No. 7 Loyola is scheduled to play against Hobart on Saturday at 1 p.m. Two hours before that game, however, No. 19 Denver, which is jockeying with the Greyhounds for first place in the Eastern College Athletic Conference and the league's automatic qualifier to the NCAA Tournament, will meet Fairfield in the opening game of the ESPNU Warrior Lacrosse Classic.
While refraining from instituting an outright ban on scoreboard or television watching, coach Charley Toomey said he hopes his players will focus on the Statesmen.
"We get to the locker room two hours before the game. So unless there's a TV in there, probably not," Toomey said of watching the Pioneers play against the Stags. "But nowadays, these kids also have cell phones, and they find a way of knowing. I would imagine that since it's an ECAC game, Hobart might get updates. But it really doesn't matter. At this point, that game means nothing because it's coming down to Loyola and Denver."
Toomey is right. Even if the Greyhounds (8-2 overall and 5-0 in the conference) beat Hobart and Denver (9-4, 4-0) falls to Fairfield (8-3, 4-1), the Pioneers could still capture the ECAC title and the automatic qualifier by beating Loyola on May 2 and Air Force on May 8 because they would own the head-to-head tibreaker over the Greyhounds.
That's why Toomey is emphasizing that the players concentrate on what they can control.
"We recognize that these next three weeks are critical not only towards your playoff run, but also towards having some momentum and having a first-round game at home as a possibility," he said. "That's the challenge for us. We're not looking at a scoreboard. We'd love to have the AQ, but right now, we've got to take care of one game at a time. And that's why I've praised this team week in and week out, because of their preparation for the next opponent."
Loyola's record, which includes last Saturday's 11-6 defeat of No. 9 Georgetown, would seem to be impressive enough to get the team an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament even if Denver wins the ECAC.
But Toomey disagreed, saying, "At this point, I'd say no. You look at a team like Notre Dame, who's got a few more wins on their resume. There are three games left on our schedule, and I just don't think you can look up right now. After Saturday and if teams continue to beat each other up, maybe. Don't get me wrong, I think we have a very strong case, but we've left it in the [selection] committee's hands before, and I don't think we want to leave it in the committee's hands at this point. We want to take care of business on our own."