Aug. 27, 2008
Baltimore, Md. - Ever since the Loyola men's soccer team trudged off the field following the heart-wrenching Second Round defeat at Maryland last fall, the focus of the 2008 team has been on getting back to the NCAA College Cup and that trek gets underway this weekend when the Greyhounds host the second annual Black & Decker Soccer Classic on Diane Geppi Aikens Field.
"This is a whole new season with new players," Loyola ninth-year head coach Mark Mettrick said when sizing up the upcoming season. "We definitely have some momentum from last year. But that was last year."
Nine starters and 18 letter winners return from a 2007 team that finished 19-3-1, was the regular-season and tournament champion in the MAAC, hosted an NCAA College Cup First Round game and was defeated at Maryland in the Second Round on penalty kicks after playing the No. 13 seeded Terrapins to a scoreless draw through 110 minutes. Also returning is what Mettrick thinks was one of the keys to last year's success - attitude.
"I really like this group's mentality," Mettrick commented. "A difference-maker for us last year was our attitude and this year's team has a good competitive attitude."
That change in attitude helped the Greyhounds author the biggest turnaround in the NCAA from the season before as Loyola recorded a 10-game improvement from its 7-11-1 mark in 2006 - a full game-and-a-half better than runner-up Quinnipiac.
"We are now the hunted which is a big difference from last year and we will have to deal with that," Mettrick said of the preseason accolades which have come, including the MAAC coaches selecting Loyola to repeat as champions and acknowledgement in a pair of preseason national rankings. "We are coming off a memorable 2007, but we have to approach this season in the right way - we have to focus on things one game at a time."
And that focus will be a pair of games this weekend at home. The Greyhounds have not commenced a season in its friendly confines since the opener of the 2004 season and Loyola will be looking to extend a stretch of 10 consecutive home wins and 13 victories in its last 14 contests at Evergreen.
"To start at home is always nice," Mettrick said of the upcoming Soccer Classic which will be sponsored by Black & Decker for the season straight year. "With 10 home games, it is important for our season to do well at home. We are excited about the Black & Decker sponsorship and want to put on a professional, first-class event."
Play gets underway Friday at 1 o'clock when Drexel and Hartwick tangle. The Greyhounds make their 2008 debut at 5:00 p.m. when they host Fordham. Competition reconvenes Sunday with Drexel and Fordham meeting at 10:30 a.m. and Loyola taking on Hartwick at 2 o'clock. Sunday's tripleheader concludes with the Loyola women's team hosting Old Dominion in the home debut of first-year head coach Katherine Vettori at 5:00 p.m.
Here now is a capsule look at the three teams that will be participating with the Greyhounds in the Black & Decker Soccer Classic:
Drexel: The 2007 Colonial Athletic Association Regular Season Co-Champions, the Dragons were tabbed for third by the league's coaches in its preseason poll. They will be led by defender Bryan Ruff, who last year became Drexel's first-ever First Team All-CAA selection, and midfielder Fabio Assumpcao, a Second Team All-CAA choice last year after ranking second on the team in assists and third in points. Both men were voted onto the All-CAA Preseason Team.
Fordham: Loyola's first opponent, the Greyhounds grabbed a 2-1 win at Rose Hill in the second game of last year's campaign. Two years ago, the Rams were among the nation's Top 20 and suffered through an injury-plagued season, but still qualified for the six-team tournament field in the always rugged Atlantic 10 Conference. Defender John Pardini was a preseason A-10 All-Conference selection and among the 48 players listed on the Hermann Trophy Watch List. Loyola leads the series with the Rams, 2-1.
Hartwick: A Division III institution which hosts Division I men's soccer, the Hawks have a rich soccer tradition, boasting 22 total postseason appearances and the National Championship in 1977. An associate member of the Mid-American Conference, Hartwick's Liam Parrington also is a member of the Hermann Trophy Watch List as a defender. The two teams have met one previous time, playing to a 1-1 tie in Oneonta in 1990.