The last time Towson State played Maryland in lacrosse, Glenn Smith was in an unfamiliar position. He was standing on the sideline in frustration.
That was on March 16 at Minnegan Stadium. Towson lost, 17-16, without Smith, its all-time goals leader, who had been suspended for two games because of academic eligibility deficiencies.
"I wanted to be out there, to be part of it," Smith said. "I thought that would be the last time we would play Maryland. I didn't expect to get a second chance."
Now, it will be Towson State against Maryland in the NCAA tournament semifinals tomorrow at Syracuse (3 p.m.), and in all likelihood it'll be Glenn Smith against Brian Burlace.
That's as it should be. Smith, a Boys' Latin grad, leads the Tigers with 37 goals; he is the school's career leader with 147. Burlace, out of St. Mary's High in Annapolis, is Maryland's best defenseman.
Burlace on Smith: "He creates matchup problems because he's big [6 feet, 215 pounds]. He's got a helluva shot. You can't give him anything. He's one of the best shooters in the game."
Smith on Burlace: "Brian plays the big people every week and holds them to one or two goals. It'll be a challenge."
Smith and Burlace have had only an occasional brush. The previous two years Smith was shadowed by Billy Ralph, another formidable Terps defenseman who has departed. In the first meeting this season, in Smith's absence, Burlace alternately guarded Donald Connolly, Joe Genovese and John Blatchley. With 13 seconds remaining and Maryland up by one, Burlace was assigned to Rob Shek.
"Shek already had five goals," Burlace said. "He's their money player. We knew they'd get him the ball."
Towson did, and before the harried Shek could shoot, Burlace stripped him of the ball.
Burlace, held in sufficient esteem by his teammates to warrant election as a captain as a junior, always gets the nasty defensive assignments. He has taken on Virginia's Kevin Pehlke, Johns ZTC Hopkins' Matt Panetta, Rutgers' Steve Luciano and North Carolina's Dennis Goldstein. Only Goldstein has solved him.
"He got two goals the first time we played North Carolina and five or six the second time," Burlace said. "A couple times I tried home run checks, missed and he rolled around me."
Maryland coach Dick Edell likens Burlace to a player he coached at Army, Bob Henry, who won the Schmeisser Cup as the nation's top defenseman, and to Brian Jackson, a first-team All-America for the Terps a few years ago.
"Burlace is right there with them," Edell said. "He's more versatile than any defenseman I've had. He could be a good attackman or midfielder, too."
In last Sunday's quarterfinal win over Brown, Burlace took four shots after clearing the ball, scored one goal and blocked an enemy shot when Steve Kavovit strayed from the goal. Burlace has three goals on 14 shots this season.
"If I get a chance to shoot, I don't think twice," Burlace said. "When I clear the ball, the other team is worrying about [attackmen] Mark Douglas and Rob Wurzburger, and that creates a lane for me."
Smith has returned to full blossom since the suspension ended. So has midfielder Lindsay Dixon, who missed the same two games for the same reason. Dixon's sudden-death goal gave Towson a 14-13 quarterfinal win over Princeton last Sunday.
Edell is the first to admit that Towson State was handicapped in the first meeting, when Smith and Dixon were out: "One's the greatest goals scorer in school history and the other put them in the semifinals."
Smith says the suspension made him all the more determined to return and that second chances don't come to everyone. Ironic, isn't it, that Towson is getting its second crack at Maryland?
"I hope we can keep rolling," Smith said.