Commentary

Loyola writes the perfect ending

Originally Published: May 28, 2012
By Scott Barboza | ESPNBoston.com

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- On Monday, Loyola's Charley Toomey and Maryland's John Tillman were adversaries.

Soon enough, they'll be back to being regular travel buddies.

[+] EnlargeTillman/Toomey
Winslow Townson/Getty ImagesLoyola coach Charley Toomey, left, was congratulated by his friend, Maryland coach John Tillman, after the Greyhounds defeated the Terrapins to win the national championship.

Toomey's Greyhounds captured their first NCAA Division I men's lacrosse championship on Memorial Day, holding the Terrapins scoreless for more than 40 minutes in a 9-3 win at Gillette Stadium.

With it, Toomey vanquished the memories of his own missed opportunities -- a championship game loss to Syracuse as a player in 1990, when he was on the receiving end of a 21-goal siege in the Greyhounds' cage. The championship is also Loyola's first as a program since 1978, when the Greyhounds earned a Division II men's soccer title.

In the lacrosse hotbed of Maryland, this one counts most. The Greyhounds began the season jilted, unranked in both the Nike/Inside Lacrosse media top 25 and the USILA's coaches poll. Now, the Greyhounds stand atop the sport's pedestal, in addition to holding bragging rights over their rivals, who reside little more than 30 miles from the Charm City campus.

Not that Toomey was about to rub it in.

"We talked at the 50-yard line before the game, and it was going to be a bittersweet game for both of us," Toomey said of his pregame chat with the Terps' coach. "With a win, you're so excited, but you also feel for the guy in that other locker room. I know John's excited for me. He came up and gave me a big hug and said, 'I'm so proud it's you.'"

The Greyhounds' run to the title was rooted in respect, or the lack thereof. From the moment they set foot to field, motivation wasn't lacking.

"That is the day that sticks out in your mind," junior long-stick midfielder Scott Ratliff said. "When that first ranking came out in the beginning of the season, we all felt disrespected."

The Greyhounds had plenty going for them aside from a chip on their shoulder. In addition to Tewaaraton Award finalist Mike Sawyer in attack, Loyola relied on the tournament's breakout performer, Eric Lusby. The graduate student set a tournament record, scoring his 17th postseason goal (his fourth of the game) during a three-goal fourth quarter, capping off a run of seven straight Greyhounds tallies to close the game.

[+] EnlargeEric Lusby
Winslow Townson/Getty ImagesEric Lusby scored four goals in the championship game, giving him an NCAA-best 17 this postseason.

Lusby admitted postgame that his shot was a bit off in the weeks leading up to the tournament. But, as everything the Greyhounds touched this postseason, it turned to gold.

"I have to give credit to all the other guys in the offense," said Lusby, a Maryland native. "From the middies to Davis Butts, and Pat Byrnes and all those guys. They were dodging hard all weekend, and drawing slides and giving me the opportunities I had. And Mike Sawyer drawing all the attention on his side of the field. When I had the opportunity to shoot and score, I wanted to make sure I made it count."

Down the other end of the field, Maryland struggled to find the cage at all.

"Some days it looks so big," Tillman said. "Some days, like today, it looks so small."

Who knows whether the Terps' shooting woes will be a topic of discussion between the old friends during the summer when they traverse the highways of the Mid-Atlantic and beyond on their yearly recruiting trips. That might take a while to boil to the surface; the wounds are still fresh. There will be plenty of miles of conversation to fill this summer.

The coaches' bond runs deep, and they exchanged pleasantries in their postgame remarks, more than just cordial lip service. Tillman rehashed memories of holidays spent at the Toomey family's home when he was on the road.

"[He is] one of my closest friends in the game of lacrosse, a family friend, and not just a coach's alliance," Toomey said. "He's a guy I'll probably be in the car with tomorrow driving to go Long Island to start recruiting."

Then, the competition resumes again.

Scott Barboza

Reporter, ESPNBoston.com
Scott Barboza joined ESPNBoston.com as a high schools editor/reporter in May 2010. He spent the previous three seasons working in the New England Patriots media relations department after a stint at the Taunton Daily Gazette, where he covered everything from Little League baseball to the Boston Red Sox.

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