Loyola needs to translate the buzz to quality wins


College lacrosse

April 18, 2007|By MIKE PRESTON

In the beginning of the season, there were whispers in college lacrosse circles that Loyola was back to the form that made it a national power from the late 1980s into the 1990s. Current Loyola coach Charley Toomey is one of those believers.

But on the field, the Greyhounds have yet to prove it.

There have been signs the previous two years, like the win against Georgetown in 2006 and the upset of Syracuse this season. But every time Loyola takes a step forward, it goes backward. Toomey wants to end that trend Saturday, when the Greyhounds (5-4) host Fairfield in an Eastern College Athletic Conference game.

"I believe," said Toomey, in his second year after going 6-6 last season. "I know our kids have learned a great deal through the years, on how to run on the field, how to slow it down. They know we can beat a Georgetown or a Syracuse, and that's a big part of where we are. If we're not back to where we used to be, we're doggone close."

Again, it has to be proved on the field. The old Loyola could sustain winning streaks. The current version has yet to prove it can handle success, the sign of a quality program.

Last year some people thought Loyola had arrived when it beat Georgetown, 14-10, in its ninth game. But the Greyhounds followed that win with a 13-12 loss to Fairfield, a game that eventually cost them a playoff spot. They split the two remaining games, losing the last one to Johns Hopkins, 7-6, in overtime.

This season, Loyola had a stunning breakthrough with an 8-7 win over Duke in the fourth game. The Greyhounds won three more, including an 11-10 victory over Syracuse. But since then the Greyhounds have lost two straight, including 17-7 to Rutgers a game after Syracuse. That was the biggest upset of the college lacrosse season. Loyola was totally embarrassed.

In Loyola's glory days, a game against Rutgers was nothing more than an exhibition. This was hardly the old Loyola. Toomey knows about those good days. He was a third-team All-American goalie as a senior in 1990 and had a 25-5 overall record. He started for the Greyhounds against Syracuse in the 1990 NCAA championship game, which Loyola lost, 21-9.

Toomey also talks with the man who built Loyola into a national power, Dave Cottle, now the coach at Maryland.

"That's the first thing Coach Cottle said," Toomey said. "You've learned how to win, but now you have to learn how to deal with success. We went up to Rutgers flat and didn't play a good lacrosse game. I have to give Rutgers credit because we allowed a young team to hang around, and they played with great energy. They reminded me of where we were three years ago.

"There are some things I would have done differently as well. I allowed 33 of our players to leave directly from Rutgers for Easter and spring break, and we played like we weren't there, like we weren't focused. I would probably handle that differently. But that's over. We responded with a good effort ... against Georgetown in a loss, but I think we're back to where we were. We now face a Fairfield team that kept us out of the postseason a year ago."

It's a pivotal game because Loyola has Hobart at home and Hopkins on the road to close out the season. As far as postseason ambitions, the Greyhounds really have only one quality win (Duke) because Syracuse is struggling to get into the postseason.

Toomey has a point. The Greyhounds are on the verge of a possible breakthrough. They have some good young players on the roster like sophomores Jimmy Daly, a midfielder, and attackmen Michael Crimmins and Jake Willcox. With Toomey as his personal coach, sophomore Alex Peaty seems destined to become one of the best goalies in the game.

Loyola isn't going to impress anybody with stick skills like Duke, or size like Georgetown, but the Greyhounds have athleticism. They have players who hustle, win games in transition and occasionally score on six-on-six opportunities.

But it would be nice to see Loyola re-establishe itself. The school hasn't had a winning season in four years and hasn't been to the NCAA tournament since 2001, Cottle's last year with Loyola. The Greyhounds have gone through two coaches since then, with Toomey replacing Bill Dirrigl at the start of last season.

"Fairfield is a good team; they've got some big athletes that remind me of Georgetown," Toomey said. "They have a midfielder who can play with anybody in the country, and two attackmen who can catch and make plays. Just like Georgetown, we're going to need to be able to handle the pressure. We need to move off the ball, and make those second and third passes.

"In the last five or six weeks, I've seen our kids turn it up a notch as far as practice," Toomey added. "They practice really hard. What I've seen are kids walking around feeling good about themselves, and their chins are sticking out. Our kids have been through a lot over the years, and we've made a lot of progress. I think we're there. Now, it's time to get it going again. These last couple of games are huge for us."


Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.