Wojtech, 2-0 UMBC hope their time has come

Men's notebook

March 12, 2003|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,SUN STAFF

Greg Wojtech has played lacrosse in Wales and Australia, but his dream destination is the NCAA tournament.

Wojtech, a senior, is one of UMBC's more accomplished players. He was a star in Anne Arundel County, and the Retrievers were in the midst of a two-year run in the NCAAs when he committed to play for them. The Retrievers have gone 5-7 in each of the past two seasons, the main reason Wojtech hasn't gotten his due as a long-stick midfielder.

"I wouldn't trade Greg for anyone," UMBC coach Don Zimmerman said.

That presumably would include Kyle Sweeney, who was a first-team All-American for Georgetown last year. The Hoyas invade UMBC Stadium on Saturday (1 p.m., Ch. 2) for an Eastern College Athletic Conference game.

The Retrievers intend to leave that conference, and they need to score a parting shot at Georgetown if they want to get back to the NCAAs for the first time since 1999.

Wojtech was a senior at Arundel High then. A three-year starter at the pole for the Wildcats and coach Clint Gosnell, he enjoyed an easy transition to the college game.

As a sophomore, he was a second-team All-ECAC choice, behind Sweeney. Penn State's Rob Bateman, a junior out of Hereford, earned that distinction last year, even though Wojtech's production and effectiveness increased.

Wojtech increased his ground balls from 53 as a sophomore to 61 as a junior. He trimmed his penalty minutes from four to one, a remarkably disciplined total for a position that requires an awful lot of activity.

"I get most of my ground balls on faceoffs, coming off the wing," Wojtech said. "On defense, I cover the other team's best offensive middie. If our short sticks get beat, I'm the guy doing the sliding. Other teams try to force me to the crease and make me slide. They don't want to let me play on the perimeter."

When Wojtech gathers a faceoff or goes end to end, he's doing what comes naturally. His father, George Wojtech, ran track for Maryland and was an Atlantic Coast Conference indoor champion for 600 yards, a nasty little test that requires some of the same elbowing skills that figure in faceoffs.

A sociology major, Wojtech has used lacrosse to soak up other cultures. He and UMBC midfielder Joey Kesterman played for Germany in the 2001 European championships in Wales, and then in last year's World Games in Australia.

The Retrievers improved to 2-0 Sunday when they bolted to an 8-0 lead at Stony Brook. Zimmerman said Wojtech "was the best player on the field."

UMBC has lost four straight to Georgetown, and the series isn't getting any closer. It was a one-goal game in 2000. Two years ago, the Hoyas won, 11-5, and last year they routed the young Retrievers, 18-10.

ECAC over Ivy

The ECAC could send three teams to the NCAA tournament, which culminates at Ravens Stadium on Memorial Day weekend. Georgetown, Massachusetts and Navy are all off to solid starts, and on Saturday the Mids will face Rutgers, another team poised to make a surprising run to an at-large berth.

While the ECAC can crow about results like Rutgers winning at Towson and Navy knocking off North Carolina, the Ivy League has done little to distinguish itself.

With some of its members limited to one game thus far by the weather, the Ivy is a combined 8-7, and the victories have come against Colgate, Drexel, Hartford, Lafayette, Quinnipiac and Vermont.

The Ivy does not have a single win over a Top 20 team. Princeton, the preseason No. 1 in the The Sun/Channel 2 rankings, opened with losses to Johns Hopkins and Virginia, which does not bode well for the Tigers. Princeton won six NCAA titles from 1992 to 2001, but never after an 0-2 start.

Ground balls

Goal production, a recurring problem for Loyola in 2002, resurfaced again Saturday at Duke, where the Greyhounds were blanked over the final 39 minutes. ... Maryland senior midfielder Ryan Moran is the nephew of Richie Moran, who played for the Terps and coached Cornell to NCAA titles in 1976 and '77. ... With 70 career assists, senior Ryan Obloj could become only the fourth Towson player to reach 100 for his career.

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