A Hound on Fire

Graduate-student-athlete Eric Lusby stands out as scoring machine

By Gary Lambrecht  |  Photo by Larry French

It’s the image that captures Loyola’s drive to its first NCAA Division I championship in school history: Eric Lusby, ’11, catching a pass, winding up, and firing a left-handed shot approaching 100 miles per hour past a helpless goalie. Lusby created that playoff picture at a record-setting pace as a graduate student using his final year of eligibility, topping off a remarkable comeback from a knee injury.

Ever since that awful, NCAA tournament moment against Cornell in May 2010, when he shredded the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee while chasing a ground ball in the third quarter of Loyola’s overtime loss, Lusby had no doubt he would be back. He just didn’t think it would take so long.

Following successful surgery after that season and an encouraging rehabilitation in the fall of his senior year, Lusby could not shake the pain resulting from scar tissue around his patella tendon. During the Greyhounds’ second game against Towson University in 2011, he ran off the field and told head coach Charley Toomey, ’90, he was done.

“I was slower. I couldn’t move. I knew I couldn’t help the team,” said Lusby, who applied for a medical redshirt, earned his bachelor’s in finance, and plotted his return to the field in 2012 as a graduate student.

“I had missed the fall and missed a lot of practice time in the preseason. I couldn’t get my skills where they needed to be. It was tough. I wasn’t going to be able to play with the seniors I came in with—all of my good friends.”

“Not only did we miss Eric’s shot [in 2011], we missed his leadership,” Toomey said. “It’s tough to lead from the sideline. I think as a student-athlete Eric would be the first one to tell you it’s tough when you can’t help your teammates.”

Lusby repaid his teammates and then some with a 37-goal regular season in 2012, during which he and Mike Sawyer, ’13, became the game’s most potent, two-headed attack monster. But Lusby was just getting warmed up.

Over four superb NCAA tournament games, Lusby found the net a record 17 times. And he made a huge impact as the postseason pressure mounted on the Greyhounds.

Lusby scored five times in the 10-9, quarterfinal victory over Denver that carried Loyola to its first semifinal since 1998. He followed with five more goals in the 7-5 win over Notre Dame that put Loyola in its only other title game since 1990. Then he went out in style by personally outscoring the University of Maryland with four goals in the Greyhounds’ 9-3 rout in the championship game.

“I went into the tournament thinking I wanted to wait for the game to come to me,” said Lusby, who became Loyola’s single-season record holder with 54 goals. “Our midfielders did a great job of dodging hard and getting me open. When I got [scoring] chances with time and room [to shoot], I was able to see the part of the net where I wanted to put the ball. I kept getting really good looks.”

“This was purely about Eric having a high confidence level to get his shot,” said Toomey. “And nobody got his hands back as far as he did.”

Lusby put on a scoring clinic over the final two games, where he produced nine goals and was the runaway choice for Most Outstanding Player. That gave him 11 hat tricks on the season, and it allowed him to pass Sawyer, who wound up the year with 52 goals.

Mainly, Lusby was a catch-and-shoot machine on the right wing. In addition, two years after he scored 20 goals while running on the first midfield line, Lusby went back to attack and showed the kind of dodging ability that proved how sound his right knee was.

Major League Lacrosse certainly noticed. After Lusby went undrafted last winter following his injury, he was claimed by the Charlotte Hounds on June 6. Lusby, who joined the Charlotte team as a backup to established stars Matt Danowski, Billy Bitter, and Jeremy Boltus on attack, is seeking a job in finance.

Standing with some of his teammates, Lusby, center, holds the trophy high.

And he will always treasure what he was able to help Loyola accomplish in his last collegiate go-round.

“It felt great this year, being able to step up when my teammates really needed me,” Lusby said.

“Eric has never raised his voice. He doesn’t know how to get fired up. He has such a low ego,” said Greyhounds attackman Justin Ward, ’14. “I don’t think people understood how good he is. But he was absolutely on fire at the most important time.”

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