hartford, 1-0, in yesterday's championship game.
To put it bluntly, Townsend was pretty much a nonentity in his first three years at Loyola.
He was a third-team All-Metro forward for Centennial High in 1986, but had difficulty finding a niche with the Greyhounds, appearing in just eight games in his first two seasons. He earned a starting defender spot at the beginning of 1989, but returned to a substitute role when Loyola finished last season with an 8-0-2 upswing.
In the 1990 preseason prospectus, Townsend's name wasn't mentioned by coach Bill Sento. Townsend forced his way into the lineup during practice in August, however, and he's one of only four players who have started all 14 games. The Greyhounds wouldn't be 9-1-4 and knocking on the door of the national rankings without Townsend's work as a marking back.
Score one for perseverance.
"This is very satisfying," Townsend said even before he was announced as the tournament MVP. "There were times over the last three years when I wondered why I wasn't playing. The situation affects your ego and confidence. There's nothing you can do except keep working."
Townsend's practice habits kept him in good stead with Sento, and with his teammates. Of the many quality soccer players Columbia and Howard County have turned out in the last decade, few have entered Loyola. The Greyhounds have relied on talent from the Maryland Scholastic Association and New Jersey. Townsend was an outsider who fit in immediately, even if his game didn't.
"Over the last three years, Dave showed flashes of brilliance, but he was inconsistent," Sento said. "He would try to do too much. He's very versatile, but it was a 'jack of all trades, master of none' kind of thing. Now, he's mastered the role we've given him."
Before 1,050 fans at Curley Field yesterday, Townsend was charged with shadowing Hartford junior Vito Serafini, a two-time New England all-star with career numbers of 34 goals and 18 assists. He got off just two shots, as Townsend's work spurred Loyola's fourth shutout in its last five games.
It's a defense that needed introductions last year. Goalie Shawn Boehmcke and stopper Vince Moskunas (Calvert Hall) are sophomores. Sweeper Steve Nichols (Boys' Latin) is a senior, but he transferred in from James Madison last year. Most experienced is Stan Lembryk, a three-year starter who began at Loyola as a midfielder.
The Greyhounds beat St. Peter's 9-0 in Saturday's semifinals, but the goals didn't come as easily against Hartford. Sento was resting four starters for an anticipated overtime when one of the subs scored with just 6:15 left. Jim Garvey's first collegiate goal came courtesy of a Scott Geraghty cross from the left end line.
In addition to Townsend, the all-tournament team included Geraghty, Boehmcke, Garvey and Rob Elliott. Last year's Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Rookie of the Year, Elliott scored three goals on four shots Saturday, giving him 10 for the season and 18 for his career. Both he and Geraghty prepped at Calvert Hall.
The all-tournament team had three Hartford players, including Chris Love, a sophomore back out of Oakland Mills.
Loyola will try to extend its 13-game unbeaten streak next weekend, when it tries to crash the St. Louis Umbro Classic. The host Billikens, whom the Greyhounds play Saturday, are ranked No. 13 in the nation.