Since the Patriot League adopted a tournament format in men’s lacrosse in 2004, there has been a weekend off between the end of conference play and the start of the NCAA tournament.
But beginning next season, the league tournament will be moved back to coincide with other conference tournaments that take place on the last weekend before the start of the NCAA tournament.
Loyola Maryland coach Charley Toomey is the first to acknowledge that he long resisted any such move, as the Greyhounds usually faced Johns Hopkins in that open week. But since the Blue Jays moved to the Big Ten Conference in 2015, the annual rivalry game has shifted to February.
So Toomey is happy to see the conference enact the change in schedule.
“You want to play against top-quality out-of-conference opponents, and we were locked into playing a league game in February with one bye weekend going forward,” he said. “It just really made it hard. If you wanted to play tough teams, you had to back your season into late January or early February. This gives us a late-February game against a nonconference opponent. I think it’s exciting for the league. … I think this gives us the opportunity as a conference to go out and schedule some quality games that will not only help your own team but also the league in general. So I applaud the league for moving forward with this.”
So what does this mean for the Greyhounds? Their customary conference opener against Lafayette on the third weekend of the regular season has been shifted to the final weekend. And they have filled that early-season void with a four-year home-and-home series against Rutgers.
The Scarlet Knights will host in 2019 and 2021, while Loyola will play at Ridley Athletic Complex in 2020 and 2022.
Toomey said he would not be opposed to participating in a Patriot League-Big Ten challenge, with Navy as the other conference team, if everything were to fall into place. For now, he’s happy to add Rutgers to the Greyhounds’ schedule, which will open with Virginia, Johns Hopkins and now the Scarlet Knights.
“It’s a bear, but I think it will help us in recruiting because the kids want to play the best,” he said. “And I think it’s something that will prepare us for late-April and early-May games. We’re going to have every weakness exposed early, and then we’ll be able to address them and get into league play and move forward from there.”