It wasn't long after North Carolina got a flying start in defense of its NCAA lacrosse championship that ace defenseman Alex Martin was asked about the value of the Tar Heels' No. 1 position in the preseason poll.
Carolina had finished last season 16-0 and opened this season with routs of Radford and Mount St. Mary's. Coming up next was Syracuse.
"We're taking the preseason poll with a grain of salt," said Martin. "So much can happen during the season."
His words proved prophetic, of course. A lot happened a few days later when No. 2 Syracuse stunned the Tar Heels, 15-10.
North Carolina is No. 1 no longer, changing places with Syracuse as the Tar Heels arrive for their game against No. 3 Loyola today (2 p.m.) at Curley Field.
Martin, a junior out of Gilman and one of 16 Tar Heels from Maryland, is the team's only returning defensive starter.
"Alex will be tested every game," said coach Dave Klarmann. "He's going to get the other team's best guy."
Last week against Syracuse, Martin got Tom Marechek, who scored four goals. Today, Klarmann figures, he'll get Greyhounds attackman Kevin Beach.
"Defense is my worst nightmare," Klarmann said. "Except for Alex, we might have a half-dozen guys take turns playing on defense. You can't expect a guy to play well an entire game if he doesn't have experience."
Although he doesn't consider attack a nightmare, Klarmann is missing Dennis Goldstein, who scored 47 goals last season and was acclaimed national Player of the Year.
"It's difficult to replace a Goldstein," Klarmann said. "But we've got four or five guys to replace him collectively."
Klarmann ticked off the names of John Webster, Michael Thomas, Steve Speers, Danny Levy, Rick Codd and Gregg Langhoff. All except Speers are from the Baltimore area.
"We'll need all those guys," Klarmann said. "Now, if the midfielders can get the ball. . . ."
Midfield has long been a Carolina strength. Klarmann keeps sending the middies out there, unit after unit. No one is a slowpoke.
"When a team has midfielders like Carolina, the workload is easier on the attack," said Mount St. Mary's attackman Charlie Horning admiringly after his team's 20-5 loss to the Tar Heels last week. "Mids, mids, mids -- there's no end to them on that team."
The Syracuse game was the first in a string of seven that Klarmann calls "a pretty good group." Pretty good, indeed. After the Greyhounds come Princeton (No. 7), Maryland (No. 5), Johns Hopkins (No. 4), Virginia (No. 6) and Duke (No. 9).
"There's no sense of complacency on the squad," Klarmann said. "And there's no formula for repeating [as champion]. If you think about that, you'll forget the moment."
There is little likelihood North Carolina will forget the moment at hand, today at Curley Field.