Top-seeded Loyola is the most balanced team, but unseeded Maryland will be the toughest to push out of the Division I men's lacrosse final four.
The four remaining teams were determined Sunday after No. 4 Notre Dame beat No 5. Virginia, 12-10, in one quarterfinal, and No. 3 Duke routed unseeded Colgate, 17-6, in the other.
Loyola (16-1) will meet Notre Dame (13-2) in one semifinal Saturday in Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass., and the Terps (11-5) will play Atlantic Coast Conference-rival Duke (15-4) in the other. The two teams each won a game in two previous contests this season.
The Loyola-Notre Dame matchup will draw a lot of interest because it pits the Greyhounds, who have one of the best offenses in the country, against the Fighting Irish, who have had a top five defense nationally the past six years.
Containing Loyola attackmen Eric Lusby (45 goals) and Mike Sawyer (51) isn't easy. There aren't many teams in the history of Division I lacrosse who have had two attackmen score nearly 50 goals in a season.
In Loyola's 10-9 quarterfinal win against Denver on Saturday at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, Sawyer was limited to one goal but Lusby had five and one assist. Loyola is strong at nearly every position, and its top 14 or 15 players are better overall than any of the remaining teams.
"I think we're just really happy we get to go to practice on Monday," said Loyola senior faceoff specialist J.P. Dalton. "I think that's probably the biggest thrill for us. I'm a senior. Eric is a senior. We have a couple other guys where this is our last hurrah. We're not looking to the next game. We'll address that when we have to. We're just really happy that we're not going home right now."
But now that they have gained postseason experience, one question remains: Can Loyola sophomore goalie Jack Runkel (.536 save percentage) handle the pressure coming up this weekend?
There certainly aren't any questions about Notre Dame goalie John Kemp. Along with Princeton's Tyler Fiorito, he is considered one of the best in the country, and anchors a defense that has allowed an average of just 6.17 goals. Kemp has a save percentage of .636. Because of him, Notre Dame will be tough to beat.
But the toughest team to eliminate will be Maryland. Of the four remaining squads, the Terps play with the most emotion, which is why they have been so inconsistent through the years. Even a year ago, Maryland played well in the Division I semifinals, beating Duke, 9-4. But the Terps turned in a lethargic effort two days later, losing 9-7 to Virginia in the championship game.
The Terps are on a mission. They lost 17 seniors from a year ago and want to prove they aren't rebuilding, just reloading. They still remember the taste from losing to Virginia last Memorial Day weekend.
Maryland blew out second-seeded Johns Hopkins, 11-5, in the quarterfinals Saturday, and few expected such a lopsided win, including Terps coach John Tillman. The Terps have been erratic all season, but they turned in their best performance of the season against Hopkins.
The Blue Jays were out-coached, out-hustled and played with little emotion. Maryland played a near-perfect game from the opening whistle. The Terps were patient and deliberate on offense, and physical and extremely active on defense.
Against Duke, Maryland will face one of the hottest teams in the country. The Blue Devils struggled early in the season, but they've restructured their offense and have won 12 out of their past 13 games.
Like Loyola, Duke is questionable in the goal with Dan Wigrizer. But in the ACC tournament semifinal nearly a month ago, Duke beat Maryland, 6-5.
And that's why Maryland will be the toughest out. The Terps want to avenge last month's loss to Duke and the setback to Virginia in the title game a year ago.
They've got more motivation going in than any other team.