Loyola puts its trust in Mettrick

School was patient choosing new men's soccer coach

State notebook

January 14, 2000|By Christian Ewell | Christian Ewell,SUN STAFF

In about 2.2 seconds, Loyola could have found its replacement for Bill Sento as its men's soccer coach.

Mark Mettrick was local, mobile and talented -- a coach who was 45 minutes away at Mount St. Mary's, ready and eager to move on to a bigger program and good enough that his teams put scares into nationally ranked teams this season.

But 2.2 seconds turned into two months before Father Harold Ridley, Loyola's president, and Joseph Boylan, the athletic director, finally announced Mettrick's hiring on Tuesday.

In fact, the Greyhounds didn't want to hurry, according to Ridley. "The biggest thing was to get a sense of what the [applicant] pool was like," he said.

The school hoped its past glories would translate into interest in the job from head coaches or assistants at top 25 heavyweights. But when you take two months, then hire someone right underneath your nose, it's a case of Kelly Preston starring in a role because Julia Roberts isn't interested.

Stealing from the Mount St. Mary's program, which has never won the Northeast Conference, might have been a sign that memories of a No. 1 ranking and a near win over top-ranked Virginia in 1993 fade quickly.

The Greyhounds have not won the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, one of the nation's weakest, since 1996.

So, with candidate Pete Caringi locked up when UMBC extended his contract, Loyola went with Mettrick over several other candidates.

In time, the decision may come to be seen as a shrewd one, as Mettrick has shown a knack of getting the most out of the small amount of resources available to him at the Mount, one of the most modest athletic departments in Division I.

Still, the former Baltimore Blast star twice led the Mountaineers to the NEC finals, most recently in early November. And twice, he directed a composed and well-prepared team to near upsets on the road against nationally ranked NCAA tournament participant UMBC.

Now, Mettrick -- a United Kingdom native who considers Baltimore his home -- gets to see what he can do at a school committed enough to devote 10 scholarships to soccer, 2 1/2 times as many as he had at Mount St. Mary's. Not to mention the natural-grass soccer stadium that Loyola plans to build in north Baltimore.

"I look at it as an opportunity to coach at the highest level," Mettrick said. "It's sad to leave Mount St. Mary's, but in another way, they said there will be a time when you must move on."

Immediately, Ridley and Boylan hope that Mettrick can elevate the current Greyhounds past the 13-6-2 record of 1999, and also re-establish the school in the Baltimore-D.C. recruiting scene. The latter emphasis was underscored as Loyola was surpassed in recent years by both Towson and UMBC.

"We expect to see a different level of play right away," Ridley said. "When we get a grass field, we hope that we'll get to the top 25 level."

Et cetera

Mount St. Mary's home game at 3 p.m. tomorrow against the St. Francis (Pa.) women could be the one Division I basketball matchup worth watching this weekend. The UMBC's men's basketball team continues to struggle, but Justin Wilson earned Rookie of the Week honors from the NEC after 28 points, 11 rebounds and three steals in a pair of games last week. Just as she had in volleyball, Catonsville product Shannon Rexrode dominates in basketball. The senior is averaging 22 points and 9.5 rebounds for the women's team at Frostburg State.

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