Bill Sento is rebuilding from a 12-8-2 season that was the worst since his first at Loyola College, in 1980. Five starters are wearing a Greyhounds uniform for the first time and the program is burdened by its membership in a weak soccer conference, but the phrase "at-large bid" has re-entered the Greyhounds' vocabulary.
Sento guided the Greyhounds to the NCAA quarterfinals in 1986 and 1987, but they haven't been back since. Two years ago, they lost only two of 23 games, but the NCAA selection committee said Loyola's schedule wasn't strong enough to warrant a berth in the 28-team field.
The college's administration passed on a chance to join the La Salle Explorers in a jump from the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference to the Midwestern Collegiate and its automatic bid in the summer of 1991. Sento is probably the only guy at Evergreen glad to see the Explorers go. It's one less no-win proposition on the schedule.
Loyola has won 27 straight games since entering the MAAC in 1989, and it outscored conference opponents 46-1 last year.
"The overall power rating of the MAAC dictates that we pick up as many top-rated teams as possible," Sento said. "I think our rating improved more last year when we lost to George Mason than when we beat St. Peter's. We have to beat the top teams in our region if we're going to get any attention."
The Greyhounds did so last Saturday in Norfolk, Va., when they beat Old Dominion, 3-2, in overtime. The South Atlantic Region coaches didn't update their top 10 this week, but the Monarchs were ranked No. 2 in the preseason behind defending NCAA champion Virginia, and won a scrimmage at UMBC.
Loyola had leads of 1-0 and 2-1 against Old Dominion, and VTC played a man down from the 53rd minute on before Dave Briles scored in overtime.
Briles, from Bowie, was one of five Loyola rookies Sento started. They'll catch their breath with three MAAC games, spend the last weekend of September in a tournament in Miami, and then play seven straight games at Curley Field against the likes of George Mason, Columbia, Howard and Boston University, a stretch that could keep them viable in the eyes of the NCAA selection committee.
Jays' costly scrimmage
Johns Hopkins linebacker Stu Markley, a Centennial Football Conference first-team all-star in 1990 and 1991, damaged knee ligaments in an intersquad scrimmage last week and probably won't play this season.
It was the latest setback for coach Jim Margraff's team, which is picked to finish third in the CFC. Record-setting quarterback John Guglielmo, another all-star, isn't enrolled this semester because of personal reasons. Mike McDermott, a returning starter on the offensive line, is probably out for the year with a knee injury, and wide receiver David Cosenza recently underwent minor back surgery.
Home at last
The fourth-year soccer program at the College of Notre Dame finally has its own field.
The Gators have been playing at Friends School across Charles Street, but an on-campus practice field received $10,000 worth of upgrades, just in time to help Notre Dame's planned push into the Division III regional picture.
Coach Gary Lynch started five freshmen a year ago, when Notre Dame posted its first winning record, 8-6, and there are four freshmen starters this year. Mercy's Becky O'Hanlon, Westminster's Lisa Hanle, Centennial's Corina Riis Mandel and Becky Thiele from Chesapeake-Anne Arundel will debut Saturday (1 p.m.) against Haverford.
UMBC's men are favored to win the Johns Hopkins-sponsored Metro Invitational cross country meet for the seventh straight time, Saturday (10 a.m.) at Wyman Park.
Juniors Scott Elwood (Edgewood) and Don Augustin (Centennial) and sophomore Dave Wall (Broadneck) are the top returnees. New Yorker John McCaskill is the best half-miler ever recruited by coach Jim Pfrogner, and Joe Drissel, a transfer from Maine, was the area's fastest miler for Oakland Mills High in 1990.