The fact that only three Loyola Maryland players – redshirt senior defenseman David Manning and graduate students Jeff Chase (Boys’ Latin) and Mike Kutzer – were on the 2012 team that captured the NCAA championship illustrates the fragile nature of reaching the national semifinals.
The 2013 squad went unseeded and fell to No. 7 seed Duke, 12-11, in overtime in the first round. The 2014 team went 15-1 in the regular season and earned the No. 3 seed, but was stunned by Albany, 13-6, in the first round, and the program missed out on the postseason entirely in 2015.
So the No. 7 seed Greyhounds (14-3) are fully aware of the opportunity facing them when they clash with North Carolina (10-6) in the first NCAA tournament semifinal on Saturday at 12 p.m. at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia.
“This is the thing that kids dream of playing in,” freshman goalkeeper Jacob Stover, a Hunt Valley resident and McDonogh graduate, said during the team’s media day at Ridley Athletic Complex in Baltimore Tuesday afternoon. “It’s just a wonderful opportunity, and I know that I have three years left, but this comes along once in a lifetime. … I realize that this is it. We might as well put everything we possibly can into this.”
That line of thinking has trickled down to head coach Charley Toomey and defensive coordinator Matt Dwan.
“I’ve only been to three of them [final fours], and I’ve been coaching for 21 years – one as a player, two as a coach,” Toomey said. “Coach Dwan has only been to one. So you’re not given anything. You have to earn it, and in this moment, we didn’t say that about the importance of the games, but we said that about the importance of practice and focus. So that’s really been the message, that you have an opportunity and it’s really how you handle the next couple of days that are going to be dependent upon whether or not you stick around and you have that chance on Monday. You’ve got to handle Saturday.”
Redshirt junior midfielder Brian Sherlock said he appreciated his teammates’ demeanor after their 10-8 win against Towson in Sunday’s quarterfinal round at Ohio Stadium in Columbus, Ohio.
“I was really excited to see the guys after the quarterfinal game against Towson,” he said. “They were very humble and hungry for the next game. No hooting and hollering. Just getting ready for the next one. That was great to see, and it’s a good attitude going into the next one.”