Syracuse isn't the only New York team in the lacrosse Final Four.
There have been times this season when Johns Hopkins put 10 players from the Empire State on the field. Nine are from Long Island, and freshman attackman Dave Marr is from upstate. Marr led Yorktown to a state title last year, getting seven assists in the semifinals against Lynbrook and goalie Jonathan Marcus, who now is a Blue Jays starter.
Hopkins attack leader Brian Piccola and North Carolina midfielder Donnie McNichol were teammates at Oceanside High, and both are known for their hard-nosed play. Piccola was out with an injury when the Tar Heels beat the Blue Jays, 14-9, on April 3.
That was the only game in the Blue Jays' first 10 in which Steve Vecchione didn't dominate the faceoff battle. McNichol has won 76.8 percent of his faceoffs, surpassing the North Carolina's 62.0.
The Blue Jays aren't without Baltimore talent. With 18 goals and 10 assists, their top point-getter on the midfield is Brian Kelly, a senior from Towson High. David Townsend, a senior attackman from St. Paul's, has 19 goals and seven assists. With 13 goals, six assists and some faceoff duty, Severn grad Milford Marchant might be Hopkins' best young midfielder.
Senior Charlie Speno (Dulaney) and juniors Casey Gordon (Gilman) and Matt Jackson (Loyola) have played often.
Syracuse and Hopkins have another link. Both have played a majority of their games on artificial turf, and both say the shift to grass at Byrd Stadium won't affect them. Syracuse won the NCAA tournament there in 1989, and Hopkins won at Maryland on April 16.
Not to be outdone, North Carolina played its last two games at Byrd Stadium in late April, when the Tar Heels won the ACC tournament. The Tar Heels have beaten the other three semifinalists, and if they need another omen, each time the North Carolina basketball team has reached the NCAA Final Four since the 1980s, the lacrosse team has won the NCAA title.
Princeton, incidentally, last played at Byrd Stadium in 1976, losing, 13-3, to the Terps.
Tickets moving briskly
Early ticket sales were running nearly four times faster than they did four years ago, and tournament officials are planning for bigger crowds than the tournament record 20,263 (semifinals) and 23,893 (championships) who attended the last championships at Byrd Stadium, in 1989.
This begins a three-year run at Byrd Stadium -- the 1995 tournament will be the 25th annual -- and some would like to see the championships stay in College Park permanently.
"I'd be receptive to listening to that," said Willie Scroggs, chairman of the NCAA lacrosse committee. "It's a fine facility, the people do a fine job running it and the tournament has been a success there in the past. It's important that we draw. If we don't draw well, some people will wonder why lacrosse violates certain participation ratios and still has a 12-team tournament."
Even though the NCAA's membership formulas don't warrant a 12-team field, men's lacrosse and ice hockey, with only 54 and 49 Division I schools, respectively, are allowed to stay at that level because their tournaments make money.
Virginia did it
On April 10, Virginia was able to do something that Princeton, Syracuse and Johns Hopkins were unable to do: beat North Carolina.
"You've got to take care of the ball against North Carolina," Virginia coach Dom Starsia said. "They've got one of the great scorers in the game in Ryan Wade."
A junior midfielder out of Severn who was the ACC Player of the Year, Wade led the Tar Heels with 25 goals.
Princeton also has a midfielder as its top goal-getter, Torr Marro scoring 22, but junior attackman Kevin Lowe's 19 goals and a school-record 46 assists has him three shy of the Tigers' record for points in a season.
On attack, Hopkins sophomore Terry Riordan and Syracuse senior Matt Riter both have 46 goals. Riordan is six shy of the school record, and Riter scored the most celebrated goal of the season on an Air Gait move that triggered the Orangemen's May 7 win over the Blue Jays.
Hopkins coach Tony Seaman said the goal shouldn't have been allowed, that films show that Riter's stick touched the goal before he shot. Riter came from behind the goal, leaped into the crease and surprised Hopkins goalie Marcus, a move originated by Gary Gait, who scored 192 goals for Syracuse from 1987 to 1990.