As a result of losing, 18-11, to No. 8 Ohio State in the semifinal round of the Eastern College Athletic Conference tournament last Thursday night, No. 5 Loyola had no choice but to sit back and wait for the NCAA selection committee to decide the team’s postseason fate.
The reigning national champion (11-4) got the good news it was seeking when it was pitted against No. 4 and seventh-seeded Duke (12-5) in Sunday’s first round. It was a huge relief, according to coach Charley Toomey.
“It was pretty nerve-wracking,” he acknowledged Sunday night. “If you were watching the show, we were one of the last ones announced, and there was a huge roar in our room over at Ridley [Athletic Complex]. The guys have an opportunity and I think they recognize that. … We just have an opportunity, and we’re thankful for that.”
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By securing a spot in the 16-team field, the Greyhounds avoided joining the 1972 Cornell team and the 2004 Virginia squad as schools to miss the NCAA tournament after winning the national title the previous year. Selection committee chairman Jim Siedliski said one factor in Loyola’s inclusion was the absence of a bad loss on its resume, which Toomey had hoped would be considered.
“I was just hopeful that average RPI loss was going to be part of it, and I think from the top to the bottom, they held true to looking at RPI and looking at losses,” he said. “I think that played a large part in it. I felt pretty good today as I was sitting down and really looking at the numbers. We have a very good chance, but again, it was out of your hands, and there are teams that are left out that had superb seasons. I’ve been there. They probably have it in their own minds that they have a right to be there, and they did. We’re just thankful that we have the opportunity.”
Loyola might be the underdog against the Blue Devils, but ESPN analyst and former Johns Hopkins All-American goalkeeper Quint Kessenich named the Greyhounds as his sleeper and even said that they would win the crown again. Toomey took the vote of confidence in stride.
“I didn’t hear him say that, but somebody texted me that,” he said. “Right now, all we’re going to focus on is Duke University. That’s what these guys are wired to do. Go one game at a time and not look ahead. We’ll see where it takes us, but I’m just happy we’re practicing tomorrow.”