Dave Cottle recently completed his ninth season as coach of Loyola College's lacrosse team. In that time, he has compiled an 80-35 record, and his team has participated in the National Collegiate Athletic Association Division I tournament the past 4 years. Last year, the Greyhounds advanced to the title game, losing to three-time champion Syracuse, 21-9. Cottle previews the two semifinal games:
Towson State vs. Maryland
Maryland -- Mark Douglas (48 goals, 22 assists) had a first-team All-American year and is the real leader of the offense. Rob Wurzburger (40, 9) is a tremendous off-ball player and exceptional finisher. The key to Maryland's regular-season victory over Towson was the play of Chris Dail (4 goals). Maryland's attack scored 13 of the teams 17 goals in the first game vs. Towson. Grade: A.
Towson State -- This is a high-scoring unit featuring John Blatchley (39 assists), an excellent feeder; Mike DeSimone, a very good crease man (40, 18) and Glenn Smith (37, 10) Towson's all-time leading scorer. They are excellent on unsettled situation and dangerous on extra-man. This unit will have to perform well for Towson to take the title. Grade: B.
Maryland -- The midfielders are playing well as a unit. However, there are no superstars here. Players to watch include: Dan Reading, Craig Bullen (9, 7) and Jon Schoenweitz. Overall, team speed is questionable. Maryland cannot succeed in an up-tempo game. Grade: C+.
Towson State -- Rob Shek (31, 8) had an All-American year but he will need help from Lindsay Dixon (9, 11) and Doug Sharretts. Both David Shoul and Tim Barger have made solid contributions this year. The key matchup will be if Maryland can cover Sharretts and Dixon with short sticks. If it cannot, Towson's offense should click. Grade: A.
Maryland -- Brian Burlace has had an All-American year and is an outstanding player. How well they do defensively depends on the play of two freshmen, Dan Robbins and Steve Hayes, as well as sophomore Matt Ritter. The Terps play good team defense. However, if they have a problem, it is clearing the ball with this unit. The play of their defensive short sticks will be a key. Grade: B.
Towson State -- Carl Beernink is an excellent player and the best of the three starters. Rich Regan and Kyle Kernan are solid. Long-stick defender Steve Kisslinger is an outstanding talent and can cause problems to any offense. Tony Millon plays every game as if it were his last. He is the heart of the Tigers, who play both man and zone. If Towson makes it to Monday's game, it will play mostly zone against Carolina or Syracuse. Grade: B.
Maryland -- Steve Kavovit is the hottest goalie coming into the Final Four. If there was an award for comeback player of the year, he would be the unanimous winner. Maryland needs this hot goaltender if it has any chance to win it all. He had 30 saves against Brown. Grade: A.
Towson State -- Rich Betcher has had great games, but every now and then he has thrown a clinker. He throws a great outlet and is active. Towson's defensive style of play puts a lot of pressure on their goalie. So, Richie needs to have a big weekend. Grade: B.
Faceoffs: Maryland A. Towson State C. Man down: Maryland B. Towson State B. Extra man: Maryland B+. Towson State B+.
Everything points to Towson. The first time the teams played, Towson was without Smith and Dixon. Also, Betcher had only 5 saves. Maryland dominated faceoffs and also handled Towson's man ride for several easy goals. Maryland's spread offense really gave Towson some trouble in the teams' first meeting. Towson will be better prepared the second time around. If Maryland is successful with the spread, then Towson State will have to zone, which allows Maryland to control the tempo. Look for Towson to face off with Kisslinger and try to pressure Andy Claxton if Maryland starts dominating faceoffs.
North Carolina vs. Syracuse
North Carolina -- Dennis Goldstein (39, 24) is the leader of this group. However, the key to this unit is the play of the other attackmen, particularly John Webster (21, 11) in unsettled and extra-man situations, and Steve Speers (20, 9) and Mike Thomas (20, 14) in half-field. They are the best riding group in lacrosse. Grade: B
Syracuse -- Tom Marechek (50, 21) has scored 50 goals this year and is the leader of this unit. The rest are solid players, but nothing fancy. Grade B.
North Carolina -- The Tar Heels run, play defense, pick up ground balls and drive hard to the goal. They run three solid units and do a great job of riding after a save. North Carolina loves the up-tempo. The only negative is, as a whole, they are not a great shooting group. Grade A.
Syracuse -- A young, maturing group led by freshman Charlie Lockwood (22, 10) and Ricky Cramer (14, 13). The Orangemen have explosive split dodgers with good speed. This could be a dangerous unit. Grade A.