Loyola defenseman Joe Fletcher challenges Maryland's… (Gene Sweeney Jr., Baltimore…)
Loyola head coach Charley Toomey thought assistant Dan Chemotti made perfect sense when he talked him into playing No. 3 Maryland in between games against Towson and UMBC.
And then Chemotti, the Greyhounds former defensive coordinator, took the head coaching job at Richmond.
"I must have been crazy at time," said Toomey, laughing one day after No. 1 Loyola (2-0) beat Towson, 14-9. "But Duke does it every year, and John Danowski does a great job of preparing his team."
"I think we will have a great group of seniors and this will help us prepare for the conference and possibly the NCAA tournaments," Toomey said. "I have told our players that we have put them in the toughest position a Loyola team has ever been put in."
That's part of what makes Saturday's game against Maryland (2-0) so fascinating. The other is that it's a rematch of the national championship game last May in which Loyola routed the Terps, 9-3.
How will both teams handle the emotion?
For Loyola, it would appear a major problem is trying to get emotionally up for another in-state rival after playing Towson, but Toomey sees it differently. At the end of last season, he thought his team came out too high against Johns Hopkins and created a deficit the Greyhounds couldn't overcome.
"I thought we had them sky high, and we found ourselves down, 6-1 at the end of the first quarter," Toomey said. "We know it's going to be a big crowd, but you can't get caught up in all the rah-rah. We have to play calm like we did in the final four, we have to stay focused and execute.
"As for knowing what happened last year, I don't think you can forget. But what I think is more important is to remember what this game is what Maryland is about. That's a key."
Maryland has the redemption factor, and it's also the first tough opponent the Terps will play this season after wins against Mount St. Mary's and Hartford.
But if you played for Maryland last season, it has to be hard to put away the championship defeat. The Terps were outplayed in almost every phase of the game.
They'll be seething coming out of the tunnel Saturday.
"I guess you can always look at it as if it will be, but for us seniors and older guys, it's something that we have to get across to the younger guys, that this is just another game," said Maryland senior midfielder John Haus. "It's nothing more than the last two games that we've played or the 10 or so more games that we're going to play the rest of the year. I think it's going to come down to the seniors just letting everybody know that it's just another game and that to be successful, we have to keep our emotions intact."
Oh, it sounds easy. But we're talking about the first really big game of the season. And we're talking about 18- to 20-year olds running on overdrive with adrenaline.
"It's good to show emotion, but sometimes you can't show too much emotion or show too little emotion," Haus said. "So you try to stay even with everything. It is nice to see a lot of emotion from people on the bench and the field, but at the same time, if we get scored on, we can't be down on ourselves. We've got to stay up and play all 60 minutes, and if it takes longer than that, then so be it."
"As a competitor, you never want to lose," Haus said. "You always go out there wanting to win and wanting to do your best. That's how we look at it. We don't necessarily look at it as a one vs. one thing. This is just the beginning of a very long season, but at the same time, if you're competitive and you want to be the best, you can't go into the game thinking about losing or anything like that .You go into the game confident and hoping that the outcome comes your way."
The game has a number of story lines. Toomey and Maryland coach John Tillman are best of friends. Both teams lost coordinators from a year ago; Chemotti with Loyola, and former Maryland defensive coordinator Kevin Warne is now the head coach at Georgetown.
Both teams have goalies — Niko Amato (Maryland) and Jack Runkel (Loyola) — who played well last season, but might become special if they can take their games to the next level in 2013.
Maryland might have the best starting midfield in the country with Haus, Mike Chanencuk and Jake Bernhardt, but Loyola certainly has the trio who can slow them down in Scott Ratliff, Josh Hawkins and Pat Laconi.
"They are well-coached and they play very fast," said Toomey of Maryland. "They've averaged like 49 shots and 19 goals in their first two games. They are well-balanced and very strong up the middle of the field. They can score left handed or right handled."
Tillman was just as impressed with Loyola's fast pace on offense.
"They are a very dangerous team on the transition," Tillman said. "We have to make sure we get back defensively, and at least get them 6-on-6 as much as possible. We have talked about last year's game and I have told our players last year was last year, and there is nothing that we can do to change that. This year is this year and it presents a whole new set of challenges."
The first big one is Saturday against Loyola.