Win over Denver could be crown jewel of Loyola's tournament resume

Reigning national champion Loyola’s showdown with top-ranked Denver this Saturday at Ridley Athletic Complex will probably be the first of two meetings between these Eastern College Athletic Conference rivals and potentially the first of three contests.

The No. 8 Greyhounds (9-2 overall and 5-0 in the league) and the Pioneers (9-2, 4-0) are vying for the top seed in the conference tournament, and a loss for either team will likely mean a No. 2 seed. But coach Charley Toomey said a victory would enhance Loyola’s RPI, which is ranked 10th in the first list released by the NCAA. (Denver’s RPI is ranked No. 2.)

“I really believe that it’s important for us because Denver has a good win on their resume,” Toomey said Wednesday morning. “This is a top five opponent that we have an opportunity to play at home. So regardless of what happens in the second game, you need to have these types of wins on your resume. So I do believe it’s an important game for both programs in terms of Selection Sunday and seeding. It might be a more beneficial win for Loyola than for Denver at this point, but it is a conference game that we’ve got a great rivalry with, and our kids are going to be sky high and I’m sure that the Denver kids are going to be sky high. It’s going to be a terrific day on campus.”

Saturday’s game will include a pre-game ceremony honoring the 13 seniors on the roster. The last time the Greyhounds took part in such festivities, they suffered their first loss in 13 contests when they dropped a 10-9 overtime decision to Johns Hopkins on April 29.

Toomey admitted that the coaches and players have spent more time discussing the setback to the Blue Jays this week.

“The reason for that is that it is our Senior Day,” Toomey said. “So we’re out of our element a little bit in terms of a pre-game schedule, and I think last year, we learned a very valuable lesson about coming out and playing with so much emotion not only because it’s a big game, but because we’re out of our routine. Hopefully, we learned from that experience and we just need to come in and win the first quarter. We need to play with energy, but play within ourselves. We’ve leaned more on that game than any one Denver game. This is a big game, no doubt about it. It’s a huge conference game for both programs, but it’s still very early in the season, and there’s still a lot of lacrosse left.”