Loyola coach Joe McFadden didn't deliver any fiery speeches before letting his fourth-ranked lacrosse team loose yesterday on the second-ranked visitors from Gilman School.
His players all knew that anything less than a victory would have excluded them from postseason contention.
Mission accomplished. Loyola opened a 7-3 lead in the third quarter and then held on to defeat the Greyhounds, 9-8, in a Maryland Scholastic Association A Conference clash on Hargaden Field.
"This was a must win for us because if we didn't win, it's over with, so there's all the incentive in the world," said McFadden, after watching his Dons improve to 7-3 in the conference, 11-3 overall.
"It's a numbers game now. Now we're in a situation where we won't be eliminated with another loss, but that's not even in the picture. We have got to win the last three games if we're to be competitive at the end. There's no backing into it."
After falling behind 1-0 on an early unassisted goal by junior attackman James Zimmerman, the Dons dug in on the loose balls and began to put the heat on Gilman goalie Corey Popham (18 saves).
Loyola knotted the score 5:06 into the game when senior attackman Jon Cusson fed senior midfielder Bill Evans for the extra-man goal. The Dons took advantage of a second extra-man opportunity when Evans found the net after a cross-check to the head by Gilman junior Stewart Kesmodel.
Junior attackman Keith Euker closed out the first-quarter scoring by following up a shot by Evans with 47 seconds remaining.
The Greyhounds (8-3, 8-3) pulled back to within one on an extra-man goal by sophomore Lorne Smith (two goals, one assist) but Gilman found itself trailing 4-2 at the half as the result of a late goal by Euker, which was made possible by a long pass from goalie Greg Zorella (19 saves) and a crisp feed from Brian Zeller.
"I knew we could do it because I think we're a more talented team, it was just a matter of coming out here and putting it all together and doing it," said Loyola senior defenseman Dave Daniecki, the catalyst of a unit that held the Greyhounds scoreless for nearly 14 minutes in the first half. "Our defense usually does the job, and today our offense really came through for us and put some in the goal."
Gilman opened the third quarter with another quick goal to move back to within one. The Dons, however, answered 21 seconds later on a goal from Greg Hobelmann.
Loyola edged back out to a 7-3 lead on goals by Cusson and Mike Keeney, but Gilman countered just over a minute later with a goal from Bryan Smith that pulled the visitors back to within three.
The Greyhounds exchanged goals with Loyola during the first 8:35 of the quarter before making a run at it.
Gilman scored two goals within 12 seconds of each other to cut the margin to one and had possession and a man advantage in the final six seconds but couldn't convert.
"We didn't play with a lot of intelligence," said Gilman coach John Tucker.
"It's tough because I thought we were capable of scoring more than eight goals today. We just didn't shoot very well, and it cost us."