Of all the opponents Brian Sherlock and Loyola Maryland could have faced for an opportunity to compete for the 2016 NCAA championship, they will face a team that Sherlock is quite familiar with.
The redshirt junior midfielder will try to help the No. 7 Greyhounds (14-3) defeat unseeded North Carolina (10-6) in Saturday's tournament semifinal at 12 p.m. at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia. Sherlock was a member of the Tar Heels during the 2013 campaign before deciding to transfer.
Sherlock is still close with North Carolina players like senior attackman Steve Pontrello, senior long-stick midfielder Evan Connell (Calvert Hall) and senior midfielder Patrick Kelly (Calvert Hall), but said he would not hesitate if given a chance to bounce them from the postseason.
"I didn't ever think it would get to this point with a semifinal game, but I'm excited to play them," he said with a chuckle during the team's media day on Tuesday. "I'm sure it'll be nice to see them all."
Sherlock, who hails from Nissequogue, N.Y., suffered an injury in his first season with the Tar Heels and received a medical waiver to retain four years of eligibility. But he decided to transfer and chose Loyola over Maryland because he could play immediately rather than sit out for one year for going to another Atlantic Coast Conference school.
"It was definitely difficult. As a kid, it was always my dream to go to North Carolina, a great program. I respected the coaches and players very much, but it was in my best interest to move on."
North Carolina's loss has been the Greyhounds' gain. A three-year starter who has been a team co-captain in each of the last two seasons, Sherlock has recorded 112 points on 70 goals and 42 assists in 47 games. He currently ranks third on the team in goals (22) and assists (13).
Tar Heels coach Joe Breschi said he is happy for Sherlock.
"I'm so glad he found the right fit for him at Loyola," said Breschi, a Baltimore native and Loyola Blakefield graduate. "I know that [coach] Charley [Toomey] has certainly taken care of him. And he's terrific player and a terrific young man. So it's not going to be strange at all. I'm just excited that he has an opportunity and we do as well."
Toomey said he plans to counsel Sherlock on reining in his emotions during Saturday's game.
"I think that sometimes you can get caught up in trying to do too much on the big stage," Toomey said. "What Brian has brought to this team is energy, enthusiasm, leadership, and we're going to rely on Brian to be just that and do just that this weekend. We always talk about staying in your identity, and when you start to step away from what's gotten you here and who you are, that's when things can go awry pretty quickly. So we're just going to ask him to go out there and have fun and lead the team the way he's done it all year."