Only five programs have repeated as national champion – most recently in 2009 when Syracuse collected back-to-back NCAA titles. Loyola may have been one of the last teams to earn an at-large berth in the upcoming NCAA tournament, but the team has a chance to join the Orange, Johns Hopkins, Cornell, North Carolina and Princeton.
“Obviously, that’s the ultimate goal,” senior midfielder Davis Butts said Thursday. “The thing is, we have to take it one game at a time with the opponent that is ahead of us and not think about too far down the line because at this point, it’s one game or you go home. So you prepare as much as you can for the upcoming team and hope for the best and play the best you can.”
Ten days will have passed when the Greyhounds (11-4) meet seventh-seeded Duke (12-5) in Sunday’s first-round contest, which is the team’s longest layoff of the season. In addition to using the time to finish final exams and heal nagging injuries, Loyola needed the time to dispense with the memory of its last contest – an 18-11 shellacking at the hands of Ohio State in the semifinals of the Eastern College Athletic Conference tournament on May 2.
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“I think that’s one thing that time has kind of healed, that wound because it’s given us more time to focus on Duke,” coach Charley Toomey said. “We had gotten that Ohio State loss out of our memory by Monday or so, but because of the amount of time we’ve had to prepare for Duke, that’s where I believe our guys’ focus is at the moment.”
The Greyhounds know the cards are stacked against them in terms of trying to retain the national crown they captured last season. Last year, they were the top seed. This season, they are unseeded, and if they get past the Blue Devils, they may have to face second-seeded Notre Dame (10-4) in the quarterfinal round and either third-seeded Ohio State (12-3) or sixth-seeded Maryland (10-3) in a semifinal.
But Butts said the players welcome the challenge.
“You have a chip on your shoulder, and we understand that we’re a pretty good team,” he said. “We also understand that there were some teams that had better seasons, and we have to take it to them and they have to take it to us. We just want to play our best and hope for a good result.”