After riding out troubles, Loyola is in driver's seat Top-seeded Greyhounds favored vs. Georgetown

May 17, 1998|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,SUN STAFF

Loyola College wants its next visit to New Jersey to go smoother than its previous ride up the turnpike.

The Greyhounds are the surest bet in the quarterfinals of the NCAA lacrosse tournament. They are expected to beat Georgetown today (1 p.m.) at Byrd Stadium and move on to the final four at Rutgers, but coach Dave Cottle's team didn't stack up as No. 1 material last fall, when it was drubbed in Princeton's tournament.

Loyola went 0-5 in the main event of the non-traditional season, but there was a catch, since three of the Greyhounds' top players did not participate.

Four players in all weren't expected to join the team until the midway point of the regular season, but a successful appeal of their academic suspensions was made, and Loyola climbed the polls sooner than expected. It earned the No. 1 seed for the first time, but the campaign began with the Greyhounds' aspirations, like their roster, fuzzy and out of focus.

"Our team got rocked in the fall," Cottle said. "The fall should have been something that this program thoroughly enjoyed. Instead, it was miserable."

Midfielder Mark Frye and attackmen Gewas Schindler and Tim Goettleman, three of Loyola's top seven goal-scorers, began preseason preparation under the cloud of a six-game suspension. They tried to stay sharp in February, but Cottle prepared his team to play without them.

While Cottle readied substitutes to start, his captains took matters into their own hands. They appealed to the Honor Council, a board of 21 students that had levied the suspensions for violations of Loyola's academic code, which administrators and players declined to specify.

"We told them [the Honor Council] that it was right that there were sanctions of some kind, but we thought it was hurting the team as a whole," said Chris Georgalas, a senior attackman. "They understood. We've got a lot of seniors, and this is their last season. We've worked four years for this."

The week of the Feb. 28 opener at Hofstra, the Honor Council halved the suspensions to three games and ruled that they could be served on a rotating basis. Schindler didn't play against Hofstra, but Frye and Goettleman did. Those two missed the next game, an uninspired 12-6 loss to North Carolina.

LTC "The fall was difficult, but what hurt more was how we felt after the loss to North Carolina," Georgalas said. "That was real disappointing. At that point, the season could have went one way or another."

Since the North Carolina loss, Loyola has reeled off a school-record 11 straight wins. The Greyhounds didn't face the strongest schedule, but they beat Syracuse at the Carrier Dome and handled Johns Hopkins in their regular-season finale, an unparalleled double that elevated their status in the eyes of the NCAA lacrosse committee.

Syracuse and Hopkins are the only two programs with longer streaks in the NCAA tournament than Loyola, which was selected for the 11th straight year. Cottle is 147-61 in 16 seasons at Evergreen, and he said that this is the most physically talented team he has ever had, starting with Frye, a junior.

He came out of Severna Park High with a better background in football than lacrosse, but by last season Frye was a second-team All-American, the only Loyola player rated higher than honorable mention. He said that he didn't feel a part of the team last fall, but he was at the center of that landmark win at Syracuse.

That was the first game in which Cottle had all of his players available. Now he's got the only lacrosse power that doesn't play football one win away from its first final four berth since 1990. Loyola reached the championship game then, in only its third appearance in the playoffs.

"We were worried at first, but we also knew that it was a matter of time for us to come together," Georgalas said. "We have finally found the right team chemistry. We've learned to play together, but I still think we haven't played our best game."

Pub Date: 5/17/98

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