Using a goalie who's more comfortable at midfield -- better yet, at midcourt in basketball -- the Loyola lacrosse team is good enough to be playing in the NCAA Division I quarterfinals. Whether the Greyhounds can win at No. 1 North Carolina Sunday with Kevin Anderson in the cage is another matter.
Eighth-seeded Loyola had little trouble in the first round yesterday, blitzing Massachusetts 20-9 before 1,082 at Curley Field. The Greyhounds (9-3) will travel to Chapel Hill for Sunday's quarterfinals against the Tar Heels (13-0) at a time to be announced.
A junior from Loyola High, Anderson made 15 saves against the Minutemen. But he was never under the gun because Loyola broke away with six straight goals in a decisive nine-minute span of the first half. Already wilting from the 90-degree heat that was intensified by artificial turf, the Minutemen (10-4) just weren't sharp enough to test Anderson.
"They were using their third-string goalie; that was definitely in our heads," said UMass midfielder James Kushner. "We heard some rumors that we could exploit their goalie, but it just didn't work out. We kept shooting at him, hitting him with the ball. But he did a good job on rebounds."
Actually, rebounds aren't Anderson's specialty with the Loyola basketball team; his 20-foot jumpers are. A scholarship basketball player, he was the Greyhounds' third-leading scorer in 1990-91, averaging 11.6 points. When Loyola lacrosse opened March 2 with a 17-9 rout of Rutgers, Anderson was at the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference basketball tournament in Albany, N.Y.
When he returned, Anderson played the lacrosse team's next six games at midfield, getting two goals and an assist. With goalie Tim Dunigan out with a sprained shoulder, Andy Manos started against Duke on April 13, but Anderson was a late comeback sub because of his ability on clears. On April 20 at UMBC, Anderson was shuffled in as coach Dave Cottle's wild card. The competition hasn't been all that strong, but Loyola is 4-0 with Anderson in the goal.
"At first, I was lost in the goal," said Anderson, who played the position in high school but never at Evergreen. "I didn't know where I was, but [assistant coach] Charlie Toomey worked me every day after practice, sort of a crash course in college goaltending. The guys have put no pressure on me."
The stakes will rise Sunday in North Carolina, where Anderson will run into some old high school foes. Before April 20, his last game in the goal had been the Maryland Scholastic Association A Conference final in 1988. Loyola High lost to Boys' Latin, which sent area Player of the Year John Webster to the Tar Heels.
"Man, North Carolina's whole team is from the MSA," Anderson said. "I played in high school with Joe Breschi, Jim Buczek and Gregg Langhoff. Webster and Mike Thomas are from BL, Brian Kelly's from Calvert Hall, Alex Martin is from Gilman. That's going to be an interesting game."
Especially now that Loyola appears to have come out of its midseason slump. Yesterday, it pounced on a major break 7:31 into the game when Jim Blanding rolled for a 2-1 lead and Richard Mullins of UMass suffered torn knee ligaments.
Mullins is one of the top defensemen in New England. The Minutemen were already having trouble clearing the ball, and without him they fielded a most unpoised unit. Blanding, a first-team All-American last year, ran wild with five goals and an assist, and Chris Colbeck had two and two. Kevin Beach, the big sophomore from Mount St. Joseph, had four, and his brother XTC Gary, a defenseman, got in the act, getting a transition goal, the third of his collegiate career.
Since losing to Duke 11-10 on April 13, Loyola has outscored four opponents 68-27.
"At the beginning of the season, we forgot to look at short-term goals," said Cottle, whose team was the preseason No. 1 choice. "The long-term goal was winning the national championship."
That's one the Greyhounds can still get.