After a 2013 schedule in which Loyola tangled with Maryland, UMBC and Delaware, the team replaced that trio with Penn State, Virginia and a Patriot League opponent. The upcoming campaign begins Thursday night when the Greyhounds pay a visit to the Cavaliers.
Coach Charley Toomey said he has been attempting for several years to secure regular-season contests against Virginia and North Carolina and finally got his wish when Cavaliers coach Dom Starsia agreed to the series. Unlike some of his peers, Toomey said he welcomes opening the season against a difficult opponent like Virginia.
“I think it’s a game that is a strength-of-schedule, RPI game not only for Loyola, but for the Patriot League,” he said Wednesday. “We want go play the best, and when you’re playing Hopkins and you’re playing Duke and you’re adding Penn State to the mix, you’re giving yourself a chance that if for some reason there’s a hiccup in the conference, you have some opportunities outside of the AQ [automatic qualifier] to play your way into the [NCAA] tournament.”
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Every team wants to start the year on the right note, and the Greyhounds are no exception. Toomey is fully aware of the chance they have if they can earn a positive result against the Cavaliers.
“We start the season off with a great opportunity,” he said. “We hope to play better lacrosse in March than we did in February and then hopefully again in April than we did in March. Sure, there’s going to be some development for both Virginia and Loyola, but it’s a great opportunity that I’m hoping that Virginia is just as excited about as we are. I think moving forward, you have the kids’ focus very early in the preseason when you’re opening the season against Virginia.”
Of course, defeating the Cavaliers is a task easier said than done. They return seven starters, welcome back senior midfielder Chris LaPierre from a right knee injury that sidelined him for most of 2013, and added senior defenseman Joe Lisicky, a transfer from Lynchburg College.
Loyola has some weapons as well in senior attackman Justin Ward, senior defenseman Joe Fletcher and senior goalkeeper Jack Runkel, but Toomey noted that both sides have a degree of unfamiliarity to them.
“With Virginia, I think some of it is the fear of the unknown,” he said. “We don’t have a lot of film on Virginia and certainly they don’t have a lot of film on us. They’ve lost some very talented players and so have we. So they’re watching a lot of film that’s on the Internet from Inside Lacrosse or film from last year. I think that’s more of the fear than anything. You just don’t know who the lineups are going to be and you don’t know what their personnel and on-field sets are going to be. So we have to react to that on the fly as well as Virginia reacting on the fly in this opening game.”