Towson St., Loyola can improve playoff chances by beating Jays

April 27, 1996|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,CONTRIBUTING WRITER

For Towson State and Loyola, the road to the playoffs goes through Homewood.

No. 19 Towson State needs a victory at No. 5 Johns Hopkins today to strengthen its chances of making the NCAA tournament for the second time in three years. Although the Tigers (6-4) are near the bottom of the rankings, they have beaten Loyola and have lost to Hofstra, Syracuse, Navy and Maryland by a total of only seven goals.

"We're very close to having a heck of a year," Towson coach Carl Runk said. "A win over Hopkins is critical to us and I think would clinch a spot for us. Personally, I think we're close even without the Hopkins game."

No. 8 Loyola (6-4), which plays host to Georgetown today and Hopkins next Saturday, also sees its game against the Blue Jays as instrumental to gaining a postseason bid. The Greyhounds have made the tournament every year since 1988.

"We told our kids [when the team was 3-4] that we needed to win the last five games to get in," said coach Dave Cottle, whose Greyhounds have won three in a row. "If we did win our last five games, I said I would be surprised if we didn't make it. The first thing is I know we have to win Saturday."

The Blue Jays have won 20 of 22 games against the Tigers and 32 of 33 against the Greyhounds. Hopkins, upset by Hofstra on Tuesday, also has never lost to Loyola and Towson in the same season and hasn't dropped its last three regular-season games in 32 years.

Still, Hopkins (5-4) also has more losses at this point of the season than it has had in six years, giving Towson and Loyola reason to be optimistic. Especially Towson, which has won five out of its past six games and has given the Blue Jays trouble in recent years.

"We're not going out there to play good, we're going out there to win," said Towson senior goalkeeper Brian Whalen, who has made 46 saves in his past three games against Hopkins. "Nobody on this team has beaten Hopkins and that's been one of my goals since I've been here.

"If we beat them, that gives us a better shot at the tournament. But Hopkins has two tough games left. Even if we don't get in with a win, I would be just as happy at helping knock them out of the tournament."

Intrusive Bison

Bucknell, the most surprising team in the nation, has made the tournament draw more complicated for postseason regulars. The No. 9 Bison (11-0), who finish the regular season at Lafayette today, are the nation's only undefeated team in men's Division I.

Bucknell, which had a 19-22 record the past three years, has set a school record for single-season victories and is ranked nationally for the first time in the program's history.

The Bison's schedule could throw doubt on an NCAA tournament bid. Although Bucknell hasn't faced the same number of quality opponents as the other top 10 teams, the Bison have downed Army, Hobart and Penn State by a combined score of 37-24.

"Every coach has dreams about a season like we're having," said Sid Jamieson, in his 29th season at Bucknell. "We don't worry about the tournament. We've already done what we needed to prove -- and that was to ourselves."

Rutgers dangerous

Earlier this season, it appeared Maryland would cruise into the postseason after the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament by finishing with games at Rutgers and at UMBC.

But Rutgers turned around a disappointing 3-4 season by achieving one of the biggest upsets in recent years, stunning Syracuse for the first time since 1955. With more than three-fourths of their team comprised of freshmen and sophomores, the Scarlet Knights (5-6) are dangerous. They also nearly upset Penn State last week.

"We've changed with game experience, confidence and a belief in the system," said coach Tom Hayes, whose team plays host to the Terps today. "It took awhile and we had some tough road bumps initially. But the Syracuse game certainly helped our confidence and made us believe in what we could do.

Today's games

Navy (4-7) at No. 16 Army (6-4)

Time: 1: 30 p.m.

Site: Michie Stadium, West Point, N.Y.

Skinny: The Midshipmen have won three straight over the Cadets.

No. 19 Towson St. (6-4) at No. 5 Johns Hopkins (5-4)

Time: 2 p.m.

Site: Homewood Field

Radio: WWLG (1360 AM), WTMD (89.7 FM)

Skinny: The Blue Jays have scored 46 goals against the Tigers in the past two meetings.

No. 13 Georgetown (7-4) at No. 8 Loyola (6-4)

Time: 2 p.m.

Site: Curley Field

Radio: WITH (1230 AM)

Skinny: The loser will likely drop from consideration for an NCAA tournament bid.

No. 3 Virginia (9-3) at UMBC (3-7)

Time: 3 p.m.

Site: UMBC Stadium

Skinny: The Retrievers are 3-1 at home.

No. 4 Maryland (8-2) at Rutgers (5-6)

Time: 7: 30 p.m.

tTC Site: Rutgers Stadium, Piscataway, N.J.

Skinny: The Terrapins haven't lost to an unranked opponent since UMBC in 1991.

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