2012 NCAA lacrosse tournament: Loyola beats Notre Dame to reach final for first time since 1990


Severna Park graduate Eric Lusby carries the ball against Stephen O'Hara of Notre Dame. (Winslow Townson/GETTY IMAGES)
May 26, 2012

On Thursday, Loyola fifth-year senior Eric Lusby learned that being the leading scorer for the No. 1 seed in the NCAA men’s lacrosse tournament earned him only honorable mention all-American honors.

On Saturday, in an NCAA semifinal against No. 4 Notre Dame at Gillette Stadium, Lusby scored five goals — on his first five shots — to help the Greyhounds win, 7-5, before 31,774.

Loyola (17-1) advanced to the NCAA title game for the second time in school history. It will face unseeded Maryland on Monday afternoon.

The performance by Lusby (Severna Park) was particularly pointed given the opponent. When the Division I all-Americans were announced, the defense for Notre Dame (13-3) had two on the first team: Senior close defender Kevin Randall and junior goalie John Kemp.

Lusby’s fifth and final goal of the day came with 11 minutes 40 seconds remaining; he dodged the alley against Randall and scored on a close shot past Kemp.

“He’s shown all year he’s a great scorer,” said Kemp, who finished with 13 saves. “Lusby started off hot, he was their go-to guy today and he got it done.”

Lusby’s performance offset a day when the rest of the team shot 2 for 20; junior Mike Sawyer, one of five finalists for the Tewaaraton Trophy for the top college player in the sport, went 0 for 7.

“For Eric to step up the way he did, with Mike not getting the looks he’s accustomed to, that’s what this team is all about,” Loyola Coach Charley Toomey said.

The Fighting Irish did not have a lead. Yet they were not out of the game, largely because they won 13 of 14 faceoffs.

Notre Dame closed to 7-5 following a goal by sophomore Westy Hopkins with 6:28 left.

In its five possessions after the goal, Notre Dame had three shots — all were saved by sophomore goalie Jack Runkel (career-high 15 saves) — and two turnovers. Hopkins had the best chance, on a shot from close range with 57 seconds left, but Runkel saved it.

Notre Dame got the ball close to the goal again in its final possession. But senior Dylan Grimm (Oakton) forced a turnover by Hopkins.

Notre Dame was undone in part by a freak injury to junior midfielder Steve Murphy. Late in the first quarter, junior Tyler Kimball took a hard shot that went right into Murphy’s jaw. Murphy left the game for the remainder of the half. He played one possession in the second half before leaving for good.

Murphy’s absence meant the Fighting Irish couldn’t use their second midfield, which had accounted for three goals and four assists in a 12-10 victory over defending national champion Virginia in the quarterfinals.

Afterward, Notre Dame Coach Kevin Corrigan said Murphy had gotten “dinged” on the shot by Kimball.

“It definitely hurt us,” Corrigan said. “They were our most productive group and they had played well the whole second half of the season. And not just their numbers but our team’s numbers when they were on the field. . . . [But] Loyola made more plays than we did and deserved to win.”

Loyola is in the title game for the first time since 1990, when it lost to Syracuse. Toomey and volunteer coach Steve Vaikness both were on that team.

“It means everything,” Toomey said. “It’s a special feeling. Steve Vaikness and I room together. Steve Vaikness and I ride the bus next to each other. All we ever wanted was for these guys to have the same feeling that we had 22 years ago. And that’s what they have right now.”

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