The Loyola Greyhounds seemed to find their stride at the right time, much of which can be contributed to freshman goalie Jacob Stover.
Stover made his first career start for Loyola on March 23 against Georgetown. He finished the game with nine saves. The Greyhounds came away with the 10-7 win, sparking an 10-game winning streak, complete with the Patriot League Title and two NCAA Tournament wins.
"He's a great kid. In my opinion, he's a lot like his father," said Loyola head coach Charley Toomey. "It's not about the last one, it's about the next one."
Jacob is the son of longtime Ravens kicker Matt Stover. He said he wanted to kick like his father, but fell in love with lacrosse.
"We moved up here when I was five years old and I always wanted to kick and stuff, but the first thing I got in my hand was a lacrosse stick," Stover said.
Stover attended McDonogh School and played on the varsity squad for three seasons under head coach Andy Hilgartner. As a senior he helped the Eagles reach the MIAA final with a 14-5 record. Hilgartner said Stover is a selfless kid with a desire to win, which combined with hard work has led to his success this season.
"I think a lot of coaches will tell you if you have a great faceoff guy and a hot goalie, that can make all the difference in a playoff run. And Loyola seems to have both and Jacob certainly has been the backbone of that defense."
Loyola's defense has certainly make an impact in the team's NCAA Tournament success. They held Duke to 11 points in the first round and Stover had eight save including a pair in the final 30 seconds to seal the 10-8 victory over Towson in the quarterfinals.
The Hounds are headed to the Final Four in Philadelphia, a trip most college players can only dream of.
"A lot of college players go through their whole career just wishing for an opportunity to play in the final four and for Jacob to have it in his freshman year is pretty amazing," Hilgartner said.
Stover said after growing up watching the NCAA championship, reaching the final four is a dream come true.
"It's just a dream come true... I'm here, I'm going to the semifinals. We're going to go play in Philadelphia," he said.
Hilgartner said his pep talk for Jacob would be pretty simple.
"Just stop the ball, clear the ball, take care of your defense."