Inspired Hobart College was out to pull off a major upset over third-ranked Loyola College on its home turf and prove that the 15th-ranked Statesmen were something more than an automatic NCAA tournament qualifier from the Patriot League.
The Greyhounds, on the other hand, were trying not to look ahead to Charles Street rival Johns Hopkins next week and build up some momentum for the all-important month of May.
So Hobart might have accomplished its mission yesterday before a crowd of 1,432 at Curley Field if Loyola sophomore midfielder Michael Sullivan hadn't erupted for a career-high five goals and bailed his teammates out of a jam for a 17-13 victory.
Hobart (7-5) built a 5-2 lead with two minutes left in the first quarter and was still up, 5-3, at the end of the first 15 minutes before Sullivan began his five-goal and one-assist show early in the second period.
The 5-foot-11, 180-pound Sullivan has now racked up 21 goals and 10 assists this season for the 11-1 Greyhounds after scoring just one goal as a freshman, and almost everyone is astounded.
"I don't think anyone envisioned this from Michael last year," said Loyola coach Dave Cottle. "He was our best player today offensively. It's a testament to what kind of kid he is. He was our best player today offensively. He plays attack, midfield and defense and gives us a left-hand presence out there. He's played well in the big games for us."
So what changed Sullivan from a virtual non-factor on offense as a freshman to a player who outscored the likes of Gavin Prout (four goals, three assists) and Tim Goettelmann (two goals, one assist) yesterday?
"I think it's only my teammates," said Sullivan. "They passed the ball to me. I think most of my goals were off assists [three]."
When asked if the Statesmen were concentrating on Goettelmann and allowing him to roam free, Sullivan said, "All the teams watch everybody but me. That leaves me open."
While Sullivan excelled on offense, Loyola goalkeeper Jason Born made a career-high 18 saves against a well-orchestrated Hobart offense that had the ball most of the first quarter and peppered the net relentlessly.
"Those guys had quick releases, but their shots weren't too hard and that saved the day," said Born. "The coaches told me I played a super game, but I believe our defense played better than I did."
Jamie Breslin paced Hobart with three goals and two assists.
Born admitted Loyola was "looking ahead just a tad to Hopkins. It's just like a playoff game for us. If we win, we get a bye in the first round [of the NCAA tournament]." Enter Cottle.
"We've overachieved this season," he said. "We're 11-1 after 12 games and nobody in lacrosse felt we had a chance to do that. That was tremendous. Now, we have to be successful in May to define ourselves instead of letting everybody else define us. We have to sharpen up mentally and stay where we are physically."
When Cottle talks about everybody else defining the Greyhounds, he means his teams have been labeled as being basically unable to advance past the quarterfinals of the NCAA tournament after rolling up impressive regular-season records.
Loyola has been ousted in the quarters seven of the last nine seasons after playing in the championship game in 1990.
In the two other seasons since 1990, the Greyhounds lost in the semifinals and in the first round.