FOXBORO, Mass. -- Hard to believe that Eric Lusby actually was struggling with his shot before the NCAA Tournament began. How quickly things turned around for the Loyola (Md.) attack.
Lusby scored four goals in Monday's 9-3 victory over Maryland that brought the university its first men's lacrosse national championship. He scored five goals in a 7-5 semifinal victory over Notre Dame on Saturday and totaled 17 goals in four tournament games, breaking the NCAA record of 16 held by Matt Ward (Virginia, 2006) and Zack Greer (Duke, 2007).
"It's pretty hard to explain. I just got hot at the right time," said Lusby, who scored three goals in the fourth quarter to ensure there would be no comeback by the Terrapins. "I knew going into the tournament my shot was a little off. I kept missing the cage, so I knew I wanted to shoot for net."
That turned out to be a good plan. Lusby scored on five of eight shots Saturday and four of 12 Monday. He finished the year with a school-record 54 goals.
When Lusby took a feed from Chris Layne and scored with 11:12 left for a 7-3 lead, the game was pretty much in hand because of Loyola's relentless defensive pressure. No way was Maryland staging a comeback.
The only suspense was whether Lusby would get the goal-scoring record. "People were saying stuff about it throughout the game," he said of the sideline chatter among his teammates. "But it [the tournament record] wasn't a goal. We wanted to win a national championship, and if I had to score however many goals to get that done, I was going to do that. Obviously it means something right now. But the goal was to win a national championship."
At the start of the season, it was an improbable goal for Lusby, a graduate student from Severna Park, Md., who was a midfielder in 2011. But he missed nearly all of that season with a knee injury, and once he recovered, the coaching staff had a decision to make.
"We had every thought of having Eric back at midfield last year, but when we had to shut him down, we had to find another spot," Loyola coach Charley Toomey said. "He shoots with such velocity. We never asked Eric to play defense [this season]. He was an attack who didn't come off the field. When we had an opportunity open up on the left attack, that's where he found himself."
And this month, Lusby found his shot, too.