Charley Toomey learned many lessons in his first season on the NCAA tournament selection committee.
One of the most important for the Loyola coach was the anxiety he felt when he left the room when his Greyhounds were discussed for inclusion as one of the final at-large teams.
Loyola (9-4) ultimately wound up in the field for the third time in four years, and the Greyhounds will visit seventh-seeded Cornell in the first round.
"A lot of things go through your mind," Toomey said. "I learned so much throughout the process. Not a stone goes unturned. They scour over numbers, scour over head-to-head, RPI, strength of scheduke. They really do a thorough job. I knew that whether or not we were in, I knew the committee was justified in every selection they were going to make. Sitting outside in the hallway for about a half hour is tough. I was probably as excited as our kids to get in."
Toomey, though, had to keep it to himself for several hours.
There was the short drive back to campus up I-83 from the Baltimore hotel where the committee convened. Then the Greyhounds assembled for the selection show, unaware of their fate after dropping consecutive games to close out the regular season.
"To have to keep it under your tongue for six hours [was tough], but I certainly didn't want to let on to the team," Toomey said. "This is their time together and they were getting a little nervous toward the end. It was obviously a big moment to hear our name."
A burst bubble much like last season averted, the Greyhounds can now worry about more lasting accomplishments.
Loyola has lost its last 10 games in May, a stretch dating back to the 2004 season finale against Johns Hopkins. Setbacks against Denver and Hopkins this year cost the Greyhounds a seed and nearly knocked them out of the field.
But victories over Georgetown and Towson lifted Loyola into the field, and now the Greyhounds will look to finally lock up their first 10-win season since 2001 --- which also happened to be the last time they won an NCAA tournament game.
Those milestones would mean a great deal for the Greyhounds, who for much of the season looked poised to take a major step this spring.
"We've talked about it every year to our seniors to leave the program better than you found it," Toomey said. "This class has been three out of four years. I know that was something they wanted to continue, to leave us as a tournament team take that step. Collin Finnerty, Cooper MacDonnell, Steve Layne, I have seniors all over the field. This is something they're going to embark on for the next three weeks, hopefully. As we talked [last] night, they've just finished finals. Now, they're professional lacrosse players. It's just practice and Cornell."