Some will argue that if John Webster had been healthy in 1992, North Carolina would be after its third straight NCAA title.
Webster was an unheralded sophomore when the Tar Heels went unbeaten in 1991, and they said they were capable of a repeat performance last season. He was hindered by a stress fracture in his fifth vertebra, however, and wasn't a factor in the NCAA tournament. Brown limited him to an assist in the quarterfinals, and he didn't have a point in a semifinal loss to eventual champion Princeton.
A fifth-year senior attackman from Boys' Latin, he balks at the suggestion that his health had an impact on last year's outcome.
Johns Hopkins coach Tony Seaman said: "North Carolina has so many good attackmen, and it's hard for one guy to get the stats, but I think he's a first-team All-American. He's a really good finisher, and if there's an open man, he's going to see him. John just knows the game so well."
With 18 goals and an Atlantic Coast Conference-leading 19 assists, Webster is the top point-getter for the nation's No. 1 team. North Carolina (10-1) begins its charge at a sixth straight ACC championship in tonight's tournament semifinals at Byrd Stadium, playing Duke at 6 p.m. Virginia and host Maryland meet at 8. The winners play Sunday (12:30 p.m.) for the championship.
Webster peaked at this stage last year. He was the MVP of the ACC tournament and later a third-team All-American, but all was not well.
"I injured my back in practice," Webster said. "I went to see a chiropractor, but it hurt more after he was done working on me. The pain never went away. I didn't know something was broken until after theseason."
Coincidentally, another back injury has put a hitch in North Carolina's postseason plans this year. Senior goalie Billy Daye fractured his sixth vertebra in a collision with a Hopkins player JTC April 3 and might be done for the season. The Tar Heels suffered their only loss a week later, falling to Virginia in overtime.
North Carolina coach Dave Klarmann experimented with Webster at midfield in February and March, but he has been back on attack since a 12-6 win at Maryland. Webster has
97 goals and 71 assists in his career and could move past Mac Ford into the No. 5 spot on North Carolina's all-time points list this weekend.
At Byrd Stadium, College Park No. 1 North Carolina (10-1, 2-1) vs. Duke (8-4, 1-2) Time: 6 p.m.
Outlook: When these teams met Saturday, the Tar Heels dominated the middle two periods en route to a 13-9 victory. North Carolina is 8-0 in tournament history, and the Tar Heels, who stayed No. 1 in the rankings despite an overtime loss at Virginia two weeks ago, are loaded as always. Defenseman Alex Martin (Gilman) is a first-team All-American, senior Donnie McNichol and junior Ryan Wade (Severn) are among the nation's best midfielders, and John Webster (Boys' Latin) leads a balanced attack. Gary Lehrman is subbing for injured Billy Daye in goal. Duke, No. 11 in the USILA rankings, might get the last invitation to the NCAA tournament. Scott Harrison (29) and Seth McCullough (23) are the top scorers in the ACC. Carter Hertzberg was the all-conference goalie last year.
No. 7 Virginia (7-3, 3-0) vs. Maryland (2-4, 0-3) Time: 8 p.m.
Outlook: Under first-year coach Dom Starsia, the Cavaliers beat North Carolina and Maryland in overtime to gain the top seed in the tournament. They're getting another superb season from Kevin Pehlke (Calvert Hall), their all-time leading scorer with 127 goals and 92 assists. He needs one point to move into third on the all-time ACC list. Freshman Tim Whiteley (St. Paul's) has nine goals and 11 assists. The Terps have beaten Cornell and Navy, but went winless in the ACC for the first time in 10 years under coach Dick Edell. Goalie Matt Back (St. Mary's) played well in the regular-season loss to the Cavaliers. Matt Parks (Gilman) is the leading goal-getter, with nine. Maryland beat Duke in the semifinals last year, then lost to North Carolina.