At Loyola, self-belief starts with act of faith

Goalie Bloomquist has support of his coach

March 29, 2002|By Jeff Zrebiec | Jeff Zrebiec,SUN STAFF

Known for his fiery motivational speeches, Loyola's first-year men's lacrosse coach, Bill Dirrigl, made his strongest statement to goalie Mark Bloomquist earlier this season without saying a word.

Making only his second start since being pulled from a game against Hofstra a year ago, Bloomquist surrendered four first-quarter goals to the Pride, and no one could have blamed the junior for looking over at Dirrigl, expecting another call to the sidelines.

It never came.

"It was nice to know that the guys on the sideline had enough faith in me to get tougher and to make the saves I needed to make when it counted," Bloomquist said.

Bloomquist went on to shut out Hofstra in the fourth quarter of Loyola's 8-7 win in early March, and he's been rewarding Dirrigl's faith ever since.

Though hardly spectacular, the North County alumnus is ranked second in the country behind Maryland's Danny McCormick in goals-against-average, surrendering just 6.70 a game.

His performance tomorrow against a potent and desperate Towson may be the crucial factor for the No. 3-rank- ed Greyhounds (6-0) as they invade Minnegan Stadium, trying to stay undefeated.

Despite dislocating a finger on his right hand in practice yesterday, Bloomquist will play against the Tigers.

"The way we play defense, with our slide packages and with our clearing, we needed an experienced goalkeeper for us to be the best we can be," said Dirrigl, who spent seven years at Loyola as an assistant, then left to coach Rutgers for a year before returning to Loyola this fall after Dave Cottle took the Maryland job.

With the two other goalies on the Greyhounds' roster being freshmen, Dirrigl anointed Bloomquist, a player he recruited three years earlier, as the starter.

That was the first step in building up the confidence of his goalie, who admitted that losing his starting job had taken its toll.

"I felt like I started to look over my shoulder when I was or wasn't playing," Bloomquist said.

After spot duty as a highly touted freshman, Bloomquist appeared to have beaten out senior Jason Born to start that season against Delaware.

Bloomquist won his first career start, but things turned sour the next week against Hofstra, when he made only three saves while allowing eight goals in the first half.

Born came in, played well and started the rest of the season. Bloomquist, who would see only mop-up time the rest of the way, pointed the finger at no one but himself.

"I definitely got other chances," Bloomquist said. "Jay and I battled on a regular basis, but when it came down to it, he had a lot of leadership skills that I lacked."

This year, Bloomquist has gotten lots of help. On a team that gets significant minutes from eight or nine freshmen, the close defense consists of seniors John Brasko and Bryan England, and Michael Stromberg, who graduated in May, but is playing as a grad student.

With experience in front of him, Bloomquist, at 5 feet 11 and 165 pounds, has been able to focus on his own game, which has risen steadily since the start of the season.

"His ability to make inside saves when things break down has kept the goal numbers at bay," said Loyola assistant Charley Toomey, who works specifically with the goalies and the defense.

Said Stromberg: "He's matured, grown every game and has just been huge for us."

In an effort to take pressure off his goalie, Dirrigl has told Bloomquist to concentrate on directing the defense and the clearing game, rather than on his shot stopping. It is in those areas where Dirrigl says he is most satisfied with Bloomquist's performance.

"What he has done is taken a step back," Dirrigl said. "His willingness to work is his biggest asset. He's cleared his plate and broken himself down. He's a leader for us now, and the team believes in him. "

Quite an improvement, when you consider that 10 months ago, Bloomquist was having trouble believing in himself.

"I just think I grew up this year and am finally ready to handle the responsibility of playing full time," he said. "Looking back on it now, I feel like I wasn't mentally tough enough to be a Division I goalie my first two years.

"It was a growing process for me to learn the kind of pressure that's put on you to play every day, and to play well every day."

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