Byrd Stadium to be filled with orange-Ivy mixture

May 26, 1994|By Bill Tanton

What's it going to be like at Byrd Stadium this weekend?

For one thing, there'll be a lot of orange.

Three of the four teams in the NCAA men's lacrosse Final Four wear orange: Syracuse, Virginia and Princeton.

For another thing, there'll be a lot of Ivy.

For the first time in the 24-year history of the tournament, two Ivy League teams -- Princeton and Brown -- are in the semifinals.

"Three," quips Brown coach Peter Lasagna, "if you count that pseudo-Ivy League school down in Charlottesville."

Lasagna can get away with saying that about the University of Virginia, which many do consider to have a tinge of Ivy.

Virginia's coach, Dom Starsia, is married to Lasagna's sister.

The Starsia-Lasagna connection goes even deeper. Starsia was Brown's head coach for 10 years before switching to Virginia two years ago. Lasagna, who played at Brown, was Starsia's offensive coordinator.

"Dom Starsia," says Loyola coach Dave Cottle, "has two teams in the Final Four."

Lasagna, whose Brownies won, 14-13, in overtime at Loyola last Saturday in the quarterfinals, does not quarrel with that.

Starsia recruited and coached most of the players who have taken Brown to its first Final Four appearance. Starsia also developed Lasagna.

"Dom taught me most of what I know," says Lasagna. "Dom prepared our program. Hey, he spent 20 years in the Ivy League, as a player at Brown and then assistant coach and head coach here. We're happy to be in the Final Four with Dom."

Nevertheless, it is Lasagna who, at the end of a surprise-filled season, brings Brown to College Park with a 12-game winning streak.

"Peter has done a remarkable job this year," says Starsia. "When you consider that they started 1-4 and got to where they are now, he deserves to be on the Coach of the Year ballot."

In the coaches' preseason poll, Brown was picked No. 10. To win Coach of the Year, Lasagna would have to beat out some others who've done superior coaching jobs including Cottle and Duke's Mike Pressler. And, of course, brother-in-law Dom Starsia.

The events of Saturday and then Monday, Memorial Day, in the NCAA championship game will have a lot to do with deciding Coach of the Year.

I watched Brown beat Loyola at Evergreen last weekend. The game mystified me.

Loyola, which went a long way without marquee name players, was the No. 2 seed in this tournament behind Syracuse. Loyola already had beaten Brown at Providence in March. And this time the Greyhounds were at home. And they lost.

Brown has a great goalie in senior Jay Stalfort. (Irony: after Starsia went to Charlottesville to recruit Stalfort for Brown, Starsia went to Charlottesville to coach Virginia.)

"None of us can get here," says Starsia, "without a great goalie."

Brown is the only team that beat Princeton this year. How does Lasagna's team do it? "They have five first-team All-Ivy players," says Cottle, "but I don't think Brown can beat Princeton again Saturday.

"The second time you play a team, it's different. We beat Brown the first time, but when we lost to them last week we were not at our absolute best.

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"Princeton beat Hopkins, 20-11, at the start of the season. In the rematch last week, Princeton had to go to overtime to win."

Cottle sees Princeton and Syracuse hooking up in the title game Monday. Unless. . . . "It depends on whether Virginia plays Syracuse the way it has to play to win," says Cottle. "They'll have to invert their attack and midfielders.

"I saw Syracuse play Virginia in the fall and Syracuse's defensemen really beat up on [attackmen] Timmy Whiteley and Michael Watson. If Virginia lets their attack handle the ball they're in for a long afternoon."

Virginia has midfielders who can go behind the goal and handle the ball (Chris Driggs, Andy Dausch, Brad Hoag, Drew Fox, Greg Traynor).

L Roy Simmons, the Syracuse coach, knows what he's up against.

"Virginia is the envy of all the coaches," Simmons says. "They have a glut of talent."

When lacrosse coaches talk about talent, however, they start with Syracuse. The Orange perennially has more good athletes than anybody.

I'm picking Syracuse to win it all at College Park, but not with the same confidence I picked Simmons' team last year, when it beat North Carolina in the title game at Byrd.

Syracuse is by no means invincible. The Orange was vinced at Hopkins; it needed a miracle comeback to win at Towson State; it was life and death to get by Duke last week, even at the Carrier Dome.

Princeton's coach, Bill Tierney, is as smart as anyone in the game. His Tigers beat Syracuse in overtime in the NCAA title game at Franklin Field two years ago.

Tierney has the great goalie in two-time All-America Scott Bacigalupo, and the rest of what it takes to win.

"I'd pick Princeton in a final against Syracuse," says Cottle. "Syracuse is not that strong at the faceoff. Princeton is battle ready."

It might be good for lacrosse, though, if long shot Brown were to win it all.

"We've fluked our way through 12 straight wins," says Lasagna. "We're going to try to fluke through one more Saturday."

And possibly fluke through another Monday.

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