Loyola's Toomey has soft spot for Naval Academy

Greyhounds coach was head coach at NAPS, assistant for varsity team

February 19, 2010|By Edward Lee | edward.lee@baltsun.com

No matter the outcome of Saturday's men's lacrosse game between Loyola and Navy, the Midshipmen will stand near the southern end of Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium and sing the "Navy Blue and Gold" song at game's end.

And Charley Toomey will likely join them.

That might seem odd considering that Toomey, as the coach of the Greyhounds, will do everything in his power to guide his team to a victory over Navy. But he is the former head coach of the Naval Academy Prep School team and a former assistant coach for the varsity squad, and Toomey's link to the Midshipmen still resonates with him today.

"I know I will," Toomey said, adding that the Loyola players will also remain on the field with their counterparts. "We will stand and honor their tradition. I remember talking to Coach [Dave] Cottle [of Maryland] a couple weeks ago about being prepared for the national anthem. They brace up, and you don't want your kids moving during the national anthem. It's a sign of respect."

The noon game resumes a series that had been in hibernation for years. The teams most recently met May 15, 1993, in the NCAA tournament, but the last regular-season contest took place April 3, 1943. Toomey and Navy coach Richie Meade said they decided to revive the series while poring over their respective schedules last summer.

Loyola's traditional first opponent, Notre Dame, was joining the Big East Conference and needed to adjust its schedule. The same situation existed with Ohio State, which was moving to the Eastern College Athletic Conference - the same league that the Greyhounds play in - and had played the Midshipmen early in the season in the past.

Perhaps the most significant factor was that Loyola and Navy are separated by less than 30 miles, and the schools could perhaps stir a local rivalry that strengthens both teams' resumes without incurring a large expense for travel.

"We agreed that a 45-minute trip might be more beneficial to our schools and less expensive in terms of finances," Meade said half-jokingly. "It seemed like it made a lot of sense, and it certainly is going to help both teams' strength of schedule."

Returning to Annapolis recalls many fond memories for Toomey, who was the head coach at NAPS and an assistant for head coach Bryan Matthews in 1994 and Meade in 1995.

Just three years removed from his senior season as an All-America goalie with the Greyhounds, Toomey taught tennis, bowling and hand-to-hand combat as a physical education teacher at Navy. More importantly, working with the Midshipmen helped launch his coaching career, which took him to Severn School and back to Loyola, where he spent seven years as an assistant coach before becoming the head coach for the 2006 season.

"I remember working with great kids, kids for whom it's more than about lacrosse," Toomey said. "The NAPS kids I worked with had a determination to get down to the Yard, and then having an opportunity to work with Coach Matthews in 1994 and Coach Meade in 1995, it was my first chance away from Dave Cottle and the staffs at Loyola at a Division I program. So I think I was really excited to be a part of Division I lacrosse and start my career."

Eric Kapitulik, a former Navy defenseman who founded a company called The Program, which develops leadership for college teams including the Midshipmen and the Greyhounds, was a junior when Toomey was an assistant coach in 1994. Kapitulik said the values Toomey held dear back then remain true today.

"There are no hidden agendas with Charley Toomey," he said. "What you see is what you get. It's one of the reasons why, as a player, you loved playing for him, and now working with him as one of our clients, I love working with him. ... He's not going to say, 'You're playing great,' and then you find yourself sitting on the bench. He's not going to say, 'Hey, we love working with you,' and then we get feedback from high school coaches saying, 'Charley was kind of ambivalent about you.' He tells it like it is, and you know where you stand with him all the time as a player and now working with him."

Toomey's affection for the Midshipmen has sometimes filtered into his recruiting pitches. He acknowledged that when a potential recruit would mention Navy, he would speak glowingly of that program, which earned him a few awkward stares from his assistants.

But Toomey said he won't feel conflicted about whom to root for Saturday.

"I do have a soft spot in my heart for the Blue and Gold," he said. "But there's no doubt that I want my team to win."

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