Loyola doesn't need to look far for evidence that it can compete with No. 2 Duke, which comes to town today undefeated and leading the nation in scoring offense.
The precedent was set last year, when the Greyhounds scored twice in the last two minutes to beat the Blue Devils, 8-7, on a neutral field in San Diego. Duke had entered the game No. 1.
"It was our best game, and it kind of took us on a little bit of a run," Loyola coach Charley Toomey said yesterday. The game came amid a five-game Greyhounds winning streak.
But Toomey knows how challenging a repeat will be, given that 80 percent of Loyola's offense has graduated and Duke (4-0) has its top players back. The Blue Devils are led by attackman Matt Danowski, last season's national Player of the Year and son of Duke coach John Danowski. "They've got talented players all over the field," Toomey said.
Toomey said he hopes the Blue Devils - and an audience on Channel 2 and ESPNU - will bring out the best in the Greyhounds (2-1). He's anticipating a big home crowd, even though the student body is on spring break.
"I would imagine you're going to see about 5,000 people here," Toomey said. "You don't have to be the best team in the country to beat Duke. You just have to be the best team for 60 minutes."
The game marks the reunion of Loyola attackman Collin Finnerty with many of his former Duke teammates.
Finnerty, David Evans and Reade Seligmann were indicted in 2006 after a stripper alleged that she had been pulled into a bathroom and raped during a party. The case collapsed, and Durham County District Attorney Michael B. Nifong was disbarred for violating rules of professional conduct.
Finnerty transferred last year to Loyola, where he has become a starter. Seligmann transferred to Brown, and Evans graduated.
Finnerty "is excited about the game," said Kevin Finnerty, his father. "Those are a lot of his very close friends. He knows them personally very well."
Said Toomey: "There will be a lot of handshakes and maybe some tears, but for 60 minutes it's still lacrosse."