When Loyola and Duke met last year, the Blue Devils were the top 10 visitor paying a visit to the top 20 Greyhounds. Times have changed as No. 4 Loyola will meet an unranked Duke squad Friday night in Durham, N.C.
The Blue Devils have limped their way to a 2-4 record, dropping their last two contests to No. 14 Penn on Feb. 22 and No. 1 Maryland last Saturday. Still, Greyhounds coach Charley Toomey has no intentions of overlooking a Duke program that has been to the last six Final Fours.
“If you look at who they’re losing to, they’re losing to teams in the top 10 and in the top five even,” he said Thursday morning. “Duke is going to be there. Duke is a team that’s just so seasoned and has a good nucleus of their guys back. At the end of the day, I honestly believe that this is going to be a game that impacts RPI and strength of schedule. It’s a good rivalry game. It’s the one ACC team that has been on our schedule for the last couple years. Loyola hasn’t won in Durham since 2001. We haven’t talked about that with our team and I doubt that we will, but I know that in my mind, this is just a tough place to play.”
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Loyola (4-1), which is on spring break, was planning on traveling to North Carolina late Wednesday, but with forecasts projecting a significant amount of snowfall for the Baltimore-Washington corridor, Toomey made the decision to leave Ridley Athletic Complex at 8 a.m. on Wednesday.
“We had planned to practice at Ridley and then leave right after practice and go down and have dinner and stay at a hotel and go about our business,” he said. “But just looking at the weather, we thought it was smart to get out of there a little earlier and have a practice in North Carolina. Fortunately, we just dealt with some drizzle down there, but no snow. Through Virginia, it was pretty bad. Once we got into southern Virginia or North Carolina, it seemed to clear up. It turned into rain, and we felt like we made the right decision.”
The Greyhounds may have to play their sixth consecutive game without senior short-stick defensive midfielder Josh Hawkins, who is serving an indefinite suspension for violating an undisclosed team policy. Toomey was mysteriously vague when asked about Hawkins’ status for Friday night.
“He’s close,” Toomey said, repeating that comment two more times.