Whatever It Takes

By Rita Buettner

At the start of the season, when the Greyhounds men’s lacrosse team was ranked 22nd, Coach Charley Toomey, ’90—or his assistant coaches, he says—had the team run 21 sprints up and back on the field at Ridley Athletic Complex.

As the team arrived in Baltimore at 3 a.m. yesterday, the bus pulled up at Ridley. Toomey sent his national champion players onto the field again—but for a shorter run.

“We ran one, because we are number one,” Toomey told the group of Loyola faculty, staff, alumni, and community members who gathered to welcome the team back to campus yesterday afternoon. In Baltimore’s sunny, late-May heat, the crowd of members of the Loyola community cheered, waving green pompoms and holding signs and banners.

In a record-breaking season that culminated in Loyola’s first Division I NCAA championship in any sport, the men’s lacrosse team made history in a historic year for Greyhounds athletics. About halfway through the season, the players were surprised to realize that children in the stands were cheering for them by name. As they kept winning game after game after game, more and more people knew their names—and what they were achieving for Loyola.

“People from all over the world were watching our national champions,” Susan Donovan, Ph.D., executive vice president, told yesterday’s crowd.

It was Toomey, though, who stole the show, even as he handed the credit to his players and to each member of the Loyola community who supported the program decades ago and during the team’s championship season. When Toomey choked up early in his remarks, the crowd was right there with him.

The coach thanked Paul Bagley, Ph.D., associate professor of philosophy, for sharing words of wisdom with the team every Wednesday afternoon—a tradition started years ago by former Loyola President Rev. Joseph Sellinger, S.J. Toomey recognized Fr. Sellinger and current Loyola President Rev. Brian Linnane, S.J., for their commitment to Loyola athletics.

And when he mentioned the late Rev. Harold “Hap” Ridley, S.J., the former president for whom the athletic complex is named, he even paused to ask the crowd to “give it up for him.” And they did, honoring the beloved campus leader.

Toomey thanked Fr. Linnane for building the facility that attracted the players to Loyola. “I think he made the comment once before that he didn’t want to get hit by lacrosse balls anymore walking across campus,” said the coach with a grin, “but hey, whatever it takes.”

As the Greyhounds stood on the steps of Maryland Hall yesterday, holding the NCAA Championship trophy high, and with faculty, staff, and members of the Loyola community beaming back at them, the players’ faces were full of joyful pride.

What makes a national champion? That’s hard to say. This team ran many more than 21 laps and listened to weekly words of wisdom from a philosophy professor. They soaked up incomparable coaching, and made the most of exceptional athletic talent and teamwork.

Or, as the team’s understated coach might say, hey, whatever it takes.

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