Rivalry Week: Denver-Loyola and the ECAC

Winslow Townson

East v. West! Dogs v. People! It's that, but with lacrosse sticks.


Since Denver joined the ECAC for the 2010 season (the Pioneers were, prior to that time, part of the quiet glory that was the Great Western Lacrosse League), Pioneers-Greyhounds has slowly become the league's marquee conference rivalry. After Loyola endured some lumps from Denver early on, it's the Greyhounds that have flipped the narrative and started to exert some force on the Pioneers:

  • April 14, 2012: Loyola 12, Denver 9
  • May 2, 2012: Loyola 13, Denver 14 (OT)
  • May 19, 2012: Loyola 10, Denver 9
  • March 16, 2011: Denver 12, Loyola 8
  • May 2, 2010: Loyola 4, Denver 12

The rivalry has become an unwieldy monster, drawing the attention of two regions of the country with disparate relationships to the game. It's come into its own and arguably stands on equal footing -- in terms of competitive play and national ramifications -- with some of the game's most storied rivalries. There's just something intrinsically special about watching a game that features a program that only recently willing pursued Division I lacrosse and another that has found its renaissance; it's not 100 years of hyper-elite tradition like Maryland-Hopkins or era-domination like Syracuse-Princeton, but it doesn't need to be: the Denver-Loyola rivalry is its own special brand of interest, putting forth east coast pathos against "west coast" ethos. The unfortunate part of all of this is that the rivalry -- a comet across the sky -- is potentially going to burn up in the atmosphere after Loyola departs the ECAC for the Patriot League next season. Before that happens, however, the two schools may make the sky light up in brilliant colors.

Just look at how things currently stand in the league:

Denver 4-0 @Ohio State; Air Force; @Hobart; Bellarmine Zilch @Loyola; Fairfield; Michigan
Loyola 5-0 Bellarmine; v. Air Force; @Michigan; @Ohio State; Fairfield Zilch Denver; @Hobart
Bellarmine 3-3 Michigan; Air Force; @Fairfield @Loyola; Ohio State; @Denver Hobart
Ohio State 2-2 @Bellarmine; Hobart Denver; Loyola @Michigan; @Air Force; Fairfield
Fairfield 2-2 Michigan; @Hobart Bellarmine; @Loyola Air Force; @Denver; @Ohio State
Air Force 1-3 @Michigan @Bellarmine; v. Loyola; @Denver; @Fairfield; Ohio State; Hobart
Hobart 1-3 Michigan Fairfield; Denver; Ohio State @Bellarmine; Loyola; @Air Force
Michigan 0-5 Zilch @Bellarmine; @Hobart; @Fairfield; Loyola; Air Force Ohio State; @Denver

With a win, Loyola assures itself of the top seed in the ECAC Tournament in Geneva this season (and at least a share of the ECAC regular season championship). Should the Pioneers win, Denver earns itself an all-important tiebreaker against the Greyhounds and puts itself in the driver's seat for the tournament's one-seed considering that it has a date remaining with Michigan, a game that would give the Pioneers its all-important sixth ECAC win (a mark that only Loyola can match, and Denver would hold the tiebreaker against the Greyhounds). The importance of earning the league's top seed goes beyond mere pride and bragging rights this year: Standing tall above the mess that Bellarmine, Ohio State, and Fairfield (Air Force and Hobart are also part of this nonsense, but to a lesser degree (at the moment)) are creating as they fight for the ECAC Tournament's final two positions. Both Ohio State and Bellarmine have played Denver tough this season, and while Denver and Loyola wouldn't like to see either team as their opening round opponent in the ECAC Tournament, at least getting into a one-seed position provides some protection as chaos could create a preferable semifinal opponent in the playoffs. It's the "Well, we did all we could to avoid a terrible situation" idea, and its encased -- this season -- in the league's strongest rivalry.

Here's the tale of the tape going into the weekend affair:

Adj. Offensive Efficiency 43.53 (1) 35.83 (11)
Adj. Defensive Efficiency 30.85 (36) 24.08 (9)
Adj. Efficiency Margin 12.68 (3) 11.75 (4)
Pythagorean Win Expectation 74.42% (7) 77.42% (4)
Pace 60.49 (60) 64.36 (41)
Possession Margin +0.54 (30) +2.36 (14)
S.o.S.: Opponent Adj. Efficiency Margin 1.38 (20) 0.85 (25)
S.o.S.: Opponent Pythagorean Win Expectation 57.00% (9) 53.18% (22)
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