Nine recent Loyola University Maryland graduates faced another test May 19.
The five men's lacrosse team members and four of their female counterparts were honored in a special graduation ceremony May 17 in lieu of attending the school's 160th commencement two days later.
While their classmates were receiving their diplomas on a beautifully sunny day, the lacrosse players were otherwise occupied in the NCAA Division I quarterfinals — with mixed results.
The women's team fell to the University of Maryland Terrapins in College Park and the men gutted out their third consecutive victory of the season over the University of Denver at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis.
The men will meet XXXXX in Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass. in a national semifinal May 26.
At the special ceremony, Kip Fulks, Chief Operating Officer of Under Armour and a former lacrosse All-American at the University of Maryland, delivered the commencement address for women's team members Ana Heneberry, Kellye Gallagher, Kerry Stoothoff and Virginia Weber and for men's team members Pat Byrnes, J.P. Dalton, Dylan Grimm, Eric Tillman and Alex Yackery.
School president Rev. Brian F. Linnane urged all nine of them to "look deep within yourself, muster up your courage and unleash the 'Hounds," in their team's respective bids to reach the national semifinal round.
Boys' Latin grad Tillman, a reserve goalie, felt that he could have logged more playing time in another program, perhaps in Division III, but felt the urge to become the third generation of his family to grace the Evergreen campus.
The Phoenix resident said he felt "privileged to be part of the special ceremony. It brings us closer as a team, and it's a good bonding experience for the seniors."
Knowing how difficult it is to beat an opponent three times in a season, Tillman remained ever confident of his team's prospects for a positive outcome.
"I like our chances," he said.
Dulaney alum Ana Heneberry, whose brother, Jon, a junior midfielder at Calvert Hall, scored the final goal in the Cardinals' 17-3 victory over archrival Loyola Blakefield in the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference championship May 18, had a similar feeling about the Greyhound-Terp tussle.
The low defender wouldn't allow the Terps' higher seed or national reputation dissuade her from believing her team will prevail.
"They're stacked, and we know who they are," said Henebrry, a Timonium resident who helped the Lions to a Class 4A-3A state title as a junior. "But if you come in believing you're good enough, then you produce."
As for the ceremony, Heneberry's thumbs were up, way up.
"We actually wanted it this way," she said. "It was short and sweet and so personal. I'm grateful for what Loyola has done for us."