Loyola will enjoy its first berth in the Final Four since 1998, but an unenviable task awaits the top-seeded Greyhounds (16-1) when they meet No. 4 seed Notre Dame in an NCAA tournament semifinal on Saturday at 2:30 p.m. at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass.
The offense will try to become only the third opponent this season to decipher the Fighting Irish’s bewildering defense, a unit so fundamentally sound that it has allowed only one team to reach double digits in goals this spring.
Notre Dame (13-2) is the only program in Division I to finish in the top five nationally in defense in each of the last five years. Loyola coach Charley Toomey said he’s been impressed with what he has watched on game film of the Fighting Irish’s contests.
“The more we watch tape, the more we really believe that we have to spread it around, that we have to attack Notre Dame from different spots,” he said during a conference call Tuesday. “If you’re really relying on one guy to be your strength, you’re going to be in trouble because they are so well-coached defensively. They’re a slide-and-recover team. They play a scheme that gives people fits. So you really need to count on some guys other than even [attackmen] Eric [Lusby] and Michael [Sawyer] to really step up. It’s not like we haven’t seen teams shut two guys off or really pressed out and gotten a hand. I think the second time we played Denver, of our first 11 goals, 11 of them were scored by different people. So that’s the type of effort we really believe we’re going to need this Saturday.”