Unranked at the beginning of the season, Loyola of Maryland is No. 1 at the end.
Loyola beat the University of Maryland 9-3 Monday to win the NCAA men's lacrosse national championship, three months after the Greyhounds opened the season miffed at being overlooked in preseason polls.
"We knew what we had in our locker room through the whole year. It's just been an unbelievable journey," said Eric Lusby, who scored four goals and set an NCAA record with 17 in the tournament.
Loyola completed one of the most rewarding runs possible, going from unranked to No. 1 seed and finally national champion. The top-seeded Greyhounds captured their first NCAA title and finished the season 18-1. Loyola was in the title game for the first time since losing to Syracuse in 1990 - when current coach Charley Toomey was a goalie for the Greyhounds.
"We don't bring up past history. This is our team," Toomey said. "This is a special group of young men that fought through a lot of things this year to put themselves in this position and they stood tall on the biggest day."
Maryland's three goals were the fewest allowed this season by Loyola, which shut out the Terrapins (12-6) for the final 40 minutes and 40 seconds of the match. The Terps lost in the title game for the second straight year.
"I think individually they won the majority of the matchups. We were having a tough time getting leverage," Maryland coach John Tillman said.
Chris Layne added three assists and Jack Runkel finished with six saves for the Greyhounds, whose only loss this season was to Johns Hopkins in overtime April 28.
When the game ended, Loyola's players rushed the field, leaving a trail of sticks, helmets and gloves for a celebratory pileup. The players then ran across the field and a few leaped into the stands to join the fans before lining up and shaking hands with the Maryland players.
The two Maryland schools are separated by about 30 miles, but it was only their 21st meeting and first since the Terrapins' 19-8 victory in the 1998 national semifinals.
The Greyhounds scored seven straight goals after falling behind 3-2. The last three came from Lusby, who had five goals in the Greyhounds' 7-5 win over Notre Dame in the semifinals Saturday.
"It's kind of hard to explain. I just got hot at the right time. I knew going into the tournament my shot was a little off. I kept missing the cage, so I knew I just wanted to shoot for net. I just have to give credit to all the other guys on the offense," Lusby said. "When I had the opportunity to shoot and score I just wanted to make sure I made it count."
Lusby broke the tournament record of 16 goals shared by Matt Ward of Virginia (2006) and Zack Greer (2007) of Duke.
The Greyhounds scored three straight times in the second quarter for a 5-3 lead at halftime. Loyola's Justin Ward scored the only goal of the third quarter. Then the Greyhounds pulled away with three more in the fourth.
Lusby added his second goal 3:48 into the fourth quarter. He tied the tournament record with 5:07 left and broke it with the final goal of the game, scoring with 3:45 to go.
"I think they did a great job on the defensive end making us a little uncomfortable," Maryland's Drew Snider said.
Maryland opened the scoring on defenseman Jesse Bernhardt's goal with 9:36 left in the first quarter. The Terps went up 3-2 early in the second when Kevin Cooper scored from in front, but the Greyhounds scored the next seven.
Bernhardt was knocked out of the game in a scary collision early in the first quarter. He managed to walk off the field, but Tillman said he likely has a concussion.