A win this Saturday against No. 13 Johns Hopkins would strengthen No. 7 Loyola’s bid for an at-large spot in next month’s NCAA tournament. It would also do away with this pesky matter of a 13-game losing streak to the Blue Jays.
The Greyhounds haven’t won a contest in this series since 1999 – a slide that includes last year’s 10-9 overtime loss en route to capturing the school’s first Division I national championship in any sport. Ending that skid is a weighty motivation for the players.
“You don’t want a 13-game losing streak to any team,” junior defenseman Joe Fletcher said. “There was something that Coach [Charley] Toomey brought to the team’s attention, and he didn’t make a big deal about it, but we just talked about our senior class and [long-stick midfielder] Scott Ratliff and [short-stick defensive midfielder] Josh Hawkins and [defenseman] Reid Acton – the guys on the defensive end – have done so much for this program and elevated us from where we were during their freshman year. Coach said, ‘Let’s get them to go out with a bang.’ They’ve done so many things for this program, but the one thing they haven’t done yet is beat Hopkins. So we want to get after it. I think that’s pretty special.”
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Loyola has two avenues to qualify for the NCAA tournament and try to retain that national title. Aside from defeating the No. 13 Blue Jays (8-4), the other road entails capturing the Eastern College Athletic Conference tournament next weekend and seizing the automatic qualifier associated with that title.
The ECAC tournament – where the No. 7 Greyhounds (10-3) are currently the top seed but will drop to No. 2 if No. 6 Denver beats Michigan on Saturday – might be one reason why Toomey isn’t putting too much of an emphasis on Saturday’s road contest.
“We don’t talk about it as being a must-win,” he said of the game against the Blue Jays (8-4). “We’re fortunate that we have three resume-type games on our schedule at this point, and we feel like we’ve got to finish strong. If you want to play well in May, you’ve got to get it done in early May or late April. We feel like we’re playing pretty good lacrosse right now, and Johns Hopkins seems to be playing good lacrosse right now. We’re expecting a great environment down there on Saturday.”
While conceding that it’s difficult to avoid thinking about the postseason, Fletcher said he and his teammates are concentrating on the Blue Jays, not the ECAC or the NCAA tournaments.
“I think our team does a very good job of taking every game game-by-game,” Fletcher said. “We can’t really worry too much about the future, especially in lacrosse. Today, anyone can beat anyone. That’s one thing that I’ve learned and realized over the last couple weeks. Like Coach Toomey says, he’ll worry about that stuff, and we’ll just worry about each game. That’s our focus now.”