Loyola's lacrosse seniors are going to miss graduation.
They couldn't be happier.
Commencement exercises will be held Saturday, but Tim McGeeney, Matt Dwan and company have other important business on Charles Street, where they'll face top-ranked Johns Hopkins in the quarterfinals of the NCAA tournament.
That assignment -- and a more private graduation ceremony Friday -- was made possible by the Greyhounds' 17-11 thrashing of North Carolina in the first round of the tournament yesterday before 2,200 at Curley Field.
It wouldn't have been possible without the guidance of a senior class that hasn't had much to crow about in Mays past. Loyola's senior class was 1-3 in the NCAA tournament, and that wasn't the kind of legacy it wanted to leave behind.
"For the most part, the NCAA tournament has been a frustrating experience for us," defenseman Dwan said. "Because of that, this was probably the most important game I've ever played. The thought of packing up and moving out of my dorm after today was unthinkable."
After the eighth-seeded Greyhounds moved out to leads of 4-0 in the first quarter and 10-2 in the second, the idea that the Tar Heels could bounce back was also incomprehensible.
Not with McGeeney in the goal, making 22 saves and adding to his All-America candidacy.
Not with Dwan's long stick taking Jason Wade, one of UNC's top midfielders, completely out of the game.
Not with Del Halladay collecting four goals, and Zach Thornton, another senior midfielder, getting two goals and two assists.
Loyola (11-3) was all over North Carolina (9-7) from the start. Thornton, Halladay, Dwan and freshman attackman Tim O'Shea had the Greyhounds on a goal-a-minute pace en route to that 4-0 lead.
The Tar Heels contributed to Loyola's effort by throwing more bad passes than Jim Kelly in a Super Bowl, and the score was 13-4 when Halladay got his final goal six minutes into the third quarter.
North Carolina, which had made up all of a five-goal, fourth-quarter deficit in an overtime loss to Loyola in March, composed itself and had a chance to get within three with seven minutes left, but this was too big a hole.
"Having a lead like that makes it so much easier on us," Dwan said. "We could play more zone, take time off the clock, get some rest and make North Carolina move the ball around more. We were glad to give them the outside shots. If teams have to shoot from 10 to 12 yards out on Tim [McGeeney], we're OK."
Loyola has played well recently -- it lost by a goal in the regular-season finale at Hopkins -- and coach Dave Cottle was visibly pleased with his most lopsided win ever over North Carolina. He called it the Greyhounds' best postseason effort since 1991, when they lost to an unbeaten Tar Heels team in the quarterfinals.
"I think the difference in the game was our clears," Cottle said. "In the game down there [at North Carolina on March 11], we had trouble clearing the ball. That wasn't the case today, and we got to play a lot of offense against their short sticks. The seniors were also a big factor. We've got them. They don't."
It was an ignominious finish for UNC's veterans. Midfielder Ousmane Greene was out with a broken leg. Defenseman Steve Schreiber, their only Atlantic Coast Conference all-star, lamented the Tar Heels' lack of team play. Goalie Rocco D'Andraia had a horrible first quarter and was benched for the second.
The result was that North Carolina failed to reach the quarterfinals for the first time since 1979, and its first seven-loss season since the Tar Heels went 0-7-1 in 1967.
"I know what it's like to have a senior team and be confident," North Carolina coach Dave Klarmann said. "We're not at that stage right now."
The Tar Heels were led by two juniors. Brendan Carey had a career-high six goals, and Spencer Deering, who was shifted back to attack, had a career-high five assists.