Loyola Men Sweep Their Way Into Final Four
By Stan "The Fan" Charles
ANNAPOLIS -- Lacrosse teams rarely play each other more than once per season, and beating a team three times during a single season is a difficult task. Loyola turned that trick with a 10-9 NCAA quarterfinal victory against Denver May 19, propelling the Greyhounds into the Final Four.
Previously this season, Loyola defeated the Pioneers in the Mile High City, a 12-9 regular-season win April 14 and a 14-13 overtime win May 2 during the Eastern College Athletic Conference semifinals.
"If a team is better, they're better," Denver coach Bill Tierney said. "It's not like it's a flip of a coin. A lot of people were telling me this week that we were favorites because we lost two games to Loyola. … That doesn't make any sense to me. Loyola was the better team and they beat us three times to prove it."
One key area during the course of the three games was faceoffs, which Loyola senior midfielder J.P. Dalton handles for coach Charley Toomey. During the quarterfinal, Dalton won 17 of 22 faceoffs and dominated his counterpart, Denver junior Chase Carraro. The difference from the previous matchups was startling -- Carraro won 13 of 14 faceoffs April 14 and 16 of 29 May 2.
Another key during the Greyhounds' win in Annapolis was they had 10 extra-man opportunities, and converted four. That advantage was significant during a one-goal game, especially because Denver played with an extra man only two times.
Denver limited one of Loyola's best scoring threats, junior Mike Sawyer, who was averaging 3.63 points per game entering the quarterfinals. But, as so often is the case with deep teams, they make you pay for the effort -- with Sawyer held to just one goal, fifth-year year senior Eric Lusby tallied five goals and two assists, taking over the team lead in points this season (61).
Next up for No. 1 seed Loyola in Foxborough, Mass., will be the winner of the quarterfinal matchup between Virginia and Notre Dame. The Greyhounds have made it to the Final Four twice before -- they lost, 19-8, in Piscataway, N.J., to Maryland during a semifinal game in 1998. In 1990, Loyola made its first Division I appearance in a Final Four, defeating Yale, 14-13, in OT, also in Piscataway, N.J., then lost to Syracuse, 21-9, during their only trip to the title game.
Posted May 19, 2012