COLLEGE PARK - Maryland vs. Princeton. This game represents a lot more than a major step toward the 2000 NCAA Division I lacrosse championship.
This quarterfinal clash - at 4 p.m. today at Rutgers (N.J.) Stadium - is between two extremely different programs and two coaches with highly contrasting styles geared toward getting the most out of young lacrosse players.
Third-seeded Princeton (10-2) was the team of the '90s, winning five of the past eight national titles. Sixth-seeded Maryland (11-4) has been a team for all seasons, playing in 24 of the 30 NCAA tournaments and advancing to the championship game nine times.
The Terps won national titles in 1973 and 1975 and have spent the past 25 years searching for a third NCAA championship ring.
Princeton is a cool, calculating and corporate-like team. Maryland is the opposite, often riding emotional streaks to great heights and being known for a more wide-open, free-lance style of play.
Princeton can play a physical brand of lacrosse, but often picks its spots to lay a big hit on an opponent. Maryland is more direct with its rock-'em, sock-'em approach to the game.
Princeton is an obvious, big-time success story in lacrosse. Maryland loves to cast itself as the perennial underdog.
The two coaches?
Princeton's Bill Tierney is the Tom Landry of NCAA lacrosse. He's a diplomat first and a heated competitor second. Tierney almost always says all the right things and is an expert at preparing his team mentally for every game.
He's been at his best this week, saying, "The word out there is `We don't have a chance' against Maryland. A lot of people believe we're a way overrated team which is just lucky to be a third seed. I guess we'll find out [today]."
Maryland's Dick Edell could never be a diplomat. He throws his heart out there for the world to see. It would be hard to find a more genuine coach in any sport.
"When he walks into our locker room, he has so much power and presence that everybody is so high automatically, we can't help but go out and play on emotions," said senior starting defenseman Jason Carrier. "He's a father figure and idol to me."
Casey Connor, another senior starting defenseman for Maryland, described Edell this way: "He knows everybody and takes time to acknowledge everyone. Whether you're the AD or the supervisor of dirt here at Maryland, he's going to say, `Hi, how you doing? What's up?' He's not doing it because he has to. He's doing it because he's a great guy."
Connor feels he has a special bond to Edell. The preseason, second-team All-American grew up in the Parkville area, not far from where Edell grew up and where Connor played his high school lacrosse at Calvert Hall.
The same Calvert Hall where Edell began his head lacrosse coaching career in 1970.
Connor said, "We talk about Calvert Hall, Parkville and Dundalk all the time. Every kid always says he has the greatest coach. But I couldn't even think about playing for any other coach than the `big man.' If I could grow up and be like him, it would be fantastic. He is an awesome person and human being."
It was Connor who did what he called "a stupid thing" two years ago late in the fourth quarter of the NCAA championship game at Rutgers when the Terps were being whipped badly by Princeton on the way to a 15-5 loss. He picked up a penalty flag and hurled it toward the stands.
"I didn't really decide to do it," said Connor. "It just happened. Then it hit me, `I can't believe I just did that.' They said I threw it at the [Princeton] band, but the wind really took it that way.
"I just felt all the calls were not going our way and it was my second year in a row out there getting beat badly by Princeton [19-7 in 1997] in the NCAA championship game. And we had come into that game with such high hopes and were tied at halftime (3-3)."
Connor believes his actions "were magnified" because the game was on ESPN, and he sees an entirely different scenario developing against the Tigers today in the first meeting between the schools since that 1998 title game.
"We've had all week to prepare for Princeton this time," said Connor. "In both of those championship games, we had just one day after the semis. We're a team that needs time to get ready for an opponent."
Geoff Burnham, Maryland's gifted longstick senior midfielder, believes his team will play "smarter this time against Princeton. We've learned from our mistakes and everybody wants to win so badly for the `big man' and for ourselves."
Senior Terps attackman Marcus LaChapelle said: "Princeton is smart and they play smart. They make you beat them."