If graduating one of the best attack units in college history wasn't trying enough, Princeton coach Bill Tierney now has to deal with the possibility of starting the season without his best offensive weapon, Josh Sims.
Sims, last season's Midfielder of the Year in college lacrosse, has been sidelined for nearly two weeks with a thigh bruise after taking a knee to his leg in the Army scrimmage on Feb. 20.
Although Sims hasn't practiced all week, Tierney said the Severn graduate could play Saturday, when the three-time, defending national champion Tigers open against top-ranked Johns Hopkins.
"He's 50-50 right now," Tierney said. "It's painful and debilitating, but it's an injury that's day-to-day and could keep him out a couple of games."
Sims, who set a school record with 32 goals as a midfielder, is No. 5 Princeton's best option to break down defenses with his speed and dodging ability.
With Sims out, the focus moves to senior attackman Lorne Smith, the only other returning Tiger to have scored more than 20 goals last season, who could find himself surrounded by four underclassmen while battling one of the game's top defenses.
"To be honest, we're not concerned about who's going to play," said Johns Hopkins coach John Haus, who will be making his Blue Jays coaching debut. "Obviously, anytime you lose a first-team All-American -- if in fact that's true -- it will change what your team can and can't do. But Princeton is such a team-oriented group that they'll be fine."
Thanks to their basketball counterparts, Maryland's lacrosse teams could be playing the best games that no one sees on Sunday.
The men's team, ranked No. 6, plays host to No. 2 Duke at Byrd Stadium on Sunday in a locally televised game while the top-ranked women's squad plays No. 2 North Carolina a few hundred yards away at Ludwig Field.
So if the Terps men's basketball team advances to its first Atlantic Coast Conference tournament final since 1984, there would be three pivotal contests starting at 1 p.m.
Lacrosse coach Dick Edell spotted the conflicts when he was given the finalized television schedule in January, but said he had no control over the time.
"I guess that's what VCRs are for," Edell said. "Right now, I'm concerned with beating Duke."
Uneasy at `home'
Call it a home-field disadvantage.
With the new artificial turf at Curley Field still not ready, No. 4 Loyola will shift its opener against Hofstra about 30 miles south to Navy's Rip Miller Field. The game will start a half-hour after the Top 15 matchup between No. 12 Navy and No. 11 North Carolina.
The Greyhounds, who have spent the past week in Florida, have practiced most of the preseason at the St. Mary's Seminary fields. Loyola has won 12 of its past 13 games at Curley over two seasons.
By opening the season against Princeton, Loyola and Syracuse, Johns Hopkins becomes what is believed to be the first team to start its year playing three straight teams from last year's Final Four. Princeton has beaten Hopkins in six of the teams' past seven meetings, including the past three. North Carolina lost to Navy, 13-12, in its last visit to Annapolis in 1997. Tony Seaman will make his first appearance as Towson's coach on Saturday, when the No. 13 Tigers play host to Boston College. Seaman replaces Carl Runk, who made his debut with a 7-6 victory over the Baltimore Athletic Club in 1968.
Stat of the week
Princeton, which plays host to top-ranked Johns Hopkins Saturday, has won 41 straight home games -- the longest current streak in the nation. The Tigers haven't lost at home since a 14-13, triple-overtime loss to Towson State in the 1991 NCAA quarterfinals. A look at the close calls during the streak:
Yr. , Opponent Result
1992 Cornell 10-9*
1992 Maryland-x 11-10
1994 Duke 8-7
1994 Hopkins-x 12-11*
1997 Hopkins 7-6*
1997 Virginia 14-13*
x -- NCAA quarterfinal; * -- OT
Pub Date: 3/04/99