On the morning after recording one of their bigger men's lacrosse victories in recent seasons, the Loyola Greyhounds were not shocked they had taken down top-ranked Duke.
In the previous two years, as the No. 20 Greyhounds have been trying to rebuild their program and get back to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2001, Loyola had lost twice to the Blue Devils by a combined three goals.
Late Saturday night in the featured contest of the 2007 First 4 event at the University of San Diego's Torero Stadium, Loyola got over the hump in dramatic fashion. The Greyhounds scored two goals in the final 73 seconds, and senior midfielder Greg Leonard's goal with 38 seconds left lifted Loyola to a come-from-behind, 8-7 victory.
"We haven't had the best seasons for the past three years. We have a lot of seniors who are trying to be leaders," said Leonard, who was preparing to fly home with the rest of the team yesterday. "It was all about heart and hustle. It was one of the greatest feelings I've ever had. It was surreal."
One week after Loyola (2-2) scored seven fourth-quarter goals - including two in the last 22 seconds - to pull out a 10-9 win at Penn State, the Greyhounds one-upped themselves.
Their man-to-man defense, led by senior defenseman Michael Graham, junior defenseman Eddie Graham and sophomore goalie Alex Peaty, shut down Duke's potent, one-two scoring punch. Senior attackman Matt Danowski scored two goals. Junior attackman Zack Greer did not score a goal.
Loyola's ball-control offense, sparked by senior Dan Kallaugher, who won eight of the game's first 10 faceoffs, worked well early, and the Greyhounds led 6-3 in the fourth quarter.
But the Blue Devils finally caught fire and went on a 4-0 run. Danowski tied it with 5:24 left, and midfielder Ned Crotty gave Duke a 7-6 lead with 4:14 to go with his third goal of the period.
"I didn't see one head drop. The kids never stopped believing," Loyola coach Charley Toomey said.
Leonard said: "We just took a deep breath and said, `Let's go get another goal.' We've been here before."
The Greyhounds took only four shots in the final quarter, but they made them count. After a forced turnover, Loyola senior midfielder Andrew Spack tied the game at 7-7 with 1:13 left. That set the stage for Leonard's game-winner.
Duke (4-1) became the fourth top-ranked team to lose this year. Loyola returns to Eastern College Athletic Conference action Saturday against visiting St. John's. And the Greyhounds will seek to handle success better than they did last year.
A week after beating No. 2 Georgetown last year, Loyola dropped a road game against Fairfield. That ruined their chances of making the NCAA tournament.
"Our main goal is not to give anything back. We want to have a hard week of practice this week," Leonard said. "It's the heart of the season. We know anything can happen. We have to go on a roll."