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April 30, 2007

Seaman should know better

When a young coach in any sport lets his emotions get the best of him after a tough loss by questioning an official's judgment or by failing to extend customary respect to his opponent, I'm inclined to give the coach a pass. Chalk it up to youth, and the lack of savvy that sometimes grips a team leader caught up in the moments following a bad ending to a big game.

But Towson University men's lacrosse coach Tony Seaman should know better by now. Seaman has coached for 26 seasons, won 240 games, and led Penn, Johns Hopkins and Towson to a combined 18 NCAA tournaments. He is the only coach to take three Division I teams into the postseason. He is one of only two coaches to earn national coach of the year honors at two schools (Penn and Towson).

You'd never know it by the way Seaman unloaded after another loss to Hopkins -- the school that fired him after the 1998 season -- on Saturday at Johnny Unitas Stadium. While he was digesting a 9-7 defeat, which happened to be Towson's 12th straight against the Blue Jays, Seaman took the kinds of ill-advised shots his team often takes on the field.

First, he accused Hopkins junior midfielder and faceoff specialist Stephen Peyser of cheating, after Peyser had won 12 of 15 faceoffs over Towson senior Matt Eckerl to spark the Blue Jays. Seaman contended Peyser, who also scored two goals, got away repeatedly with jumping the whistle, thus gaining an unfair advantage.

Then, Seaman gave his next opponent a bulletin-board boost by calling the Hofstra Pride lucky to have beaten Towson at home recently. The Tigers are the top seed in the Colonial Athletic Association tournament, and probably need to win it to get into the NCAAs via automatic qualifier. They first need to beat visiting, fourth-seeded Hofstra in the CAA tournament semifinals on Wednesday. On April 14, the Pride erased a two-goal deficit in the final minute of regulation to force overtime, then upset the Tigers, 9-8.

Why do Hofstra any favors? Under first-year coach Seth Tierney, the Pride has lived and died by the one-goal game by playing enough good defense and controlling enough tempo to position itself in the fourth quarter. At Towson 16 days ago, Hofstra hung around for two hours, then pounced on a handful of Tigers mistakes to steal one.

The Tigers lost that game more than Hofstra won it. But that's not luck. That's a winning team showing more poise and resiliency than the loser, and seizing an opportunity to take a win the other guy couldn't secure.

As for the shot at Peyser, it was unfair and out of line. Maybe Seaman is planting a seed in the minds of the officials if he sees Hopkins again in the postseason, but he didn't need to go public with it. On Saturday, Seaman should have been looking into the mirror, as he recounted another defeat to the school that last lost to Towson when Seaman was running the Blue Jays in 1996.

How come Towson, after taking a 4-2 lead in the first quarter and a 5-4 lead at halftime, could not break struggling goalie Jesse Schwartzman early? How could the Tigers stumble so badly at both ends of the field in that pivotal third quarter, when the Blue Jays turned the momentum with a 4-0 run? Why did Towson manage only three scores in the final three quarters? Why blame it on Peyser and an official conspiracy?

Was he jumping the whistle? Not the point. All faceoff specialists worth their weight push the envelope on gamemanship. Maybe it's a shady move, such as grabbing an opponent's stick or directing the ball with a flip of the glove. Or anticipating the whistle by getting a split-second, head start. The best pass rushers in the NFL do it all the time.

At some point Saturday, it was time for Eckerl, also a fine specialist, to adjust to Peyser. It didn't happen.

And it's not as if Peyser has come out of nowhere. He won 67 percent of his draws as a sophomore, meaning he's got game in that area. He also has brought stability back to the faceoff for Hopkins, which had won only 47 percent of its attempts through its first eight games.

Seaman has too much work to do with his team to sink to such pettiness. On Saturday, he got beat by a more talented opponent that never buckled when things were going downhill early. The Blue Jays, no stranger to close games, gutted out another one and showed admirable discipline.

The Tigers failed the composure test on the field. And in the aftermath of a painful outcome, their coach followed suit by losing control.
Posted by Gary Lambrecht at 8:00 PM | | Comments (1)

April 27, 2007

Tough calls for Terps and Blue Jays

Most college lacrosse coaches are deeply loyal to their senior players, especially the ones who have proven themselves. And no position typically gets more chances to fail than the goalie, the last line of his team's defense.

All of which makes this weekend a little more interesting. Here it is late April, with the NCAA tournament looming in two weeks, and Johns Hopkins and Maryland are looking at potentially unsettled situations in the net, with the uncertainty involving two proven seniors.

In a normal year, Maryland coach Dave Cottle would be worrying about a list of things that would not include senior goalie Harry Alford, a two-time All-American. But this is not a normal year for goalkeepers at Maryland, where freshman Brian Phipps stepped in for the injured Alford (off-season shoulder surgery) and injured junior backup Jason Carter (collarbone) at the season's outset. All Phipps has done is save more than 61 percent of the shots he has faced and anchor a stout Maryland (9-4) defense that thinks it can contain Virginia in tonight's Atlantic Coast Conference tournamen at Duke.

Last night, Phipps was named ACC rookie of the year. Tonight, he might be watching Alford return to the cage.

Last week, Cottle pulled Phipps at halftime at Penn, where the Terps won, 14-10, but not before Phipps had a rare bad half that contributed to a 6-6 tie at the break.

Cottle was undecided all week as to who will start at goalie, but he seemed to be leaning toward inserting Alford, who has helped Maryland reach back-to-back Final Fours. It's a delicate decision. Do you reward Alford for past service or stick with the kid who has played beyond anyone's expectations?

Hopkins coach Dave Pietramala doesn't face quite the same dilemma. He has yet to pull the inconsistent Jesse Schwartzman, although he acknowledged he was close to giving Schwartzman the hook at halftime of last week's 10-9 win over Navy. Schwartzman had one save at the break, when Navy led, 5-4.

Freshman backup Michael Gvozden warmed up during the first half and at halftime -- not the first time that has happened this season. But Schwartzman regrouped enough in the third quarter to stay on the field.

Maybe Gvozden isn't good enough yet, or he might have taken the job by now. More likely, Pietramala is hesitant to bail on a guy who has started for three years, has a solid record in big games, and won the Final Four MVP award as a sophomore when the Blue Jays won it all with a 16-0 record.

Then again, if Schwartzman struggles early at Towson tomorrow, watch out for the hook.

Posted by Gary Lambrecht at 10:12 AM | | Comments (2)

April 25, 2007

A sport in need of more color

The sport of lacrosse is understandably giddy over the increased attention and notice it’s receiving after all these years. Though you still can’t get scores on SportsCenter or on the bottom line strip that runs on some programming, ESPN appears to be interested in the game, and more and more programs are sprouting up from coast to coast.

Indeed, US Lacrosse, the sport’s governing body, reports that more than 426,000 people, from youth leagues all the way up through post collegiate club and professional teams, participated in organized lacrosse, up nearly 12 percent from 2005.

In the course of taking their victory laps, those in charge of the sport would do well to step up their efforts to attract more minorities to lacrosse, a challenge made more difficult by the controversy generated by false accusations of rape made by an African-American stripper against members of the Duke men’s team.

While the three defendants -- David Evans, Reade Seligmann, and Collin Finnerty – were properly exonerated by the North Carolina Attorney General’s office, lacrosse’s reputation took a beating as a sport that does not welcome minorities.

There are plenty of people of goodwill of all colors who are trying to bring more diversity to the game, and their efforts should be applauded.

But those efforts should be redoubled, as there are far too many teams, representing colleges and universities, private and public high schools, city and suburban, with a nary a player of color on their roster. That’s hardly an advertisement for a sport that is looking to broaden its horizons.

It’s true that former football great Jim Brown is one of the great figures in lacrosse history, but he’s been out of the game for more than 40 years. It’s way past time that another iconic lacrosse player of color was discovered, developed, nurtured and celebrated.

Posted by Milton Kent at 8:14 PM | | Comments (4)

April 24, 2007

Man-down debate continues

One of the new rules in women's lacrosse this season has a team playing man-down for three minutes after it receives a total of four yellow cards for dangerous play.

But that rule has gotten few good reviews from local high school coaches. It has been called everything from "asinine" to "ridiculous," because there's very little penalty involved.

The missing player can come from anywhere on the field, which leaves both teams at full strength inside the restraining line. The man-up team has one extra player back on defense, so the only true advantage to be gained is in transition.

The state public schools girls lacrosse committee yesterday, however, developed a proposal that would increase the penalty by having teams playing man-down after two yellow cards.

"I wouldn't mind seeing it after two cards," said Winters Mill coach Courtney Vaughn, a member of the committee. "At that point you need to clean up what you're doing wrong. Even as a team, you might get one or two [errant] checks or a little body contact, but after that, you need to clean it up and you need to play down. Four yellow cards in a game and something's not right."

The bottom line is safety and trying to clean up aggressive, and often, dangerous checking.

Sue Diffenderffer, a longtime official and the interpreter of rules for the state public school leagues, said the new four-card rule originated at the college level.

"I think it was progressive thinking," said Diffenderffer. "First, we had yellow cards. Then, we had to have mandatory yellow cards, because the yellow card was originally for a check to the head and some officials weren't calling it.

"The last couple of years if a team has three or four yellow cards, they should be going to the red card (automatic ejection of a player on a second yellow card or for a single flagrant foul) because the team is out of control. Then, that wasn't happening and it got to the point where we were hearing stories about kids high-fiving when they were coming off for a yellow card. That's when we went to this you play short after your fourth team foul."

Some coaches don't think the penalty is enough. While they don't want to go the way of the boys game and make the girls play man-down inside the restraining line, some said it might be the only thing to reduce aggressive checking.

Poly coach Josh Headley, also a committee member, said, "There's no penalty otherwise. Aside from it not having an impact ... we're developing a culture of get away with whatever you can."

Vaughn said, "I think [playing man-down inside the restraining line] would change it a lot. I don't know that I would want to see that, because it's too much like the guys, but it would make a huge impact."

Diffenderffer said she doesn't see it getting that far.

"I don't see that happening because, I think it's just a matter of getting control and if the kids think we're serious about it.

"I disagree that [the current rule] doesn't have an effect if only psychological and in transition, it forces the kids to think differently in how they're going to do something. Does it have an immediate effect like the boys' man-down? No, but I don't think that was ever the intent."

Some coaches believe the current rule is enough.

Glenelg coach Ginger Kincaid, another committee member, said she has not played a game this season in which either team has received four yellow cards. While Kincaid is not averse to changing the rule to two cards, she does not want to see teams playing man-down within the restraining line.

"I would really hate to see them take a defender off that end," said Kincaid. "I think you go to that and people are really going to start sliding. You'd have to pack it in, but we're trying to keep people out of shooting space and keep the game safer. Kids are shooting from farther out now and they're taking good shots, but we don't want to see the defense packed in there."

If the rule is eventually changed to two yellow cards, it won't be soon.

Diffenderffer said the proposal will go the state public schools rules committee and then would have to pass the National Federation of State High School Associations and the US Lacrosse rules committees before it could be adopted.

Posted by Katherine Dunn at 11:34 PM | | Comments (0)

Fab Four in their respective leagues

Although it's still early, it appears that No. 1-ranked Boys' Latin, 14th-ranked Archbishop Curley, 10th-ranked Severna Park and 13th-ranked Fallston have become solid front-runners for their league crowns.

Led by All-Metro attackman Travis Reed and front-line mate Brett Weiss, defending champion Boys' Latin, knocked off then-No. 2 McDonogh and then-No. 1 St. Paul's last week to take over sole possession of first place in the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference.

The Lakers (6-0 league, 13-1 overall) are after their sixth crown under coach Bob Shriver, who is in his 28th season. Next to the Lakers, however, fourth-ranked Loyola might be the league's hottest team, having won six consecutive games behind junior attackmen Steele Stanwick and Joe Cummings, and Johns' Hopkins-bound senior midfielder Tim Donovan.

Meanwhile, second-team All-Baltimore City attackman Kenny Whittaker has Archbishop Curley on pace for its best season since 1986, when the Friars won their last of five crowns in the now-defunct Maryland Scholastic Association. Among this year's victories for the Friars, who were MIAA B Conference semfinalists in 1998, 2005 and last year, are those over last year's 4A-3A state finalist Dulaney and last year's MIAA B Conference runner's-up Park, which ended the Friars' season, 7-6, in the semifinals.

Even though Severna Park has a new coach, Larry Kramer, formerly of Northeast, and has added California transfer Colby Rhodes, the Falcons haven't missed a beat. They have combined with North Carolina-bound Chris Hunt and Eric Lusby to remain the premier team in Anne Arundel County and as contenders to capture their fourth state title.

At Fallston, the high-scoring attack of Patrick Mull, Chad Palmer and Luke Raab has helped the Cougars remain unbeaten in nine games, including a 15-3 rout of defending Baltimore County champion Franklin, and a 10-8 win over Curley. Coached by Matt Parks, Fallston has all but secured the Harford County title. But in order to win the program's second state title, the Cougars must negotiate a difficult 3A-2A North Region that includes county rivals North Harford and Bel Air, as well as Baltimore County's once-beaten Catonsville, Hereford, Towson and Franklin.

Posted by Lem Satterfield at 9:12 AM | | Comments (0)

April 23, 2007

Navy's weakness is clear

The ninth-ranked Navy men’s lacrosse team has a lot going in its favor. The Midshipmen shoot, pass, defend, get out in transition and faceoff well -- although they got thoroughly whipped by Hopkins specialist Stephen Peyser in Saturday’s 10-9 loss at Homewood.

But the most troubling part of Navy’s game was in evidence against Hopkins and could prove to be the Mids’ undoing in the postseason.

The Mids’ clearing game has been an adventure at times in 2007. It hurt them badly in an earlier, 10-9 loss at Georgetown. Against Hopkins, Navy was successful on just 10 of its 19 clearing attempts.

“The clearing game is my fault. It doesn’t seem to me that we really understand our scheme,” Navy coach Richie Meade said. “It’s something that’s been a recurring thing. I’m not sure that the way we’re practicing is the right way to practice. I feel badly that I let our team down.”

The Mids suffered breakdowns at Hopkins, even though the Blue Jays did not ride hard for most of the day. They seemed to sense Navy would have trouble with its passing and positioning while attempting to clear the ball, and they were right.

Navy even gave up a cheap, first-half goal when goalie Colin Finnegan, from way behind the net, dug out a loose ball, then overthrew defensive midfielder Geoff Leone. The ball bounced across the front of the goal, where Hopkins attackman Jake Byrne converted an open-net score.

Navy (9-3) has lost each of its games by one goal, all to Top 10 schools. In two losses, the inability to move the ball from defense to offense with consistency was a huge factor in the outcome.

On the season, the Mids have been successful on 75.8 percent of their clears. Given the amount of unranked teams they play, that is too low for a team intending to make a mark in the NCAA tournament.

Posted by Gary Lambrecht at 12:54 PM | | Comments (1)

April 20, 2007

Games get bigger as postseason approaches

With the NCAA tournament playoff picture starting to come into focus, numerous Baltimore-area men's lacrosse teams have something extra to play for tomorrow.

A week after blowing a two-goal lead with less than a minute to play, then losing to Hofstra in overtime on its home field, No. 19 Towson can make things right at Drexel tomorrow night. The 13th-ranked Dragons, who opened the season by stunning Virginia, sit atop the Colonial Athletic Association standings at 4-0. With a win, Towson (3-1 in league play) can secure the top seed and home-field advantage in the upcoming CAA tournament. The winner goes to the NCAAs as an automatic qualifier.

No. 14 Loyola needs to stop its two-game losing streak in the Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference by beating visiting Fairfield. The 5-4 Greyhounds probably can't afford a slip-up tomorrow, or next week against Hobart, to keep alive its hopes for an at-large bid.

The ECAC sends its regular-season winner to the postseason via the AQ route. That is firmly in the hands of fifth-ranked Georgetown. Loyola is one of just two teams to beat Duke. That strengthens its position. But the Greyhounds also need Syracuse -- which lost, 11-10, at Loyola last month -- to make the tournament to maintain the value of that win. Then again, a win at Johns Hopkins on May 5 also would seal the deal for the Greyhounds.

No. 15 UMBC probably needs to win the America East tournament to reach its second straight postseason, which means the Retrievers probably have to take out Albany in the conference final. In the meantime, UMBC must not fall flat against visiting Vermont this week. A loss tomorrow most likely would doom the Retrievers' chances at an at-large bid.

The marquee game will take place at Homewood Field, where No. 8 Johns Hopkins (5-4) could virtually clinch its 36th straight tournament appearance by beating No. 7 Navy -- for the 33rd consecutive time.

The Midshipmen (9-2) are in the NCAAs, and will aim for the automatic bid by winning next week's Patriot League tournament as its top seed. But a win over the Blue Jays could catapult the Mids into May.

One of these years, it's going to happen, and Navy has the balance, athleticism and strong faceoff and goalie play to get it done this time. And it's not as if the Mids lack confidence. Five of the last seven contests have been decided by one goal, and two of the last three have ended in overtime.

Two years ago, Navy came to Homewood and outplayed Hopkins. But senior midfielder and eventual Tewaaraton Trophy winner Kyle Harrison outplayed the Mids with a five-goal masterpiece. Harrison forced the extra period in the final seconds of regulation, then won it in OT. Then last year, Navy took a 7-5 lead into the fourth quarter in Annapolis. Hopkins needed 50 minutes to take its first lead of the day, but the Blue Jays once again found a way.

With so much parity in the game these days, maybe this time it really is Navy's turn.

Posted by Gary Lambrecht at 1:49 AM | | Comments (1)

April 19, 2007

Choose camps and club teams wisely

Often in lacrosse you hear about the kid who got a full scholarship to a major college. I’ve heard these stories so many times during the last 20 years, and they’re kind of amusing, yet sad at the same time. Very few athletes get full scholarships in lacrosse.

But each year, parents spend a thousand, and maybe two, to send their kids to various camps, or to play for club teams, because of the exposure that might lead to a scholarship.

Unlike football or basketball, lacrosse is not a money-making sport at most universities. Some of these college lacrosse programs aren’t fully funded.

So in order to compete, most college coaches divide up their scholarship money among the players. So, John Gait might be on scholarship, but it might be for only $3,000 a year. Ditto for Joe Wagner and Fred Johnson. And the next year they might get $4,000 or $5,000. Every coach has his own formula for dividing up the money, but unless your kid is the next Jim Brown or Gary Gait, he is not getting his tuition paid in full every year.

Now, don’t get me wrong.

If John Gait can get $3,000 a year for the next four years, that’s $12,000 and a nice piece of change to keep in your bank account. But if you’re putting out $3,000 or $4,000 a year when they’re in high school, then you do the math. You’re not saving much.

Parents and players have to be careful when they’re picking club teams and camps. When selecting a club team, choose one that has a person who specializes in recruiting, and one that can help you make contacts with the various college coaches.

Camps are a little different because more and more college coaches are using them as recruiting stations. I would pick one where my son might be going to college so he could learn a lot about the coaching staff. Maybe he finds out that he doesn’t really like that particular coach, and he wants to go elsewhere.

There is no set formula for finding the best fit for your child, but parents should be cautious, especially the next time you hear about some kid getting a full ride to Hopkins, Virginia, Maryland or Syracuse. If you get a couple of thousand a year in scholarship money, consider it a blessing.

Posted by Mike Preston at 1:30 AM | | Comments (1)

April 18, 2007

Vikings or Raiders?

Several times in the past few weeks, I've been asked whether the Loch Raven girls lacrosse team that ran up 103 straight wins and went 104 games without a loss between 1973 and 1982 was as good as the Mount Hebron team that just saw its 103-game winning streak come to an end on Saturday.

Talk about comparing the proverbial apples and oranges. Make that a red apple and a green apple. They don't look exactly the same on the surface, but they're pretty much identical underneath.

Put both teams, as they were, on the field together and, of course, the Vikings would have the edge. They have the benefit of 30 years of evolution in equipment, rules and training.

In their time vs. their competition, however, the Raiders were every bit as good and every bit as dominant.

Loch Raven's streak began in 1973 -- long before the game evolved into what it is today. The Raiders played with wooden sticks, no restraining line and no boundaries. Rules were different. Positions were different. Strategies were different. Even the athletes were different. Many of the Raiders played three sports. They didn't play lacrosse almost all year round as a lot of today's players do.

When Severna Park ended the Raiders' streak in 1982, Howard County was still six years away from adding girls lacrosse. In the early years of the streak, girls lacrosse was offered locally only in Baltimore County and the private schools -- some of which Loch Raven played.

The Raiders' streak began the first year Loch Raven opened its doors. Coach Joy Nuttall, who had built a powerhouse at Parkville, moved to the new school and faced the daunting task of blending players from several high schools into one cohesive team. There were no seniors in the school that first year, only sophomores and juniors, but they played a varsity schedule right away.

Perhaps the most impressive aspect of the Raiders' streak is how long it lasted. They didn't lose a game for 10 years. The Raiders played fewer games in a year --eight to 13 -- and so Nuttall, who coached the Raiders for their entire streak, faced more turnover in athletes.

Move to the present day and the Vikings won 103 straight games in just six years. That's a lot of wins in six years, an average of 17 per year as opposed to 10 for the Raiders.

The Vikings' non-league competition has been tougher. Sure, they've had to play a lot of lopsided games. So did Loch Raven. But, for the most part, the Vikings' coaches have tried to schedule challenging competition in the four or five non-league games they're allowed each season. Their streak includes multiple wins over other top Mid-Atlantic programs, including Moorestown, N.J., and St. Stephen's/St. Agnes, Va., as well as A Conference contenders St. Paul's, Notre Dame Prep, St. Mary's and Roland Park.

Times are different now.

The Vikings play on a much bigger stage than Loch Raven ever did. There's more emphasis on girls sports and more attention from the media. Nuttall said Loch Raven didn't draw much media attention until the team neared 100 straight wins. The Vikings have drawn considerable press coverage almost since their program started. All last week, they had reporters and cameras in their faces almost every day.

The Vikings have won 14 state championships, but Nuttall's Raiders never played for a state title. The state tournament didn't begin until 1990, five years after Nuttall retired from the Raiders' program.

Today, there are many more high school girls lacrosse programs (West Genesee N.Y., the team that beat Mount Hebron Saturday, didn't field a team until 1995). There are many more potential opponents for Vikings coach Brooke Kuhl-McClelland to choose from.

Not to mention national attention. The Vikings have been ranked No. 1 in Lacrosse magazine for five straight years. The Raiders didn't have that opportunity, although Nuttall was featured in Faces in the Crowd in Sports

So which team was better? It seems to me there are 206 reasons why it's a tie.

Posted by Katherine Dunn at 7:54 AM | | Comments (0)

April 17, 2007

Long day of lacrosse for local families

Parents Randy and Alyssa Woods, and Wendy and Jake Reed will find themselves even more busy than usual with lacrosse today.

At 4 p.m., they’ll watch their sons during a key Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference game between visiting third-ranked Boys’ Latin, and senior Travis Reed, and second-ranked McDonogh, and junior defender KC Woods. Don’t be surprised if the two aren’t matched against each other.

Then the families will hustle over to nearby Franklin, which will hold its first night game (6:30) against Baltimore County rival Dulaney. Jake Reed coaches Dulaney, and the Woods have another son, Matt, who is a senior midfielder at Franklin.

The Reed connection is strong in the Boys’ Latin-McDonogh matchup.

As a sophomore, Travis played attack for his father, Jake, at McDonogh, and the Eagles defeated Boys’ Latin for the MIAA A Conference title.

When Jake joined Dulaney’s staff as an assistant last year, Travis transferred to Boys’ Latin. As a junior, he helped the Lakers take away the title from McDonogh in the championship game.

Meanwhile, Franklin dethroned Dulaney last year as county champs – the Indians’ 7-6 victory ending the Lions’ 73-game winning streak against the league.

Boys’ Latin has another big game on Saturday when it visits top-ranked St. Paul’s. During halftime of that game, there will be a ceremony to recognize former St. Paul’s players from the Crusaders’ six league title-winning teams, including Larry LeDoyen (1982 graduate), Peter Sheehan (’83) and Joe Gelbard (’92).

Posted by Lem Satterfield at 7:56 AM | | Comments (0)

April 16, 2007

Hopkins feels relief that victory brings

Coaches don’t celebrate victories. They merely breathe in, consider the painful alternative, and exhale with far more relief than joy.

So it was with Johns Hopkins men’s lacrosse coach Dave Pietramala. Minutes after the 10th-ranked Blue Jays may have salvaged their season Saturday night with a dramatic, 8-7 overtime victory at No. 7 Maryland, Pietramala sat outside the raucous Hopkins locker room, looking as if he had just had a root canal.

“Winning doesn’t make coaches happy. We’re relieved when we win. We enjoy it for about an hour,” said Pietramala, who had not tasted victory since March 17. “The losses kill you. They stay with you.”

Not since 1990 had the Blue Jays (5-4) lost three in a row. Saturday, following a game-winning shot by junior midfielder Paul Rabil, Hopkins not only avoided its first, four-game slide in 17 years, but earned its second win of the season over a Top 10 opponent.

Both of them have come in overtime -- a 7-6, double-overtime victory over Princeton is the other -- and both have been won by Rabil. Unless the Blue Jays slip up badly and finish the regular season with a losing record, they will go to their 36th consecutive NCAA tournament.

“Losing three in a row is something I’ve never done in any sport. No one in my family has,” said Hopkins senior attackman Jake Byrne, who scored a goal against the 8-4 Terps.

But Hopkins knows as much as anyone how slim the margin of error has become in the parity-heightened world of college lacrosse. The Blue Jays have lost four games by a combined eight goals, all against Top 10 teams.

Up north at Syracuse, the Orange has fallen into a 4-6 hole, and needs to win its last three games just to get to the postseason. Next up is undefeated, No. 2 Albany on Friday at the Carrier Dome.

The Great Danes, coached by Hopkins alum Scott Marr, edged Hopkins in its season opener two months ago. Syracuse has not missed the tournament since 1982, and has been to the NCAA tournament’s final four every year during that run, except 2005.

Pietramala looked at how Princeton fell flat in 2005 and missed the NCAAs, and how Virginia hit the skids in 2004, a year after winning the national championship.

“I think what we’re finding is none of us is immune to it,” he said.

The Blue Jays, however, may have warded off the illness for one more year.

Posted by Gary Lambrecht at 1:16 PM | | Comments (0)

April 15, 2007

Lacrosse Q&A

Do you have a question about college or high school lacrosse?

It might be about Johns Hopkins' recent overtime win against Maryland. Or maybe you're curious about Mount Hebron's 103-game winning streak, which came to an end Saturday.

Whatever the topic, you can now have your questions answered by Sun reporters.

Click here to submit your question.

We will provide responses in a future blog entry.

Posted by at 4:15 PM | | Comments (0)

April 13, 2007

Covering lacrosse from the ground (ball) up

Beginning today, I, along with colleagues who cover the sport at the college and high school levels, will be offering our thoughts and insights into the game of lacrosse.

Our observations will include event coverage, such as upcoming or recently played, big games. We’ll focus on the players, coaches and other characters surrounding the competition -- maybe an official who made a controversial call, maybe a particular fan or a group of fans that added some spice from the stands, maybe one crucial moment that affected an entire game

We’ll look to address what’s happening on the field, such as who’s hot or who’s going in the opposite direction, and why that is.

We’ll also have an eye on off-the-field issues that crop up. It could be a rules change discussion at the NCAA level, an injury problem, a behind-the-scenes moment that explains something that took place on the field, or zeroing in on a team that’s fighting for its playoff life.

At the NCAA, Division I level, several local teams are playing important contests tomorrow.

No. 8 Navy, coming off a double-overtime loss to No. 7 Maryland, a team the Midshipmen led by a goal with 10 seconds left in regulation, will try to right itself against its ultimate rival, Army, which has fallen out of the top 20 after an excellent start, comes to Navy-Marine Corps Stadium at noon.

No. 12 Loyola once again is having trouble handling success. It will try for its second straight win against No. 5 Georgetown at 1 p.m., this time on the road.

A victory would virtually secure at least an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament, where the Greyhounds have not been since 2001. But Loyola, after beating Duke and Syracuse last month, flopped at unranked Rutgers last week, 17-7.

A year ago, the same thing happened a week after the Greyhounds beat Georgetown at home. They promptly lost at Fairfield, a defeat that ultimately cost them a tournament trip.

But the biggest confrontation will be at 8 p.m. at Byrd Stadium, where struggling, 10th-ranked Johns Hopkins will take on Maryland in the 103rd renewal of college lacrosse’s greatest rivalry. And the story here is 4-4 Hopkins, which is riding its first three-game losing streak since 1990 and soon could be flirting with its first losing season since 1971.

That was the year the NCAA men’s lacrosse tournament started. The Blue Jays have been there every year since then. During a season in which Syracuse is treading water at 3-6 and is in serious danger of missing its first NCAA tournament since 1982, could Hopkins be next?

Posted by Gary Lambrecht at 3:02 PM | | Comments (1)
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Faceoff is The Baltimore Sun's blog devoted to college and high school lacrosse. Faceoff contributors include Sun reporters Edward Lee, Mike Preston and Katherine Dunn.

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