Photo Credit: Craig Chase
Championship runs are tough. I can’t speak from title winning experience here, but as a well-versed loser, I can surely tell you they really take their toll. Every game is a vicious scrap to the end (of your season), and every player is leaving it all out on the field. The checks are harder, the hits are meaner, and cliché flies with reckless abandon.
Loyola has now played in seven straight games of this nature, going back to 2012, and they’ve come out on top every single time, but how long can that last? And is this streak of wins important?
Loyola almost went undefeated last year, but they enjoyed a quieter regular season. There were doubts about their depth, and strength of schedule, and even more people wrote them off after their late season loss to Hopkins, even though it was by only a goal, and in OT. It’s not like they were sneaking up on people, but they weren’t truly regarded as a favorite, as they are now.
In 2013, it’s a totally different ball game, even though I don’t think that Loyola is going about things all that differently. The difference is that no one else is making excuses for Loyola, and no one doubts them. Not even for a second. They are expected to win by observers, and they are guaranteed to be a game circled in red on every opponents’ schedule. A smart man, who knows the program well, told me there are “no targets on (their) backs, they are on (their) foreheads“, and I couldn’t agree more.
While this attitude may not impact how Loyola goes about things, which is good, it does mean that the Greyhounds will continue to take everyone’s best shot, head on, until they lose a game. And then the target will move to where it should be, in the middle of their backs.
Teams want quality wins for sure, and Loyola is certainly a quality opponent, even if they were to lose a game. The fact that everyone wants to win all the time is obvious, but if you don’t think teams bring their best to the table when the Hounds come to town, you didn’t watch the Delaware game last weekend, or even the USA scrimmage before that, and those guys aren’t even in college.
Teams get after Loyola, and not in a cheap way, just in a I really want to win kind of way. To me, there was an extra level of intensity for an early season game and a scrimmage, and a good part of the reason was that the games were against Loyola. It’s a point of pride to play against the best, and right now that’s Loyola.
Loyola looked like the better team against Delaware, and in the end, thanks to a lefty Chris Layne snipe on the run, they did win 8-7. Delaware clearly wanted that game though, and played passionately throughout the quarters of action, even rallying when they were down three to tie the game up at 7 and almost force OT.
You can expect Towson to bring the exact same intensity as the Blue Hens.
The Tigers have an early loss to High Point on their slate, and once again, Loyola should be favored to win, even with Josh Hawkins indefinitely suspended from the team. But you just know Towson is looking to knock them off, and will bring an extra level of intensity to try to get it done. After all, this could be a season changing win for the Tigers.
If Loyola does get past Towson with a win, they face Maryland on Saturday, and after last year’s title game, the Terps would just love to get a little revenge.
I like Loyola to beat Towson, and think the Maryland game could be an instant classic, where anyone could win. I don’t know when, or even if, Loyola is going to lose, but I do know that until they do, every game they play will be a season maker for at least one of the teams on the field.
As to whether or not they keep winning, and whether it matters, I’m not sure either way. A loss could do this team some good as they often teach us more than a win, but with Loyola, so could an undefeated season, as Toomey is not the sort to allow his team to drink its own Kool-Aid. If the Hounds keep winning though, look for every team lined up to fight their hardest to be the one. If they do lose, things only change a little, and until the playoffs, when do or die truly kick back in.
In summation, all I can really say with 100% confidence is: watch Loyola games, especially if they keep winning. They’re guaranteed to be GREAT!
700 words to tell you that? Sorry. At least the pictures were pretty!