Unseeded Notre Dame, which had won only one postseason game in its history and had never beaten the Greyhounds in 10 previous tries, walked into UMBC Stadium, established a huge lead by dominating the faceoff circle, then cruised to a stunning 15-13 victory before 4,128.
While the Irish - an automatic tournament qualifier from the Midwest - celebrated their first-round success by tossing their sticks into the air and charging onto the field to swap hugs and handshakes, the Greyhounds were left to contemplate what went wrong during another playoff slip-up.
Loyola (11-3), playing in its 13th consecutive NCAA tournament - second only to Johns Hopkins and Syracuse - had hoped to return to the title game for the first time since its only trip as a runner-up in 1990.
Instead, the Greyhounds suffered their second first-round loss, while Notre Dame moved on to face Hopkins in the quarterfinals on Sunday at Homewood Field.
Loyola has lost in the quarterfinals nine times, and made it to the Final Four in 1998. Yesterday, one year after losing in the quarterfinals as the tournament's top seed, the Greyhounds were licking fresh wounds.
"We're defined as first-round losers, pure and simple," said a red-faced Cottle. "It's my responsibility as a coach to have us better prepared. I'll take the bullet for this one."
A lack of presence in the cage and poor faceoff play that produced too few offensive possessions were the main culprits that did in the Greyhounds, who also were largely without the services of senior midfielder Mike Battista, who suffered a separated shoulder during last week's 16-12 loss to Hopkins, and sat out the first three quarters yesterday.
Even a healthy Battista would have been hard-pressed to rescue the Greyhounds, who rarely had the ball in the first half and hardly resembled the team that drilled Notre Dame (10-3) two months ago, 12-2.
Yesterday's final score disguised a game that was more lopsided. The fifth-seeded Greyhounds were climbing uphill from the outset, mainly due to a poor performance by faceoff man Joe Maier and an ineffective outing by goalkeeper Jason Born.
The Irish essentially ended Loyola's season in the game's opening 28 minutes by winning the game's first 11 faceoffs. Maier was handed three illegal-procedure penalties during that disastrous run.
Notre Dame took a 10-2 lead with 2:09 left in the first half as junior attackman Tom Glatzel scored all four of his goals to fuel the start that had Loyola reeling.
After Glatzel assisted Steve Bishko to make it 10-2, Cottle replaced Born (five saves) with freshman Mark Bloomquist, who finished the game with eight saves. Loyola got no closer than four goals until the closing minutes."We got to play make-it-take-it a lot in the first quarter, and that got us into the game emotionally," said Notre Dame coach Kevin Corrigan of the early faceoff advantage.
Only another superlative effort from senior attackman Tim Goettelmann kept the Greyhounds from suffering total humiliation. Goettelmann scored a career-high seven goals to set a single-season school record with 50. But beyond him, the attack sputtered.
"When everyone is involved in the offense, we win games," Goettelmann said. "I've had five and seven goals the last two games, and we've lost. When you don't win faceoffs and [the opponent] gets up on you, it's tough to get back in the game."
Goettelmann scored twice in the final 1:15 of the first half to cut the Irish lead to 10-5 at intermission. But Notre Dame shut down the rest of the offense, keeping Gavin Prout (40 goals entering the game) scoreless until the game's final minute.
Goettelmann scored two more goals in the waning minutes to help Loyola make the score respectable.
Senior midfielder Peter Haas, part of a class that won 46 games in four seasons, found yesterday's outcome tough to stomach.
"We weren't looking ahead [to Hopkins], but we expect to be in the Final Four every year," said Haas, who had the team's only two assists.
"To come up two games short of that kind of shocks you. No one expected this team to lose in the first round."