Ahead of the Game

May 17, 2012

They’ve broken records, set new ones, and won game after game after game. But even the most skilled athletes can’t be in two places at once.

With the Greyhounds men’s and women’s lacrosse teams scheduled to compete in the NCAA Quarterfinals on Saturday—the day of Loyola’s 2012 Commencement—the University arranged a special Commencement to give the senior teammates a chance to celebrate—and collect their degrees two days early.

The nine smiling seniors gathered outside Loyola’s 4th Floor Program Room to pull on their hoods and keep their caps on their heads—in the typical confusion of any graduation. Kristen Fisher, Loyola’s director of ceremonies, snapped the hoods into place and made sure tassels were firmly attached for each of the almost-graduates—just as she will on Saturday.

“We actually do it for them all,” she said, looking ahead to the more than 1,700 Loyola students who will graduate on Saturday. “We just have a lot more people.”

Is this how Eric Tillman, ’12, imagined his Commencement would be? “I hoped it would be,” said the business major with a grin. His mind was partly on accepting his degree and partly on taking on Denver in Annapolis on Saturday.

Kerry Stoothoff, ’12, remembers coming to a special ceremony to cheer on the members of the women’s lacrosse team who graduated last year while the team was in the midst of the NCAA Tournament. “I was hoping we’d get to do this again,” she said. Minutes before the ceremony, Stoothoff’s mother, who had been stuck in traffic on her way from Long Island, N.Y., arrived with a bouquet of flowers and a hug.

Today’s ceremony featured a full slate of blessings and remarks—including an address by Kip Fulks, chief operating officer of Under Armour, and loud, jovial cheers from their teammates.

Jim Paquette, assistant vice president and director of athletics, offered a litany of the teams’ staggering accomplishments. “Both teams have done it with sportsmanship and integrity,” he said, pointing out that they have also excelled academically. In fact, two of the women’s lacrosse players graduated cum laude.

Fulks, who described skipping happy hours to teach his 20-year-old self to sew, encouraged the teams to be unconventional—as he said they already are.

Loyola President Rev. Brian F. Linnane, S.J. held up his right hand to show the Big East ring he received after the 2011 Greyhounds women’s lacrosse team won the Big East title for the first time. “I have bling and a ring,” he joked, referring to the silver medallion he wears across his chest at Commencement. “My Grecian physique is now out of whack because I have this enormous right bicep from lifting this ring.”

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