DENVER, Colo. — It was one of the all-time great saves in Loyola University men's lacrosse history.
Sam Shafer stopped Denver's Alex Simmons at point-blank range with five seconds to go in regulation to secure the Greyhounds' 14-13 win over the No. 7 Pioneers in Sunday's first round of the NCAA Tournament.
It was the last of the senior goalkeeper's career-high 16 saves.
"I kind of just stood tall and held my ground, tried to match his stick," said Shafer.
"I’m just so happy for guys like Sam - to have his best game of his career in the biggest moment of the season," said Loyola Head Coach Charley Toomey.
It’s a moment that almost never happened. Just eight days ago the Greyhounds (10-5) were forced to withdraw from the Patriot League championship game due to a positive COVID test. They still earned an at-large spot in the NCAA Tourney. Now they’re one of the final eight teams in the country.
"We’re just continuing to stay the course and fight for each other," said Toomey.
Senior Aidan Olmstead led all scorers on Sunday. He tied his career high with five goals, including the game winner with 3:19 to go in regulation.
"We are where we are meant to be," he said. "We’re just going to keep being where our feet are together as a program and just enjoy each other’s company and just get ready for the next game."
That comes on Sunday against No. 2 Duke in the national quarterfinals in South Bend, Indiana.
"We know Duke and they know us," said Toomey. "We thought maybe we’d have a year of getting away from them because of COVID but here we go again. We’re excited to just keep playing."
The Blue Devils are a yearly non-conference opponent for Loyola. The two teams didn’t play this season. The last time the Greyhounds defeated Duke was in 2014.
If Loyola is able to pull another upset in the quarterfinals they face a potential match-up with Maryland. The Terps play Notre Dame in the other game on that side of the bracket.
Follow Shawn Stepner on Twitter @StepnerWMAR and Facebook