Throughout the week Loyola College lacrosse players have tried to avoid talk about playoffs.
But it seems that the No. 7 Greyhounds' 2 p.m. game today with No. 8 Towson State at Curley Field goes hand in hand with postseason ambition.
"That's been one of our problems," said Loyola attackman and captain Sean Smith. "We worry about long-term goals instead of short-term goals.
"We're going to try and put the playoffs out of our minds, and just concentrate on the game," Smith said. "I admit, though, it's hard not to do."
This was supposed to be a year of great expectations for Loyola, which returned eight of 10 starters from last year's team, which lost to Syracuse in the national championship game.
But the Greyhounds (4-2) hardly have coasted this season.Tied for the No. 1 ranking in the preseason poll, Loyola was beaten badly by Virginia, 17-10. And then, despite having a four-goal lead with less than eight minutes left in the game, the Greyhounds were upset, 14-13, last Saturday by Brown at home, where Loyola had won 22 consecutive regular-season games.
Now with two losses, Loyola needs a victory over Towson to maintain credibility. And this Towson team, also looking for postseason action, may be the best in recent years.
"I think we expected too much from ourselves after last year," Loyola defender Tom Johnson said. "A lot of us thought it was just going to happen, that we automatically were going to appear in the playoffs.
"But I think we have gotten a lot of things straight and we're going to be more disciplined," Johnson said. "We're looking at Towson State right now, and before it's all done, we're going to be in the Final Four."
In other key games involving state teams today, No. 2 Johns Hopkins will play at No. 1 North Carolina at 2 p.m., No. 6 Maryland at No. 3 Virginia at 2 p.m. and Army at No. 10 Navy at 1:30 p.m.
Loyola's biggest problem has been failing to put other teams away after getting big leads (for example, its 6-1 lead in the first period over Virginia).
Towson, meanwhile, has been inconsistent and too aggressive on defense. The Tigers have been called for 30 penalties for 29 minutes.
Towson's program hasn't gotten the national recognition the Greyhounds have in recent years. With another loss, the Tigers probably would go on the playoff bubble.
"We have to look at every game as an important game. We can't afford to break down," Towson coach Carl Runk said.