Reigning national champion Loyola has won seven of its first nine contests this season, but both of the team’s losses have occurred against ranked opponents. The No. 15 Greyhounds (7-2 overall and 3-0 in the Eastern College Athletic Conference) get a chance to change that trend when they pay a visit to No. 8 and league rival Ohio State (6-2, 1-1) this Saturday.
The showdown with the Buckeyes will kick off a three-game stretch in which Loyola will meet conference foes in Ohio State, Fairfield (6-3, 2-0) and No. 2 Denver (6-2, 2-0).
“We feel like the next three games are really going to be important,” coach Charley Toomey said. “Going on the road to Ohio State and then having two home games, this next chunk is really, really important – not only for seeding in the ECAC tournament, but we kind of feel like we lack that quality win. Ohio State, Fairfield and Denver certainly give us opportunities to go out there and put something on our resume.”
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The Buckeyes have beaten No. 13 Virginia and No. 17 Penn State this season and rank 14th in Division I in defense, allowing 8.4 goals per game. Although Ohio State is 0-6 all-time against the Greyhounds, Toomey pointed out Loyola has won two games by one goal, one by two goals, and another by three goals.
“We know we’ve got our hands full,” Toomey said. “It’s always been a one- or two-goal game with them. They’re as athletic as anybody in the conference in the midfield. We’ve got to go out there and play a really tough conference game. It’s going to be physical and in their environment. We’ll see what we have. I’m excited about the opportunity because I do think we’re playing a little bit better right now.”
Saturday’s contest will wrap up a five-game road trip – which no other team in Division I has had to undertake this season. The stretch began with a 9-8 loss to then-unranked Duke on March 8, but the Greyhounds have a shot at emerging with a healthy record from this span.
“Three games is bearable, four is tough, and five is brutal,” Toomey said. “The guys have endured. The challenge for us this past weekend [after a 10-3 victory against Michigan] was a 3:45 [a.m.] wake-up call to get a plane out on Sunday. We just want to make sure that the guys are taking care of their bodies because the travel does take a little bit out of you – not only the preparation side of it because you do lose a little bit of time, but also physically. It’s tough on the guys. But we knew what we were getting into, we knew the schedule, we bought in, and hopefully at the tail end of this thing, we’ll be 4-1 coming out of a five-game stretch.”