No one knows for sure if Loyola University belongs in the top echelon of lacrosse teams this season, but it will be fun to see if the Greyhounds can get there.
Loyola continued its impressive and strong beginning to the 2012 season by stunning Duke, 13-8, Saturday at Ridley Athletic Complex. There has been doubt about how good the Greyhounds (5-0) are, but a lot of it can be erased now.
In the last decade, Duke has become just as synonymous with lacrosse as Johns Hopkins, Virginia and Syracuse. The No. 8 Blue Devils (3-3) had beaten Loyola five straight games and eight of the last nine.
And then came Saturday.
"I just told my guys that I've been here a lot of years, but there are not as many wins as sweet as that one," said Loyola coach Charley Toomey. "Hats off to Duke. They are a great offensive team and usually can score at will. But today was our day."
It was a complete effort by Loyola, which not only outplayed the Blue Devils, but outhustled them as well. Few teams can run with the Blue Devils because of their athleticism, but Loyola almost ran them out of the stadium.
If it wasn't for a late flourish by Duke midfielder Robert Rotanz, who scored two of three straight goals to pull the Blue Devils within 13-8 with 2 minutes and 58 seconds remaining, there would have been little suspense in the game.
After building a 7-4 halftime lead, Loyola attackmen Mike Sawyer and Eric Lusby and midfielder Phil Dobson scored the first three goals of the third quarter to give the Greyhounds a commanding lead.
"I don't look down the sidelines to check the time and I don't look at the scoreboard," Toomey said of the big lead. "We talk about fighting for every possession, trying to win every ground ball because we have so much respect for Duke."
Loyola had too much offensive firepower for the Blue Devils. Sawyer scored a career-high six goals while Lusby had three and Dobson two. Sawyer and Lusby might be the best 1-2 punch on attack of any of the local colleges. They were extremely accurate against Duke.
Blue Devils head coach John Danowski has had some great shooters in his six years at Duke, but he was impressed with Loyola's shooting display Saturday. The Blue Devils used three goalies.
"I thought they were awesome," Danowski said of Loyola. "Even when we had Mike Rock come in, they were picking corners at will. If they are teaching that at Loyola, then I need to come in and sit in on a meeting. They had great accuracy.
"They are well-coached and they have some great shooters. Their kids really wanted it. Loyola wanted to beat Duke much more than Duke wanted to beat the Loyola guys."
Loyola outshot Duke, 37-28, and the Greyhounds converted on two of three extra man opportunities while Duke was 0 for 4.
There other bright spots for Loyola. The Greyhounds' defense, led by Joe Fletcher and Dylan Grimm, was suffocating. A lot of Duke's shots were contested, and goalie Jack Runkel had 12 saves.
Goalie play will be the X-factor for Loyola heading into the second half of the season, and possibly into the playoffs. Once Duke had climbed to within 13-8, Blue Devils attackman Jordan Wolf was one-on-one with Runkel with 2:44 left to play.
If Duke scored another goal the momentum may have turned. But Runkel stopped a high shot.
"Huge, just an absolute huge play," Toomey said.