Loyola's Eric Lusby saves best performance for last

Greyhounds attackman sets tournament record for goals in win over Maryland

  • Loyola's Eric Lusby scored four goals, giving him an NCAA tournament-record 17.
Loyola's Eric Lusby scored four goals, giving him an NCAA… (Baltimore Sun photo by Gene…)
May 28, 2012|Mike Preston

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — — Sometime in the near future, Loyola needs to hang a portrait of attackman Eric Lusby in the hallways of Ridley Athletic Complex with his elbows away from his body, arms extended and ready to shoot.

That's what we kept seeing here all weekend -- Lusby showing that perfect form and finishing goal after goal after goal. Lusby wasn't just hot in championship weekend; he was phenomenal throughout the NCAA Division I tournament, setting a record with 17 goals in four games.

He mesmerized the announced 30,816 at Gillette Stadium again Monday, scoring four more goals as No. 1 seed Loyola defeated unseeded Maryland, 9-3, in the national championship game.

It was a great encore performance.

"It's pretty hard to explain," Lusby, a graduate student and Severna Park alumnus, said about his last few games. "I knew going into the tournament my shot was a little off. I kept missing the cage, so I knew I wanted to shoot for net. But I have to give credit to all the other guys in the offense.

"From the middies to Davis Butts and Pat Byrnes and all those guys. They were dodging hard all weekend and drawing slides and giving me the opportunities I had. And Mike Sawyer drawing attention on his side of the field. When I had the opportunity to shoot and score, I wanted to make sure I made it count."

Lusby loves to give his teammates credit, and he should. He isn't a great dodger, but he's no statue either. He had 17 assists this season to go along with 54 goals, which means he doesn't mind sharing the ball. But the Greyhounds didn't ask him to do much other than finish.

It's a classic work of art when he does. Just ask Maryland. On Lusby's first goal in the first quarter, he drove Maryland defenseman Goran Murray to the right of the crease and then turned back to finish with his left hand.

The fourth quarter belonged to Lusby as he scored three goals. The first was off a feed from junior attackman Chris Layne early in the period, and the second was vintage Lusby; he took a feed from Sawyer and stuck it in the back of the net before goalie Niko Amato realized what happened.

The final goal came with 3:45 remaining as Maryland pulled Amato in an attempt to win back the ball and Lusby scored on an empty net. That was the record-setter, which also finished the Terps.

One of the first players to celebrate with Lusby was Sawyer, a junior attackman. Because Sawyer scored 52 goals this season, a lot of teams either shaded or slid their defenses toward him.

With Sawyer on one side, Lusby became just as deadly on the other.

"It's unreal. We joke back and forth that he's my P.I.C. -- my partner in crime," Sawyer said. "He's my lefty counterpart. It's just awesome having him and when you're having an off game, he steps in and just relieves all that pressure to make plays. It's awesome playing with him.

"We connect on the field and off the field. We're good friends, and that does translate into us making plays on the field. We get along real well. I was joking with him in there and calling him a jerk. I broke a record [for most goals in a season] in the [regular] season, and then he comes back and breaks it in the postseason. But if there's one person I want ahead of me in that, it's Lusby."

Lusby, who just completed his fifth year, thought about not playing this season. He played two games a year ago, but after consultingwith coach Charley Toomey, it was decided that it would be better if he redshirted because he had not fully recovered from a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee.

Lusby wanted to go out with his graduating class but finally decided to stay.

"We had every thought of having Eric back at attack last year," Toomey said. "In fact, when we opened the season with the Naval Academy, Eric ran out there as our starting attackman. And then we had to shut him down. He wasn't ready to play. He was shut down very early in the season and went back into rehab."

It's a good thing they did. Lusby was the Greyhounds' top offensive player during the tournament. He reminded Toomey of some other outstanding Loyola performers like Gewas Schindler, Tim O'Shea and Mark Frye, "guys who could stretch it, all guys that shot with great velocity," Toomey said.

Late in the game Monday, some of Lusby's current teammates were talking to him about approaching the tournament record for goals scored.

"People were saying stuff about it throughout the game," Lusby said. "But it wasn't a goal. We wanted to win a national championship, and if I had to score however many goals to get that done, I was going to do it. Obviously, it means something right now. But the goal was to win a national championship."

Mission accomplished.

mike.preston@baltsun.com

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