The 2009 men's water polo season was No. 13 for LMU Head Coach John Loughran. And to say it was a year of change and transition, might be an understatement.
Just three weeks after LMU won its seventh Western Water Polo Association championship in nine years and playing its seventh NCAA tournament in the same time span, Loughran was diagnoised with Acute Promyelocytic Leukemia (APL), a cancer of the blood and bone marrow.
So on Christmas Day 2009, Loughran found himself in a hospital. Like so many of his teams, a complete team effort has Loughran in remission and back on the pool deck for his 16th season in 2012.
He didn't miss a beat in 2010, leading the Lions to their fourth straight WWPA title and eighth in 10 years.
"The only reason I am back on this pool deck is from the support of so many people, many of whom I don't even know. If it wasn't for their donations of blood and blood platelets, I might not be here," said Loughran. "As my recovery moves forward and I continue to remain in remission, it is so important to me, and to this team, to continue to raise awareness on why it is so important to donate blood. There is a great need, and if we continue to team-up, so many will be helped."
Loughran started in the 1997-98 year and by 2001, he had both programs winning titles and going to the NCAAs. He has led the Lions to a combined 15 WWPA titles (7 for women, 8 for men) and 15 trips to the NCAA Championship over the last 10 years as LMU has risen to become one of the top programs in the nation.
However, in year 13, Loughran finally had a singular focus, taking over just the men's program when LMU Ahletics' Director Dr. William Husak announced in the summer of 2009 that the programs would have the focus of a head coach the entire year, hiring former assistant Kyle Witt as the women's head coach, allowing Loughran to focus exclusively on the men's team.
In his first year with just the men, Loughran continued where he left off, adding the programs seventh Western Water Polo Association Championship in nine years and advancing to its seventh NCAA championship.
The string of success started in 2001 when they won their first-ever WWPA championship, going 15-14 overall, earning a bid to the NCAA Championship. Two years later the Lions finished 17-14 and returned to the NCAA Championship with their second WWPA title in hand. Both teams finished third in the NCAA tournament. In 2004 he had his first repeat in men's water polo with a 21-11 mark and another third place finish at the NCAAs. In 2005, LMU men's water polo became just the fourth program in school history to win three straight conference crowns, defeating UC San Diego in the WWPA final at the Burns Aquatics Center. They added to their resume with the fifth title in 2007 with an impressive run through the WWPA tournament. In 2008, the Lions dominated from start to finish, going 11-0 against WWPA foes and claimed a second back-to-back title stretch with the 12-10 win over UCSD for the 2008 title.
Then in 2009, the Lions became the first program in LMU history to win three straight conference championships on two different occasions when they once again defeated UCSD, this time 5-4. That win gave the Lions 31 straight wins over WWPA competition. They followed that with a 9-6 win over UC Davis in 2010 to earn the program's eighth trip to the NCAA tournament.
Adding to his impressive resume, Loughran has won nine WWPA Coach of the Year honors, four in women's water polo (2001, 2002, 2003, 2004) and four in men's water polo, including the honor in 2010 (2001, 2003, 2005, 2008, 2010).
Additionally, Loughran has coached 11 different players to 24 All-America honors while having six players earn seven WWPA Player of the Year honors from the men's team, including Andy Stevens in 2008 and 2009, Ikaika Aki in 2010 and Edgaras Asajavicius in 2011. On the women's side he coached players to 20 All-American honors and seven WWPA Player of the Year winners.
Loughran came to Los Angeles after five years as head coach for the men's and women's water polo and men's swim teams at Queens College in Flushing, NY. He led the Queens College men's water polo team to a 75-63 overall record in five seasons. In 1995 and 1996 Queens won the College Water Polo Association (CWPA) North Division title. Queens finished each of Loughran's last two seasons ranked 15th nationally, the highest rankings in program history.
Following the 1994 and 1995 seasons, Loughran garnered Eastern Championship co-Coach of the Year honors and received CWPA North Division Coach of the Year accolades in 1994, 1995 and 1996. The men's swim team at Queens won the dual meet title for the Metropolitan Collegiate Swim Conference (MCSC) in each of Loughran's last three years.
In 1993, Loughran initiated the women's water polo club program at Queens College. Then in 1996, they posted an 8-4 record in its inaugural year of varsity competition. The following year they finished second in the New York Division of the CWPA with a 13-3 mark.
A 1990 graduate of Loyola University Chicago, he was a four-year letterwinner on the water polo and swim teams. A native of Greenwich, Conn., Loughran was a second-team High School All-American in water polo. Loughran resides in Los Angeles, Calif., with his wife, Merritt and their two children, Maeve and Finn.