Loyola swimmers said they were disappointed with their performance in yesterday morning's qualifying heats of the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association championships.
By night's end, however, the Dons had more than made up for it.
The regular-season league champions won seven events -- breaking meet records in each -- in coasting to a surprisingly easy 36-point victory over up-and-coming McDonogh at Calvert Hall's Hucht Pool.
Based on their morning qualifying times, the Dons looked like they'd need a little luck to get past challengers McDonogh, Calvert Hall and Mount St. Joseph.
In the end, however, the difference seemed to come down to pride, adrenalin and smooth skin.
"In the morning McDonogh swam really well and our guys got the picture that it would be a lot tougher than they thought," said Loyola coach Murray Stephens, who convinced many on the team to shave off their body hair in between sessions -- a common practice among swimmers that helps them gain speed.
"They hadn't done it because they thought everything was going to be fine, but we had to go through some convincing to show them it wasn't going to be fine unless they did something. They rose to the occasion."
There were many heroes for the victors, including sophomore Joe Curreri, who won the 200 and 500 freestyles and swam legs on the winning 200 and 400 free relay teams. His time in the 500 (4 minutes, 38.85 seconds), earned him a spot at next month's Junior Nationals in Nashville.
Other individual Loyola winners were junior Sky King (100 back, 200 individual medley) and sophomore Omar Fraser (100 fly).
But perhaps the team's best performance came from someone who finished no higher than seventh. Senior Jason Knauff had a day to remember, improving his personal best over 100 yards by three seconds (on a relay leg) and cutting a remarkable five seconds off his best in the 200 free.
"I think it was mostly the adrenalin," said Knauff.
For much of the meet, however, it was McDonogh that was almost unstoppable.
Just five days after beating Calvert Hall for the first time in 31 years, the Eagles came out smoking, with Mike Wheeler, Todd Disney, Chris Bowman and Jeff Wolven winning the 200 medley relay to open the finals. The Eagles then swam to top three finishes in seven more events.
"We're really pleased," said coach Scott Ward. "We had a good group of guys this year that really made a commitment. We were fourth last year, and the guys looked at it, realized none of the big guys were graduating and made a team goal to see if they could win it this year."