This is where it all began for Loyola's lacrosse program. This is where the Greyhounds put it out there, for the entire lacrosse fraternity to see.
A year ago, in the opening round of the inaugural Choice-Vis Lacrosse Classic, Loyola had the audacity to upend Johns Hopkins, 11-10, in overtime, then went on to beat Towson State in the championship game, 16-12. The two-day paid attendance of 10,000 made the classic the most successful fall lacrosse event ever.
Now, as the Greyhounds prepare to defend their title thi weekend at UMBC Stadium, coach Dave Cottle is saying things that evoke chuckles from his colleagues.
He says, for example, that "we have some ability." Chuckle chuckle. Some ability? Loyola had enough ability to carry it to the NCAA Division I title game last May against Syracuse, didn't it?
"We just want to play well this weekend," Cottle said, paying th other coaches no heed. "We'll use it to measure our freshmen and other newcomers in a stressful situation.
"That's important -- how they handle intensity. Guys who pla well in this situation usually play well in big games."
Loyola will face UMBC tomorrow at noon, followed by John Hopkins vs. Towson State at 3 p.m. The winners will meet Sunday at 2. Tickets are $4 for adults, $2 for students with ID.
It wasn't only the victory over Johns Hopkins that spurred Loyol last fall, but the manner in which it was accomplished. Trailing 9-3 after three quarters, the Greyhounds stormed from behind to tie it at 10-10 with 50 seconds left in regulation. Brian Kroneberger scored the last of his five goals in overtime to win it.
"That helped us in the season," Cottle said. "When we got down we knew we could come back."
Tony Seaman, Hopkins' new coach by way of Penn, will use th classic to determine how his players are absorbing his system. However, he will be minus a half-dozen injured starters.
"The beauty of this is that we can make adjustments after the tournament and change things over the winter," Seaman said. "In the Ivy League we couldn't play other teams in the fall."
Towson State coach Carl Runk regards the classic as "exposure," including the chance to showcase his ace, senior Glenn Smith, who became the school's all-time leading scorer last spring.
"Because of this event, the fellows look forward to practice," Runk said. "We want to come out of it feeling good about ourselves."
UMBC's Dick Watts has a concern about this weekend's experience. He has a young team that includes only four seniors and he doesn't want a repeat of last fall's tournament, when the Retrievers lost by a combined 38-15 to Towson and Hopkins.
"If my team was older, this would be a good thing," Watts said. "But to go to war this early is a lot of pressure on a young squad. I hope we can make a good showing, not get blown out, and accomplish something."