Loyola's Season Will Now End on its Own Terms


Loyola could not compete in the Patriot League championship game after a positive COVID-19 test among Tier 1 personnel.

Loyola coach Charley Toomey couldn’t know for sure his team would have a Monday practice this week.

When it assembled for it after the Greyhounds earned one of the final two spots in the NCAA tournament — but did not watch the selection show together after withdrawing from the Patriot League final Sunday morning after a positive COVID-19 test among its Tier 1 personnel — he knew exactly what his team needed.

“I said, ‘Can we take two minutes and celebrate like our name was just called?’ And they went nuts,” Toomey said. “That was that moment you thought was robbed from them.”

Considering it seemed a lot more than that might be taken away, Loyola (9-5) was thrilled to be together for another week and getting ready for a Sunday night date with seventh-seeded Denver (12-4) in the Mile High City.

Like everyone in the sport, the Greyhounds understand all too well what it’s like to have a season halted by reasons beyond their control. That added a layer to the discussions Toomey had with his Saturday night when it was clear Loyola wouldn’t be able to meet the protocols necessary to play Lehigh the following day.

The Mountain Hawks would be awarded the Patriot League’s automatic berth. Loyola’s regular season ended not on the field but in a banquet room in eastern Pennsylvania.

“To watch our seniors hang out in that room and reflect on their careers and chat with the coaches, it became a special moment for me to sit back and watch.”

But Loyola wasn’t done. Toomey, a former member of the NCAA lacrosse committee, knew the Greyhounds had rallied in the final week and a half of the season to construct a formidable at-large profile.

A victory over Georgetown only grew more valuable when the Hoyas won the Big East. Loyola upended Navy to end the Midshipmen’s postseason hopes, and then toppled Army in the Patriot League semifinals.

“I did tell the team as soon as I broke the news I felt like we had a strong case,” Toomey said. “I didn’t know what that meant, but I felt good that at least we were in consideration and they had to keep their hopes up. I said, ‘I believe we will be practicing. I believe that in my heart and you need to know that,’ but I didn’t know that.”

Unlike last weekend, when Loyola had less than 24 hours to sort out the positive test, it had more than a week to conduct contact tracing and clear players. The Greyhounds flew to Denver on Friday confident they would participate in the postseason.

“Yeah, 100 percent,” Toomey said. “I feel very good that we’re ready to move forward. The NCAA has limited the number of guys that can travel, which is a little bit of a downer for all of us. But we know we have a group that’s going out there that is ready to compete.”

For Loyola, that’s the key part. Depending on their play, the Greyhounds’ season will end Sunday, May 23, May 29 or May 31. Any of those outcomes is better than May 8 in a hotel ballroom.

Or in mid-March.

“What I’m so happy about is they’ll walk off the field at the end,” Toomey said. “They’re not being told it’s over, they’re walking off the field.”

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