In its first seven games of 2015, the Loyola Maryland men's lacrosse team will face five opponents ranked in the most recent Cascade/Maverik media poll.
The first test will come Saturday.
No. 9 Virginia will visit Ridley Athletic Complex at 1 p.m. for a season-opening tilt with the No. 7 Greyhounds. It's a game that will generate considerable interest now and perhaps three months later, when the NCAA tournament selection committee meets to determine seeding and at-large berths.
"It's a big game with implications in May," Loyola coach Charley Toomey said. "You just try to play to your strengths and to the best of your ability right now and understand that a win is one that can really carry over and help you in the seeding process in terms of RPI and strength of schedule late in the year. It just happens to be the first weekend of the year that we play one of the bigger games on our schedule."
The Greyhounds return five starters from a 2014 squad that ended the regular season on a 15-game winning streak before losing to Albany in the opening round of the NCAA tournament. Toomey acknowledged that the team, which has been practicing since Jan. 12, is still developing.
"I'm not so sure we're the team that we're hopeful of being two weeks from now, but I think all teams can say that," he said. "I think we're ready. I think our kids have worked really hard and have put together in a short amount of time four good weeks of preparation. We're going to go out and play against a top 10 team this early in the season. I think both teams are trying to find out who they're going to be, and I don't know that this game will be indicative of who Virginia is going to be or Loyola."
The Greyhounds have won just six times in 18 meetings with the Cavaliers, who escaped with a 14-13 overtime winin last year's season opener. But Loyola is 28-6 at Ridley since it opened for the 2010 season.
"We open the year with some big games, and luckily for us, the difference is that we open the year at home," Toomey said. "With a young team, that's a good thing for us to be at home and defend Ridley. Our kids play awful hard at Ridley, and that's something with a young team that is a good thing for us."