Loyola has a lot on the line Saturday

'This is an early playoff game for us,' Loyola coach says

May 04, 2010|By Mike Preston

Loyola coach Charley Toomey had arrived in Baltimore on a late-night flight from Denver just five hours before, and yet here he was in his office, already poring over game film of Johns Hopkins.

No. 12 Loyola will host No. 20 Hopkins on Saturday at the Ridley Athletic Complex in a game that will have significant playoff ramifications for both teams. The winner is not guaranteed to make the 16-team Division I playoff field.

"Our final game against Hopkins has always been meaningful, and this could determine for either team which one gets in and which one doesn't," Toomey said. "This is an early playoff game for us, and there will be a playoff-type atmosphere surrounding this game."

This was the type of scenario Toomey and the Greyhounds were trying to avoid. They were in the same situation a year ago, and Hopkins won, 11-10, in double overtime to eliminate the Greyhounds from playoff contention.

Loyola (9-3) could have earned an automatic qualifier Sunday with a victory over Denver in the Eastern College Athletic Conference championship game, but the Greyhounds were routed by the Pioneers, 12-4, to end Loyola's six-game winning streak.

Now, it's nervous time on the Loyola campus again.

"Obviously, we had the opportunity to get the AQ, and we didn't get the job done," Toomey said. "They did to us what we've done to a lot of teams this season, and that's slow the ball down. Now if we win, do I think Loyola has done enough to get in? I'm not sure, but there is still a lot of lacrosse left to play. We just have to take care of our business."

On paper, Loyola is easily one of the top 16 teams in the country. The Greyhounds have a good attack with Cooper MacDonnell, Matt Langan and Collin Finnerty, and they play good defense, led by goalie Jake Hagelin.

But when the selection committee meets, it's not just about pure talent. There are six conferences that have automatic qualifiers. The Atlantic Coast Conference will have all of its teams represented: Duke, Maryland, Virginia and North Carolina.

Syracuse is also a definite with an at-large bid, so that leaves a lot of teams competing for basically five spots. In other words, the Greyhounds will be on the proverbial bubble.

"I would like to see them get in," said ESPN analyst Paul Carcaterra, a former Syracuse All-American midfielder. "That's a well-coached team. Look at their midfield. Who plays midfield for them? And they still get production without a signature midfielder. How many recruits do they steal from a Syracuse, Hopkins or Maryland? None, and to win like they do is impressive.

"But you have to look at the whole body of work, and there aren't a lot of wins over big-name teams," Carcaterra said. "Regardless if they win, they might need some help from other teams to get in. That's what makes this so interesting and fun, and shows the beauty of the AQs."

Both Hopkins and Loyola have beaten Towson this year, so they'll be rooting for the Tigers to win the Colonial Athletic Association title this weekend because it makes them look more impressive. Loyola's big win this season was over No. 13 Georgetown, so if the Hoyas beat No. 6 Villanova on Saturday, the Greyhounds will get more favor among the selection committee.

"It get's kind of crazy this time of year," Carcaterra said. "I think the winner of the Georgetown-Villanova game goes to the tournament, so Loyola will be big Georgetown and Towson fans this weekend. Loyola didn't do Hopkins any favors by losing to Denver, because that takes something off their win if they beat Loyola."

"Look at Stony Brook," Carcaterra said. "Both Loyola and Hopkins hope they win the America East and get the AQ. If they don't, then the winner gets the AQ and Stony Brook will probably get an at-large bid, cutting down on the openings for a Loyola or Hopkins."

Ever since the loss to Denver, the seemingly endless scenarios have been dancing around Toomey's head. It was like this a year ago, when some of the Greyhounds vowed not to put their fate in the hands of the selection committee again.

But that didn't happen, and all the possible scenarios are meaningless if the Greyhounds don't win.

"That will obviously be the thing we stress this week," Toomey said. "We need to get it done. We need to take care of our business."

mike.preston@baltsun.com

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