Top teams are facing off, but real season doesn't begin until playoffs

The Inside Stuff

March 31, 1992|By Bill Tanton

When the final gun sounded at Virginia's 15-9 lacrosse upset of Johns Hopkins at Charlottesville, Va., last weekend, there was speculation galore.

Did Hopkins suffer a letdown? Has Virginia lived up to its potential -- and will this give the Cavaliers the confidence to go on and contend for the Division I championship? Was Hopkins overrated at No. 1 in last week's USILA poll?

The most insightful words were spoken by a young North Carolina assistant coach, Baltimore native Robby Russell.

"It doesn't matter," said Russell, who was scouting the Hopkins team he and the Tar Heels will face this Saturday at Homewood. "We're all going to be in the playoffs anyway."

That's exactly right. As with NCAA basketball, the regular lacrosse season tends to be trivialized by the playoffs that really decide the championship.

With 12 teams in the Division I lacrosse tourney -- one from the West to spread the game -- the top 10 in the polls can expect to participate in postseason play. North Carolina and Hopkins certainly will.

L "Sometimes," Russell added, "a loss now helps you later on."

Right again. Last year Hopkins beat Syracuse in the regular season at the Carrier Dome. When the teams were re-matched in the playoffs at Hopkins, Syracuse won.

Hopkins' 15-14 win over Syracuse here two weeks ago could end up having the same reverse affect on the Blue Jays in this year's playoffs.

Of the teams I've seen, Syracuse is the most impressive. The Orange have great athletes and plenty of them. That's one reason Syracuse prevailed, 13-5, over Loyola Sunday in a tournament final at Providence, R.I. Both teams had to play and ** win the day before.

Lacrosse is too physically demanding to be played on consecutive days, although the Division I Final Four format calls for Saturday-Sunday play. North Carolina, with great depth, won Saturday-Monday games at last year's Final Four.

The only undefeated team in Division I at the moment is 4-0 Towson State, which was runner-up to North Carolina a year ago. TTC But Towson's opponents -- Delaware, Maryland, Villanova and C.W. Post -- are not the kind of victims that can lift a conqueror to No. 1.

Towson will have a more legitimate claim to No. 1 if it beats Loyola Saturday night at Minnegan Stadium. Loyola, despite its showing against Syracuse, is among the nation's elite.

* The Washington College lacrosse team's improvement in one year can be seen in the Shoremen's 11-7 loss at Hobart Sunday.

This is the same Hobart team that lost, 15-14, in the final two seconds at Virginia a week ago. At Hobart, Washington College trailed 8-7 with 10 minutes to play.

Not bad, considering that W.C. was 3-8 last year. Players from this area stood out for the Shoremen against the perennial Division III champions.

"Kevin Doyle [from Loyola High] shut out Hobart's All-America attackman, Tim de Lowe," says Washington College coach Terry Corcoran.

"Scott Overend [St. Mary's] shut out their Jeff Tambroni. And Bill Griffin [Catonsville High] came off the bench in the second quar

ter for us and wound up with 18 saves."

* Milford Mill High graduate David Scherr, back from a visit to Nevada-Las Vegas over the weekend, says he was told by people close to the basketball program that only one thing kept Florida State's Pat Kennedy from accepting the Rebel coaching job.

Kennedy, it's said, was uneasy about the prospect of further NCAA penalties against the UNLV program. He turned down a lot, including a $700,000 income, double what he earns at Florida State. UNLV wanted Kennedy badly, not just because he's a good coach, but also because of his healing ability.

* Why do people wax euphoric about the advertisements being placed on the outfield wall padding at Oriole Park at Camden Yards, regarding them as a nostalgic reminder of the old ballparks, but when they look at the ads plastered all over the boards at the Arena all they see is a means to produce extra income?

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