Four Top 10 teams give ACC tourney new luster

April 18, 1994|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,Contributing Writer

Even the critics of the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament probably will watch it intently this weekend.

The ACC, whose 6-year-old tournament starts Friday in Charlottesville, Va., is the only conference that does not crown its lacrosse champion in the regular season, and some consider the tournament a waste of scheduling space.

But this year, the ACC tournament features four of the top nine teams in the nation and should determine whether this is the first year four conference teams make the NCAA tournament.

"When we put the tournament in existence, I got a lot of feedback that it's crazy," Maryland coach Dick Edell said. "But go and ask the 128 kids that play in the tournament, and 128 of them will say they love it."

The ninth-ranked Terrapins (5-4) will face No. 5 North Carolina, winner of all five ACC tournaments. Fourth-ranked Virginia (8-2) plays No. 7 Duke (9-3), which defeated the Cavaliers by a goal in Charlottesville last Saturday.

"We are happy to be 9-3, after such a disappointing loss to [Division III] Hobart and play our best lacrosse of the year six days later is a tribute to our guys," Duke coach Mike Pressler said. "They knew if they didn't fight Virginia, they were going to have to fight me."

Although Pressler understands the difficulty of defeating a team twice in a season, much less twice in six days, he said the win over Virginia gave the Blue Devils a confidence boost.

"I like this situation more than if we had lost and then come back and try to beat a Virginia team we just lost to," he said. "We must be at our best, because I'm still not sure we are the best team. But that's why play the game and we have to be at our best again."

Duke and Maryland are in peculiar situations. With upsets, both can possibly be hosts to first-round games in the NCAA tournament. If they are blown out, both are back on the bubble.

"We definitely feel we are in contention after beating Virginia," Pressler said. "But our goal from day one was be competitive in the ACC. If we show that this Friday, we move even closer to contention [for the NCAA tournament]."

Top-ranked test

Loyola gets its first real test as the top-ranked team when it travels to No. 3 Syracuse tomorrow. The Greyhounds were last ranked No. 1 in 1992 but were defeated by the Orangemen the day that poll was released.

The game matches the teams with this season's Division I longest winning streaks and with the best records since 1988.

The Greyhounds are 8-0 and Syracuse has won six straight. Also, Loyola has a 66-19 record for the past six years, only surpassed by the Orangemen, who have an 87-9 record.

With a win, Loyola is three games away from gaining the top seed in the NCAA tournament. The No. 1 seed has made the finals for the past six years.

Tougher this year

Second-year Brown coach Peter Lasagna has learned the lesson of his rookie season. With a 10-3 record last year, the Bears were not invited to the 12-team NCAA tournament because they did not have a difficult schedule or a quality win.

After losing three of its first four games, Brown has won five straight. The Bears defeated then-No. 1 Princeton and are two wins away from clinching their first Ivy League title since 1991.

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