Maryland-Loyola not just a rematch but a battle of No. 1s in lacrosse

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Sports,College,Kevin Dunleavy,Terps,University of Maryland

Terps and Greyhounds each on top of one poll

Loyola and Maryland met in the NCAA title game last year. Both teams return eight of 10 starters and are ranked No. 1, with defending champion Loyola first in the media poll and 2012 runner-up Maryland atop the coaches poll.

When the teams meet Saturday in Baltimore, however, there isn't as much of a big-game feel. Each year at this time, lacrosse quietly arrives amid harsh conditions, counter to the relaxed, flip-flop culture of the sport. A lacrosse season is a work in progress. It doesn't matter so much where you start but where you finish.

When asked this week about the unique No. 1 vs. No. 1 matchup, Maryland coach John Tillman pleaded ignorance. He wasn't even aware the Terrapins had been selected the day before. It is the first time since 2006 the Terps have been ranked first.

Up next
Maryland at Loyola
When » Saturday, 1:30 p.m.
Where » Ridley Athletic Complex,
Baltimore
TV » NBCSN

"How are we No. 1? I seriously have no idea," Tillman said. "We just lost to this team in the national championship game."

A month ago, Maryland (2-0) was picked No. 2 in both preseason polls. But after the Terps walloped Mount St. Mary's and Hartford by a combined 39-10 and Loyola squeaked past Delaware 9-8, some voters changed their opinion.

"I don't even look at that stuff," Tillman said. "I don't think anybody remembers who was ranked No. 1 in the country the second week of February 2012. I seem to remember Loyola not even being ranked going into 2012, and they were the national champions."

Loyola was a 9-3 winner in the title game on Memorial Day, completing an 18-1 season that was a revelation under Charley Toomey, now in his eighth season. After losing its previous seven NCAA tournament games dating to 1998, the Greyhounds rolled to their first title.

Eric Lusby, who scored 17 goals in the tournament, graduated, but the Greyhounds (2-0) have firepower back in junior feeder Justin Ward (four goals, five assists) and senior Mike Sawyer (five goals). Junior goalie Jack Runkel, who limited Maryland to a title game record low of three goals, is back along with junior defender Joe Fletcher and senior long-stick midfielder Scott Ratliff.

Maryland counters with senior attackmen Kevin Cooper (six goals, five assists) and Owen Blye (six goals) and a senior brother duo in Jake Bernhardt (five goals), back after an injury redshirt season, and long-stick midfielder Jesse Bernhardt, the ACC co-defensive player of the year. Sophomore shutdown defender Goran Murray was the ACC freshman of the year, backed up by junior goalie Niko Amato.

While the game appears to be a dream matchup on paper, Tillman is downplaying its significance, especially as it applies to the polls.

"Early season polls are what they are. The schedule plays its way out," Tillman said. "If you're worried about polls, letting that dictate our mindset, we're not going to be a very good team."

kdunleavy@washingtonexaminer.com

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