Loyola Maryland has been ranked No. 1, played in a number of NCAA tournaments, and even captured a national championship in 2012. But for the first time in school history, the team will host a conference tournament this season.
As a reward for being the top seed in the Patriot League tournament, the No. 1 Greyhounds (12-1) are hosting the semifinals Friday and the final on Sunday at Ridley Athletic Complex. It’s a new experience for a program that had to travel to Denver in 2011 and 2012 and Hobart in 2013 to participate in the Eastern College Athletic Conference tournaments.
“I think the novelty for this team is that it’s the first time at home,” coach Charley Toomey said Wednesday morning. “We’re used to being on the road – either at Denver or at Hobart – to play in these tournaments. We’re kind of in uncharted water being at home and having the classes and the academics around it. When you’re on the road, we did take exams in the hotel and traveled with one of our academic coordinator, but the guys will continue to go to classes and try to work around their academics to kind of prepare for the game.”
Playing at home has its benefits -- the team won’t have to travel and can prepare in the comforts of its own meeting rooms and practice fields. But with a No. 1 seed come high expectations from a heavily green and gray-tinged crowd eager to celebrate a tournament championship.
Toomey said he fully expects the players to welcome that pressure, not wilt before it.
“Our guys get excited about that,” he said. “Our kids are excited about the fact that our students show up for home games. I think it’s a great benefit for us. I’m looking at yesterday’s box score of the Colgate-Bucknell game [in the quarterfinal round], and there were 249 people in the stands. Our students will be here. We’ll have 249-plus students. So it’s a motivating factor for us to be at home and use our student body’s energy to our advantage.”
Loyola will meet No. 4 seed Colgate on Friday at 4:30 p.m. The Raiders (9-5) needed double overtime to edge No. 5 seed Bucknell, 10-9, on Tuesday, but Toomey discounted the notion that fatigue might be a factor for Colgate.
“They’re a team that is coming in with a lot of energy,” he said. “They’re coming in with quite honestly a lot of confidence, and they’ve been playing good lacrosse at the end of the year. They won 20-of-24 faceoffs, they out-ground-balled a team 46-19. So they’re a hustle team, a scrappy team. They’ve got a kid that’s as good as anybody in the country in [junior attackman] Ryan Walsh, and we know we have our hands full. It was a 10-8 absolute war up there [a Loyola win on March 29]. I know we have their attention, and they certainly have our attention.”