Loyola Wins National Championship in Lacrosse
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Loyola Soaks Up Feeling of a Breakthrough Title
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — There was none of the glitzy offensive attack that had been its mark most of the season for Loyola of Maryland. Instead, its men’s lacrosse team led a defensive clinic in the N.C.A.A. championship game, shutting down Maryland, 9-3, for its first-ever title in front of 30,816 at Gillette Stadium on Monday.
The win for the top-seeded Greyhounds, the first national champion from the Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference, represents a seismic event in the orderly recent history of the N.C.A.A. tournament, dominated in the last two decades by a small circle of programs.
Now tiny Loyola, a Jesuit school in northern Baltimore without a Division I national title in any sport, can add its name to that rarefied list.
Maryland came into the N.C.A.A. tournament unseeded, yet it was Loyola that had an underdog feel. The Terrapins have multiple championship banners hanging in their stadium — albeit none since 1975 — and were playing for another just a year ago.
But the Greyhounds, unranked at the start of the season and long the second fiddle in Baltimore to the lacrosse powerhouse Johns Hopkins, had a magnificent year. They set a program record with 18 wins.
Coach Charley Toomey — the starting goalie for Loyola the last time it played for a title, in 1990 — has finally found redemption.
Greyhounds attacker Eric Lusby scored four goals, giving him 17 in four tournament games to set a record. The sophomore goalie Jack Runkel made six saves and the Loyola defense held Maryland to its lowest scoring output of the season.
An all-Maryland final — the first time two teams from that state faced each other in the championship game since 1979 — was only one aspect of an intriguing matchup between universities located 30 miles apart. The teams had not played each other in 14 years, and are led by coaches who are dear friends.
The relationship between Maryland’s John Tillman and Loyola’s Toomey goes back to when they lived next door to each other in Annapolis, Md., in the mid-1990s. Today, they talk almost daily and had shared a summer lacrosse camp in Annapolis for five years.
Half an hour before Monday’s game, Toomey and Tillman met near midfield, took their hats off, shook hands and embraced. They smiled and spoke briefly.
“He’s a good coach; he’s a better friend,” Tillman said of Toomey on Sunday. “It’s a little bit awkward in certain ways, but all that being said, we realize what’s at stake for both schools and for our guys and what they’ve invested.”
Maryland took a 3-2 lead early in the second quarter on a goal by Kevin Cooper, but Loyola came back to score the next three, going into halftime with a 5-3 lead.
Loyola lost 13 consecutive face-off draws, going back to its semifinal game, before finally winning one midway through the second quarter. But the Greyhounds were still able to keep up the offensive pressure.
Loyola’s defense, which propelled its semifinal win over Notre Dame on Saturday, again stifled Maryland, forcing eight turnovers in the first half alone from a team that averaged less than 12 giveaways per game this season.
After Cooper’s goal, Maryland did not score. The Terps have now lost in seven consecutive title appearances.
Toomey’s team went 8-5 last year, lost in the semifinals of the Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference tournament, and entered this season unranked and largely unknown. Lusby, Loyola’s top attackman, was recovering from a torn anterior cruciate ligament that cost him nearly the entire 2011 season. The goalie situation was in the air.
But the Greyhounds won their first 12 games. The 6-foot-3, 225-pound Runkel did not even start until facing Michigan on March 7 but emerged as a force, allowing less than eight goals per game.
This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:
Correction: May 29, 2012
An earlier version of this article erroneously stated that Greyhounds attacker Eric Lusby had 16 goals in the tournament.