Loyola women draw No. 10 seed


The reaction in the Sellinger Lounge, where Loyola's women's basketball team assembled yesterday at Reitz Arena to watch the NCAA tournament pairings, was that of pleasant surprise.

The Greyhounds (20-8), fresh off their second straight Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference title, drew a favorable 10th seed in the East Region, where they will open against seventh-seeded Oklahoma (21-8) on Thursday in Ruston, La.

Mount St. Mary's (24-5), also heading to its second NCAA appearance, gets a trip to Tuscaloosa, Ala., to face host Alabama (20-8) on Thursday. The Mount was seeded 13th in the East Region.

Said Loyola's premier player, senior forward Patty Stoffey: "Somebody out there is either respecting us or they know we deserve it. I couldn't be happier.

"Last year, we were just glad to make it. It didn't really matter who we were going to play," said Stoffey, whose Greyhounds were pounded by Virginia in the opening round of their first NCAA tournament. "This year, our goal from the beginning has been to make it to the second round. Everybody on the team feels like we have a chance. We're playing really good defense, practices are going well and Coach is hyped up."

"I was preparing for a good seed, but I never imagined we'd get a 10. I was expecting a 12 at best," senior forward Camille Joyner said.

The only Greyhound who shrugged off the generous seeding was Pat Coyle, Loyola's third-year coach, who has turned the Greyhounds from an MAAC doormat to an NCAA tournament team for two straight years.

Coyle said she figured the Greyhounds would draw "anywhere from a 10 to a 13" seed.

"Our league has gotten stronger, we have the league's best player [Stoffey] and we beat Maryland this year. Even though they're down, Maryland is still the ACC," Coyle said.

The Greyhounds also overcame a mediocre stretch during the middle of the season when they went 5-5 -- after a 7-1 start -- and fell into the middle of the MAAC standings. But, after absorbing a 17-point rout at Fairfield a month ago, Loyola won four of its last five regular-season games behind Stoffey, then entered the MAAC tournament as a deceptively strong fourth seed.

The defense took it from there, as Loyola gave up just 52.5 points a game over three days to win the tournament. The Greyhounds finished the job with a 67-51 victory over Fairfield in the title game.

"Look at where this program was four years ago. To think where these kids are now is incredible," Coyle said. "The fact that we've gotten in [the NCAAs] for two straight years cements the foundation. This program is going in the right direction."

For Mount St. Mary's, like last March's tourney debut -- when the Mount was routed at Iowa, 70-47 -- it isn't going to be easy.

"We know we're going to play a team whose center is probably quicker than our point guard and whose point guard is probably bigger than our center," said Mount St. Mary's coach Bill Sheahan. "Other than that, I don't know a single thing about Alabama. We'll have to look at film Monday."

Mount senior Melissa Cuneo (Seton Keough) said the team "went in scared last year. When we saw Iowa, they were huge to us. Hopefully, we can calm our nerves down this time."

Junior Heather Wable said that this time the Mount "is going to win. We're not looking for an educational experience. We got our education last year."

But there was a sober note to the team's whooping reaction to its assignment.

Northeast Conference co-Player of the Year Susie Rowlyk's status is unknown after she bumped the right side of her head into the back of an official's head as the celebration of the league championship victory began Saturday night.

Rowlyk, her right eye swollen shut from the freak accident, watched yesterday's televised pairings with teammates at the student union building. Earlier in the day, she had been to a Gettysburg, Pa., hospital for a CT scan.

Rowlyk is scheduled to see a specialist today, after it which it will be decided whether she is fit to play in the tournament.

"If the CT scan is negative and there is no further damage, we'll go on. It'll just be a matter of the swelling going," said Sheahan. "If she can't play, it'll hurt us and we'll have to meet the challenge."

Otherwise, the Mount was happy with its assignment.

"We wanted to fly, and we wanted to go south," said Wable, a West Virginian. "I know down there nobody can get on me because of my accent."

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