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.