This year, crunch time comes early for UMBC and Georgetown in ECAC


March 14, 2001|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,SUN STAFF

Will Georgetown's visit to UMBC on Saturday (1 p.m.) be the most important regular-season lacrosse game played in Baltimore in 2001?

Spring will bring Virginia and Loyola to Johns Hopkins. Top-ranked Syracuse could be packing a 14-game winning streak by the time it gets to Loyola on April 7. Those programs are perennial at-large selections to the NCAA tournament, and they rarely encounter must-win situations in March, unlike a UMBC.

No. 4 Georgetown is the defending champion in the ECAC, where there is no postseason tournament. The regular-season champion gets an automatic bid to the NCAAs, and Retrievers coach Don Zimmerman knows what a victory over the Hoyas would do for his young team, which finished third in the league last year.

"I don't think regular-season games get any bigger than this," Zimmerman acknowledged.

Both teams are unbeaten, with one ECAC win. No. 4 Georgetown handled Penn State, while UMBC beat Navy in overtime. The 10th-ranked Retrievers are coming off another one-goal victory, over Cornell, which added to their momentum. UMBC is hardly in a position to look down the road, but it also gets Massachusetts, the other ECAC team that has quickly gotten out of the blocks, at home.

Pat Mustin, a freshman from Novi, Mich., had two big goals against Cornell. UMBC survived a two-man disadvantage in the final two minutes as senior Steve Cusa continues to play superbly in the goal for UMBC. The close defense doesn't have a senior, but junior Eric Hester (Hereford), and the Smith brothers out of Mount Hebron - junior Jon and sophomore Dave - have developed into a tough unit.

"We're beginning to understand things that we haven't in the past," Zimmerman said, "but I still feel we've got a long way to go."

UMBC lost at Georgetown last year by a goal. Saturday's date is Channel 2's "Game of the Week."

Missing goals

When Salisbury State repeated as the Division III champion in 1995, the Sea Gulls averaged 24 goals per game. Coach Jim Berkman hasn't abandoned the run-and-gun - his team averaged 17.4 goals last season - but he's rebuilding on attack and starting six freshmen, hence a score like last week's 3-2 overtime victory over Ohio Wesleyan.

The previous combined record low for a Salisbury State game was 11 goals, in 1978. Loyola coach Dave Cottle was the star the year before, when the Sea Gulls established their record for offensive futility in a 14-2 loss to UMBC.

If Salisbury is going to make a run at the Division III title that it last won in 1999, it will be with defense. Senior goalie Pat Tewes (Severna Park) and defensemen Mark Breier, Bryan Shanahan (Chesapeake-AA) and Jon Cline (St. Mary's) make the Sea Gulls strong in the back.

Missing man

Delaware is reeling without Ryan Metzbower, the sophomore midfielder from Severna Park who was the America East Rookie of the Year last season. Metzbower, who prepped at St. Mary's and Bridgton Academy, tore an anterior cruciate ligament in a February scrimmage. He tested his wounded knee while wearing a brace, but then the decision was made to redshirt. He'll have three seasons of eligibility remaining.

Unranked Delaware is 1-4, its only win at Mount St. Mary's. It was whacked in its most recent outing, a 13-4 loss to visiting North Carolina.

Player of the Week

Ryan Mollett, Princeton. On successive Saturdays, the Tigers have allowed four goals, first to Johns Hopkins and then Virginia. A senior from Boys' Latin who began his Princeton career as a midfielder, Mollett marked Virginia's Conor Gill, the St. Paul's grad who is regarded as the best attackman in college lacrosse. Mollett limited Gill's point total to a single assist.

"Ryan would be the first to say that he didn't do that by himself," coach Bill Tierney said. "We have so much respect for Conor, Ryan wasn't alone in slowing him, but Gill was primarily his responsibility."

Game of the Week

No. 9 Johns Hopkins at No. 1 Syracuse. The Georgetown-UMBC game is pre-eminent in Baltimore, but nothing gets the juices flowing at the Carrier Dome like the sight of Blue Jays. Hopkins has won two of its last three games at Syracuse.

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