The lacrosse season opens this weekend and the team that figures to win the NCAA championship is -- ta-da! -- Loyola College.
The Division I coaches' preseason poll in the March issue of Lacrosse, published by the Lacrosse Foundation, shows Loyola and Syracuse as co-favorites. The schools received an identical number of points in the voting -- 277 -- but Syracuse had more first-place votes than Loyola, the Greyhounds more second-place votes than the Orangemen.
Loyola, playing in its first NCAA Final Four, met Syracuse in the title game last Memorial Day at Rutgers, with Syracuse winning, 21-9. It was the third straight national championship for the Orange and the sensational Gait twins, Gary and Paul.
Since then Syracuse has suffered major personnel losses. Gone are the Gaits and several others including Matt Palumb, the goalie who anchored the three national championship teams.
There's no doubt that Syracuse is still a top contender, but I agree with Ted Bauer, chairman of the All-America selection committee, who says: "I don't think Syracuse has the midfielders any more to win the championship."
Says Steve Stenersen, executive director of the Lacrosse Foundation and Hall of Fame: "The champion remains the champion until beaten, but if you're picking the team that should win this year, you've got to pick Loyola."
Loyola, with seven starters back including three All-Americans, appears ready to complete the job this year.
The Tanton Top 10: Loyola, Syracuse, Virginia, Towson State, North Carolina, Johns Hopkins, Princeton, Brown, Massachusetts, Maryland.
The coaches' Top 10: Syracuse and Loyola co-favorites, followed by Virginia, North Carolina, Princeton, Brown, Hopkins, Towson, UMass, Navy.
There's no doubt the race will be more wide-open than it has been since B.G. -- before the Gaits. Says Navy coach Bryan Matthews: "The last three years everybody was fighting for No. 2. This year we're all trying for No. 1."
* There'll be a familiar face on the football sidelines at John Carroll High in the fall. Gerry Gray is coming back to coach the varsity.
Gray, who starred at fullback for Notre Dame until graduating in 1963, coached John Carroll years ago. His last season was 1978. Since then he has taught at the school and coached girls cross country.
"The football job was offered to me three years ago when Bill Mackley left to go to Calvert Hall," Gray says, "and I should have taken it then.
"My son, Danny, was a senior at that time and I missed an experience by not getting to coach him. Now my son Shane is coming into the freshman class. I look forward to sharing the experience with him."
John Carroll was 3-7 last fall but Gray says the school had a good JV.
"We'll have some nice boys," he says. "We're a small school but we always have nice boys."
* If there's a group in this town that does a lot of good quietly, it's the Greater Baltimore Chapter of the National Football Foundation and Hall of Fame, sponsor of next Wednesday's 28th annual Scholar-Athlete banquet at Martin's West.
These people -- retired McDonogh athletic director Ed Novak is the banquet chairman -- not only honor high school boys who are good football players and scholars. They raise money to help five of them with their college educations.
"We honor kids from 90 schools," Novak was saying at a press luncheon yesterday at the Bowman restaurant in Carney, "and five of them, selected by area, will win $1,500 scholarships. The grand winner gets an additional $2,500 to make his scholarship worth $4,000."
It's not easy in this economy to raise $10,000 for scholarships, but these men do it.
* The Blast's English-born Billy Ronson has lived long enough in Baltimore -- which he plans to make his permanent home -- to have learned one thing about we Americans: why we're a nation of coffee drinkers instead of tea drinkers like himself. Says Billy, who'll be in action tonight at the Arena against Dallas: "Americans don't have the patience to wait for the tea to brew."
* The Greater Baltimore Tennis Patrons have chosen the right man to honor -- Maury Schwartzman -- at their spring gala fund-raiser April 26 at Harbor Court.
Schwartzman, pro at Bare Hills, has been teaching tennis in Baltimore for more than a half century. If he can't draw the tennis crowd, no one can. For ticket information, call Lisa Robertson at 339-7876.