No. 7 Loyola took great joy in snapping a 13-game losing skid to No. 13 Johns Hopkins with Saturday’s 8-4 victory. But even happier times could just be down the road.
Saturday’s win may have further strengthened the reigning national champion’s pursuit of an at-large berth to the NCAA tournament regardless of what occurs in the Eastern College Athletic Conference tournament being held at Hobart in Geneva, N.Y. later this week.
According to Laxpower.com which compiles its own Rating Percentage Index (RPI) list, the Greyhounds (11-3) remained at No. 9 in RPI, but beating the Blue Jays gave them another victory over an opponent with a top 20 RPI. Johns Hopkins (8-5) at No. 17 in RPI joins Ohio State (10-3) at No. 10 as teams the Greyhounds have vanquished.
But as far as the players are concerned, they would prefer to take the guesswork out of the equation by winning the conference tournament for the second year in a row and securing the automatic qualifier that accompanies the tournament crown.
“The postseason’s nice, but we want to go out and grab this automatic qualifier,” said senior attackman Mike Sawyer, the team’s leader in goals with 30. “There’s no fun losing. So we want to go out and win up in Geneva.”
Senior long-stick midfielder Scott Ratliff said Loyola does not want to leave its fate in the hands of the NCAA selection committee, which will meet next weekend to determine how to fill eight at-large spots. (The other eight berths are given to teams that win their respective conference tournaments and gain those automatic qualifiers.)
“We’re still pretty focused that we need the AQ,” Ratliff said in the post-game press conference after the victory over the Blue Jays. Johns Hopkins is “a really good team and probably better than their ranking, but it’s not a top 10 win for us and with the way college lacrosse has been this year, there’s so much [uncertainty]. You’ve got Virginia playing for the [Atlantic Coast Conference] championship now, and there’s so much parity that we’d rather not have to sit around all day Sunday and worry about it. We’d prefer to win out and give our fans another home game.”
If the Greyhounds were to win the ECAC tournament, they would probably earn a top four seed and the right to play host to a first-round NCAA tournament game at Ridley Athletic Complex in Baltimore. It is a tantalizing proposition, but coach Charley Toomey said the players can’t afford to get caught up in what might happen.
“These guys know it’s always about the next one,” he said. “I don’t really need to speak to the locker room when you’ve got guys like [Ratliff] in there. These guys will be focused, and they’ll have our team focused on the next game. We’re not worried about that. It’s always about the next one.”Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun