The Loyola Greyhounds were hard pressed to improve upon last year's 19-3-1 record. But they did. With their 5-nil shutout of Rider last Saturday, they completed their undefeated regular season, going 17-0-1. If they can win the MAAC Championship, they will go into the NCAA Tournament undefeated. They are one of only two teams to finish the regular season without a loss, the other being #1 Wake Forest.
Their run has been about the keeper. Milos Kocic, a leading candidate for best goalie in the NCAA, who has been stellar this year. Despite that he may have been battling injury during the start of the season, Kocic still only allowed 11 goals in 18 contests, including 10 shutouts. The 6'4'' keeper from Serbia is sure to be a fine player in the pros.
But Coach Mark Mettrick's team has also benefited from other international players. Jamie Darvill and Phil Bannister from England have been key contributors on offense.
But the question now is, how good is this team? As mentioned before the season, Loyola's schedule was full of teams that aren't ranked. Even though they finished undefeated, it is hard to gage Loyola's talent. Two teams they faced, Niagara and Campbell, received three and one vote respectively in the 11/4 coaches poll, and qualify as the hardest opponents Loyola has faced. Both were 1-nil victories for the Greyhounds. They may have to face Niagara again in MAAC Tournament, but Loyola has not had a matchup against a top-20 team.
If they win the MAAC, they will get a good seed in the tournament. But the lack of a difficult schedule could really hurt Loyola's chances at winning the whole thing. But, with the tendency of the NCAA to regionalize teams in the early going of the tournament, wouldn't it be interesting to see #5 Maryland and #6 Loyola rematch? That could be a tremendous game.
As always, Joe Mauceri has some great info on Loyola in his blog, Pro Player Pipeline. Check out his thoughts on Loyola here.
(Photo credits: Loyola athletics)