By Nelson Coffin, firstname.lastname@example.org
May 25, 2012
A cautionary tale ran through Conor Doyle's mind as the University of Virginia tried desperately to rally against the University of Notre Dame in a Division I national quarterfinal May 20.
Having taken a 12-8 lead with 1:36 remaining in the game, the Fighting Irish rookie attackman from Towson knew that the defending champion Cavaliers and Roland Park native Steele Stanwick weren't about to surrender without a fight.
Doyle, one of the architect's of perhaps the greatest comeback in local prep sports history, Gilman's 7-6 overtime stunner of Boys' Latin in a Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference semifinal last spring, was convinced the game was not over.
He only had to reflect on what the Greyhounds accomplished in a lot less time — a 35-second scoring frenzy — to send the battle against the Lakers into overtime last May, and win it shortly thereafter, 7-6.
For that reason alone, Doyle knew the Irish could ill afford to relax against such a quality opponent.
"We had the lead, and we might have been thinking about how all our hard work had paid off to get to the Final Four," said Doyle, who shared 2011 Towson Times/Baltimore Messenger Player of the Year honors with former Gilman teammate and current Virginia midfielder Ryan Tucker. "That's when I thought back to that game, and the lesson I took from it, that you have to play through the final whistle. You can't relax until the game's over."
Despite the 126th and final goal of Stanwick's brilliant career, and another by Matt White, Notre Dame held on to beat the Cavaliers, 12-10, to advance to a national semifinal against Loyola University Maryland at Gillette Stadium on Saturday at 2:30 p.m.
Doyle, who has started 14 of the Fighting Irish's 15 games going into the showdown with Loyola, scored his only goal against Virginia in the first half and now has totaled 13 goals and seven assists this season.
Acclimating to the highest level of the collegiate version of the sport did not take Doyle long, considering he was thrust into a starting role after Nick Beattie was injured in a 7-3 victory over another Final Four participant and Atlantic Coast Conference power, Duke, in the season opener.
Doyle said that it's not so much the speed and size of the defenseman that is most daunting, it's the complexities of rival defensive schemes that were the most difficult to solve.
"Switching back from man (-to-man) to zone the way they do, makes it hard," said Doyle, who produced 32 goals and 33 assists last year in Gilman's second championship run in three years. "Look at what Virginia did last year (in winning the national title)."
He said that although he never entered a recruiting dance with Loyola because he "wanted to get away," Doyle has kept an eye on the No. 1 seeds from afar.
"They're a fun team to watch," he said. "I've really enjoyed it."
Yet he's definitely hoping to have some fun at the Greyhounds' expense on Saturday.