Saturday afternoon, I was able to drive to Powder Springs, just northwest of Atlanta, to see my alma mater, Loyola College, take on Notre Dame in the season-opening lacrosse game of the 2009 season.
There was close to 4,000 fans at the game, many of them kids from grade-school age to high schoolers, carrying lacrosse sticks and wearing team jerseys. Lax has blossomed in the state of Georgia with 51 boys teams, and 56 girls teams playing in the state association in 2009. Later this year, Harvard’s men’s team will travel to the Atlanta area to take on Presbyterian in late March in another showcase game. Plus, let’s not forget that the weather in Atlanta was probably better than Baltimore’s or South Bend’s this time of year.
Prior to the game, the Loyola alumni association held a small gathering for parents and alumni outside of the stadium. Many thanks to Chris Johnson, Loyola’s assistant director of alumni relations, who set up the pre-game reception. My wife and I joined in to cheer the Hounds from the stands with those who made the trip down south.
The game was a tough one for the Greyhounds. Loyola had two huge chances to tie the game in the final minute, but Fighting Irish goaltender Scott Rodgers came up big both times, and Notre Dame escaped with a hard-fought 10-9 victory, despite four goals and an assist by Loyola’s Collin Finnerty.
The real winner were those young players that had a chance to see some of the best college lacrosse up close and pick up pointers on the little things that make successful players at that level.
I visited with Loyola’s longtime director of sports medicine, Joe Artuso, A.T., C., who has been at the school for 23 years – and who was there when I worked as a student manager for the basketball team and in the sports information office. Joe is one of the true institutions at Loyola, as several hundred student-athletes have been under his and his staff’s care at one time or another.
I also spent a few moments with assistant athletic director for external affairs Marty Kelly, who also made the trip to Atlanta. Another Loyola grad who stayed at the school as an employee, Kelly is very optimistic about the future of the Greyhounds’ soccer and lacrosse programs with the upcoming completion of the new Intercollegiate Athletic Facility near campus.
Much has changed at Loyola since my graduation in 1987 and my one year as a full-time athletic department employee from 1987-88 (including the school’s official name next year to Loyola University Maryland), but the overall growth of the institution and the maturing of the Hounds’ Division I athletic program (and facilities) is point of pride for those of us who made the trek to North Charles Street to earn our degrees and who were part of the athletic program in the days of the transition from Evergreen Gym to Reitz Arena.