Syracuse heads everybody's polls

Bill Tanton

March 04, 1993|By Bill Tanton

"This is going to be some opening day," says Johns Hopkins lacrosse coach Tony Seaman. "No. 1 plays No. 3, and No. 2 plays No. 4."

The 1993 college season begins in earnest Saturday and the matchups are terrific:

No. 1 Syracuse plays at No. 3 North Carolina, while No. 2 Princeton, the defending NCAA champion, is at Hopkins.

The rankings are courtesy of Lacrosse Magazine's preseason poll of the coaches. Their top 10:

1. Syracuse, 2. Princeton, 3. North Carolina, 4. Hopkins, 5. Virginia, 6. Loyola, 7. Maryland, 8. Brown, 9. Duke, 10. Towson State.

Never underestimate the wisdom of the coaches. Last year, although it may seem as if Princeton's national championship came from out of the blue, the coaches in the preseason picked coach Bill Tierney's Tigers No. 3.

They predicted, in order, North Carolina, Syracuse, Princeton, Loyola and Hopkins. Toss out Loyola, which had an erratic and disappointing 8-4 season, and you have the '92 Final Four.

When the Final Four gets under way at College Park on May 29 (championship game at refurbished Byrd Stadium May 31), the field is likely to be almost identical to the coaches' poll.

The one thing everyone agrees on is that Syracuse is No. 1.

"Syracuse has the most talented team," says Brown coach Peter Lasagna, who brought his own talented team to Hopkins last Sunday for a preseason scrimmage (which Hopkins won).

"Syracuse is the most talented team in the country," says Seaman, who adds that his Blue Jays "are coming."

Says Princeton's Tierney: "Syracuse has more talented players than anybody. Fortunately, they can only play 10 at a time."

Loyola coach Dave Cottle, who sends his Greyhounds against )) Penn here Saturday after a week of practice in the Florida sun, agrees that Syracuse has to be favored going into the season.

"They lost a great finisher in Tommy Marachek," says Cottle, "but they didn't lose much else. They still have Dom Fin, Jamie Archer, Matt Riter, Charley Lockwood. Chris Surran is back in the goal. Syracuse has the best talent in the country."

There is a tendency for lacrosse fans to look at Syracuse's success in recent years and give the credit to the Gait brothers, Gary and Paul. The Orange won three consecutive NCAA championships with them at midfield. But there is more to Syracuse lacrosse than the sensational twins from British Columbia.

Since 1983, the Orange has been in 10 straight Final Fours, has won four titles and has played in seven championship games -- including last year's, when it took Princeton two overtimes to ward off coach Roy Simmons' team.

Says Towson State coach Carl Runk, who took his team to the title game and lost to North Carolina two years ago:

"Roy Simmons has built a great tradition at Syracuse over the past 10 years. He has a super program. He has a nice pipeline to the talent. Syracuse deserves to be No. 1."

What about Runk's Towson team, which opens at home Saturday against Villanova -- and barely made the top 10?

"The ranking doesn't bother me at this point," Runk says. "We only have four players left from the team that played for the championship. We're very young. I'm not sure we'd be mature enough to handle it if we'd been picked high."

Runk, who has coached Towson for 25 years (record: 223-128), has been around long enough to know that every season has some surprises, as Princeton was last year when it upset Carolina and Syracuse within 72 hours at Franklin Field.

"The dark horse is Loyola," says Runk, whose Tigers will play at Evergreen April 3. "Princeton has a nice squad. They have a helluva stopper [first-team All-America Scott Bacigalupo]. That's a nice way to start.

"And look out for Virginia. Those kids wanted a coaching change and they got it [from Jim Adams to Dom Starsia]. Now let's see what they do."

Seaman believes Army will surprise this season, though the Cadets haven't been in the playoffs for five years.

"Army will be in the top eight," says Seaman. "Army played Syracuse a 10-8 scrimmage this spring. They played a 9-9 tie with Princeton." (Tierney says Army beat his team, 11-9).

Seaman agrees with Runk that Loyola is a team to watch. At No. 6, the Greyhounds may be underrated.

In most sports, lacrosse included, you win with defense, and defense traditionally has been Loyola's strength, though the Hounds will play their toughest schedule.

Opening weekend predictions: Hopkins over Princeton, and Syracuse to beat Carolina.

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