May 28, 2012

Selfless Lusby Breaks NCAA Tournament Scoring Record

by Matt Forman | | Twitter

Loyola attackman Eric Lusby passed former college stars Matt Ward and Zack Greer on the NCAA Division I men's lacrosse tournament all-time scoring list in the fourth quarter of the Greyhounds' 9-3 title game win.
© Kevin P. Tucker

NCAA Division I Men's Championship

* Top Dogs: Loyola Downs Maryland for National Title
* Terps Offense Dries Up in Another Title Game Loss
* Toomey, Tillman Finish Bittersweet Afternoon
* Live Blog Replay

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — For a guy nicknamed "Big City," Eric Lusby's humility is striking. His performance in the NCAA tournament spoke volumes, but you'd never be able to tell with the way he talks.

"It's pretty hard to explain. I just got hot at the right time," said Lusby, the mild-mannered assassin. "I just have to give credit to all the other guys on the offense. The middies were dodging hard all weekend, drawing slides and giving me the opportunities I had. And Mike Sawyer attracted the defense on his side of the field."

Lusby diverted attention away from himself all weekend long, but the "King of the Front Swing" scored a postseason record 17 goals, securing his spot in lacrosse lore. He broke the tournament scoring mark previously held by Virginia's Matt Ward (2006) and Duke's Zack Greer ('07).

"People were saying stuff about [the record] throughout the game. A couple guys on the team, like Pete Bowes and Brian Schultz," Lusby said. "But that wasn't a goal of mine. 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 it."

Lusby was named the tournament's most outstanding player and shined brightest on Memorial Day, scoring four goals in Loyola's 9-3 defeat of Maryland to help capture the school's first-ever national championship.

The final scoreboard at Gillette Stadium could have read: Eric Lusby, 4. Maryland, 3.

Lusby gave Loyola an early 2-1 lead after slipping off a pick set by Justin Ward. He backed down Maryland defenseman Goran Murray along goal-line extended, pulled off an inside roll dodge and finished a bouncer between Niko Amato's legs to give Loyola a 2-1 lead.

After being held in check for the second and third quarters, Lusby helped Loyola put the game on ice in the fourth, registering a hat trick in the final frame. He ripped a pair of time-and-room lefty lasers past Amato, getting his hands free up top on passes from Chris Layne and Mike Sawyer.

And Lusby's record-breaking goal was probably his easiest of the postseason — an empty netter on a righty quick-stick shot between defenders.

Lusby's play in the NCAA tournament was hardly unpredictable; after all, he entered the postseason having scored 37 goals. But the way he put the Greyhounds on his back was remarkable and keyed their postseason run. He scored 14 of Loyola's 26 goals in the quarterfinals, semifinals and championship while Tewaaraton finalist Mike Sawyer scored two in the same three-game span.

But two years ago, Lusby couldn't have seen this coming. He tore his ACL in the first half of Loyola's 11-10 triple-overtime loss to Cornell in the NCAA tournament first round. Lusby rehabbed aggressively to return in 2011 and played in the team's first two games last year, but decided he wasn't fully ready to make an impact, so he shut himself down and took a redshirt season.

Lusby was rewarded with the ultimate prize for his patience and pushing through adversity: A national championship.

He played like a cagey veteran throughout the tournament, delving deep into his bag of tricks — like his Mark Matthews-esque toe drag against Notre Dame in the semifinals. In the process, the All-American snub (he was an honorable mention pick) quietly passed Sawyer as the team's leading scorer, though he entered the postseason trailing by eight.

Still, coach Charley Toomey said several times throughout the weekend that "Eric would be the first one to tell you" his success came as a result of the focus on Sawyer.

Toomey joked Sunday his nickname for his fifth-year senior is "Slugsby," since he would plug along but always find himself in the right place at the right time. Modestly.

"The biggest thing I learned from the postseason about him: He was just shooting for net," Loyola sophomore attackman Justin Ward said. "Not trying to pick a corner, or going high-to-high under the crossbar. Just hit the net and it's a goal. It doesn't matter how it goes in, or where it goes in. He's a gifted shooter, and a smart shooter. And he does not have an ego.

"Playing with Eric Lusby is a blessing. He's the most level-headed kid. When he scores, he just points up. He never yells. He never pounds his chest. He never points up to the stands. Nothing. Completely level-headed. He never gets too high, never gets too low. Nothing flashy. Just lets his game do the talking."

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