October 5, 2012

Greyhounds Celebrate National Title at Ring Ceremony

by Matt Forman | LaxMagazine.com | Twitter

Loyola coach Charley Toomey at the Greyhounds' ring ceremony on Friday night.
© Matt Forman

BALTIMORE — Josh Hawkins' singing celebration while walking the sidelines of Gillette Stadium came true Friday night. Or as Justin Ward put it, "All of our childhood dreams have come true."

Five months ago, after Loyola won the men's lacrosse national championship Ratliff rapped "I got a ring. He got one too!" mimicking the New York Giants' post-Super Bowl melody. On Friday, Hawkins, Ward and all 42 other members of the Greyhounds' title team received their NCAA championship rings at a ceremony held in McGuire Hall on Loyola's quaint campus in north Baltimore. Players and their parents, coaches and their families, the school's administration and support staff gathered to honor and celebrate Loyola's 2012 championship season. Pieces of memorabilia from the 2012 campaign — the Walnut and Bronze trophy, a slice of netting, signed helmets — and plaques acknowledging their accomplishment dotted the decked-out green ballroom.

As several players joked Friday, "Now all we've got to do is make a music video." They've certainly got the bling to do so, in the form of a 34-jewel ring imprinted with the Loyola "L" logo on its face. Each player's last name is inscribed above the university's shield on the ring's right side, while the NCAA lacrosse championships logo stands with the year 2012 on the left.

Radio voice of the Hounds Chris Gunkel served the evening's emcee. After distinguished guests shared a meal, a roughly 15-minute highlight video showed significant plays from nearly every one of Loyola's 18 victories. Defenseman Reid Acton's 75-yard, full-field goal in the ECAC tournament against Fairfield, which ranked as SportsCenter's No. 1 play, gained the most applause.

Loyola's championship ring features 34 jewels with the Loyola "L" logo on its face. Each player's last name is inscribed above the university's shield on the ring's right side, while the NCAA championships logo (right) stands with the year on the left.
© Loyola athletics; Matt Forman

It was abundantly clear before Friday, but the highlight package underscored a message: Loyola had a lot of fun on its fairytale run to Foxborough. They had fun getting up and down the field, running in transition behind Hawkins and Scott Ratliff. They had fun sticking it from both sides of the field, from unthinkable distances, with Mike Sawyer and Eric Lusby. They had fun begging opponents to attack the teeth of Joe Fletcher and Dylan Grimm, inviting shots that Jack Runkel corralled. They had fun rallying around vocal leader J.P. Dalton.

In banquet-style format, individual team awards were named before the ring ceremony commenced. The winners, as announced in order:

The Groundball Award — Scott Ratliff
Rookie of the Year — Nikko Pontrello
Most Improved Player — Pat Byrnes
Offensive MVP — Mike Sawyer
Defensive MVP — Scott Ratliff and Joe Fletcher
Joe Boylan Award for Leadership and Inspiration — J.P. Dalton
Dr. Paul Bagley Award for Dedication and Sacrifice — Dylan Grimm

And then, the moment everyone was waiting for: the ring distribution. Players were announced in alphabetical order, and each was presented with a wooden encasement for their prized possession.

"2012 was a great journey," Loyola coach Charley Toomey said during his opening remarks, before the blessing and presentation of the rings. "It's something that nobody can ever take from you."

Notes and quotes...

- As LaxMagazine.com outlined earlier Friday in its "30in30" fall ball series, Toomey said Friday that he wants to turn the page on the 2012 season. But not before, for one last time, the national champions were crowned with their fine jewelry. "The challenge we have is that anytime you're honoring the 2012 team while you're in the midst of chasing something in the 2013 season, you kind of want to move past it. You want to chase the next dream, and you want to make it about that. But this is a coaching opportunity. This is an opportunity tonight to remember the journey this team went on. To remember the journey that made the 2012 team the successful team that it was."

- "This is what I want for the 2013 team," Toomey said. "This is what I hope for. This is what our staff dreams about, for the next group of guys that are in the locker room chasing that next trophy."

- Toomey made a point of acknowledging his team's humility and dignity during post-game press conferences — a certain reporter would agree with this assessment — and followed it up by saying, "I hope our guys see that. Because we're good enough again. We're good enough. But it's about the journey."

- Said Toomey during his speech: "That was what this team was: They cared about each other, and they made each other better."

- At halftime of the national championship game against Maryland, Toomey joked the Greyhounds' mascot needed an IV injection to help rehydrate and deal with the elements.

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