As expected, the turnout for yesterday's semifinals of the men's national Division I lacrosse tournament at M&T Bank Stadium set a final four record.
The announced crowd of 37,823 shattered the record of 30,580, set in 1997 at Byrd Stadium in College Park. With the upper deck of M&T Bank Stadium closed, capacity for the games was 40,800.
"When the Lax4Baltimore committee was put together, they hoped to have that number, and what they did was go out and make that number happen," said Chappy Menninger, chairman of the NCAA men's lacrosse committee. "A little bit of sun at 9 or 10 o'clock this morning, and we would have gotten 40, no doubt."
NCAA tournament director Marty Schwartz said that more than 30,000 all-session tickets were sold, and the rest were single-game passes.
"It's going incredibly well," said Schwartz. "Everything is going off without a hitch. We even had Mother Nature on our side."
Event organizers had feared that the rainy forecast would keep some fans away. But for the most part, the rain held off and the sun even threatened to break through early in the Maryland-Virginia game.
The only visible sections of empty purple seats were in the end-zone areas.
One snag to the afternoon was that the video board in the west end zone of the stadium was not operating until halftime of the second game. Schwartz said 25 power suppliers were out, preventing it from working.
According to Johns Hopkins senior attackman Bobby Benson, the one replay board that did work added a dimension missing from previous final fours.
"I'm not going to lie," he said. "When I scored my first goal, I was checking out the replay."
Baltimore is already set as the venue for next year's final four, and Lax4Baltimore, the local organizing committee for the event, which is being sponsored by Loyola, Johns Hopkins, Towson and UMBC, will also bid to hold the event in 2005 and 2006.
Schwartz said yesterday's turnout will only help.
Scoreless no more
Until yesterday, the final four had been Benson's personal house of horror.
In the Blue Jays' 11-9 loss to Princeton last year and in their 14-12 defeat by Syracuse in 2000, the McDonogh alum, who ranks sixth in Hopkins history with 123 career goals, was shut out.
Benson denied that his four-goal performance in the Blue Jays' 19-8 win over Syracuse yesterday slew any personal demons.
"I know that I was shut out in the last two finals fours, but this isn't about that," said Benson, the crease attackman who is second on his team in points with 40 goals and 12 assists. "It was about our team putting up as many goals as possible and about our offense playing as well as we could.
"They started sliding a little and things opened up inside. And I think our offense did a good job making them pay."
`We kind of fell off'
Maryland coach Dave Cottle said that even though his Terrapins' heads were down as they entered the locker room at halftime trailing 5-2, he reminded his players they hadn't played that poorly in the first half.
But that changed very early in the second half. Virginia got a goal from Matt Ward 1:12 into the half, and Matt Poskay scored about a minute later.
Players from both teams recognized the Cavaliers' quick second-half start as the knockout blow in a 14-4 Virginia victory.
"In the third quarter, we broke down a little," said senior defenseman Michael Howley. "You feel like you're standing on a ledge and you're about to fall off. We kind of fell off."
The combined 21-goal margin for the two games marked the second-most-lopsided semifinals in the tournament's 33-year history. The 1977 semifinals, with Virginia as host, were decided by 26 goals. Cornell beat Navy, 22-6, and Johns Hopkins beat Maryland, 22-12. ... Hopkins senior defender Michael Peyser, who left the game in the last minute, was suffering from cramps. ... Blue Jays junior long stick Corey Harned had three points yesterday after entering the game with a total of four.