Outlook For 2004

Men's College Lacrosse Preview

February 27, 2004|By Jeff Zrebiec | Jeff Zrebiec,SUN STAFF

It wasn't long after Virginia finished its victory lap around M&T Bank Stadium last Memorial Day with the national championship in tow that discussion turned to the 2004 season, when the Cavaliers and their spectacular goalie Tillman Johnson will face a host of challengers in their bid to repeat.

Front and center on that list is Johns Hopkins, last year's runner-up, which returns a boatload of talent in the quest for its first national championship since 1987. Syracuse, with its star attackman Michael Powell, will be formidable, as always. And coaches warn not to forget about a Princeton squad of unprecedented youth, nor upstarts like Rutgers or Massachusetts.

With the ECAC losing its automatic bid with the departure of UMBC and Navy, the tournament field will consist of six league champions and 10 at-large selections. The battle for those 10 spots will be waged by independents, like Johns Hopkins, Syracuse and Loyola; by the eight schools in the Atlantic Coast Conference and the ECAC; and by second- and third-place finishers in conferences with automatic bids.

On this page, The Sun projects the field.

Top four seeds

No. 1 Johns Hopkins

Coach: Dave Pietramala (fourth season, 34-8; seventh season overall, 57-25).

2003 record: 14-2, NCAA finals.

Conference: Independent.

Top returning point-getter: Kyle Barrie, junior A (37 goals, 20 assists).

Also back: Peter LeSueur, junior A (24, 21); Conor Ford, senior A/M (18, 28); Kevin Boland, senior M (21, 25); Kyle Harrison, junior M (22, 14, .626 faceoff pct.); Joe McDermott, senior M (12, 9); Corey Harned, senior LSM; Tom Garvey, junior D; Chris Watson, junior D.

Key additions: Matt Rewkowski, junior A/M (transfer from Duke); Jesse Schwartzman, freshman G (Pikesville).

Sun's take: Though Hopkins returns six starters, Pietramala stressed that this year's Blue Jays are a far different team from last year's. They will be more athletic and versatile on offense with the interchangeable Ford and Rewkowski. The preseason All-America teams included six Blue Jays on the offensive end of the field, and long-stick midfielder Harned, whose ground ball work often starts his team's attack, could easily count as seven. Whoever will start in goal - Schwartzman or sophomore Scott Smith - will have an underrated defense in front of him.

No. 2 Virginia

Coach: Dom Starsia (12th season, 125-42; 22nd season overall, 226-88).

2003 record: 15-2, NCAA champion.

Conference: Atlantic Coast.

Top returning point-getter: Joe Yevoli, junior A (23, 26).

Also back: John Christmas, junior A (36, 12); Matt Ward, sophomore A (26, 20); Jack deVilliers, junior M (.588 faceoff pct.); Kyle Dixon, sophomore M (9, 8); Foster Gilbert, sophomore M; Matt Poskay, sophomore M; Brett Hughes, senior D; Tillman Johnson, senior G.

Key additions: Drew Thompson, freshman M.

Sun's take: Starting the first weekend of March, the reigning champs play Syracuse, Princeton, Towson, Johns Hopkins, Maryland, North Carolina and Duke in that order. By the time that brutal stretch hits, the Cavaliers' young midfield likely will have found its feet. However, Virginia has plenty of other weapons to get by, starting with perhaps the nation's best attack. And then there's Johnson, whose fabulous display in last year's final four elevated the goalie to long-deserved superstar status.

No. 3 Syracuse

Coach: John Desko (sixth season, 65-17).

2003 record: 10-6, NCAA semifinals.

Conference: Independent.

Top returning point-getter: Michael Powell, senior A (31, 33).

Also back: Brian Crockett, sophomore A (20, 10); Brian Nee, senior A (24, 6); Sean Lindsay, senior M (29, 7); Greg Rommel, sophomore M (8, 1); Steve Vallone, senior M (20, 4); Dan DiPietro, senior D; Jay Pfeifer, junior G.

Key additions: Kevin Dougherty, senior M (transfer from Hofstra); Scott Ditzell, junior D (transfer from Herkimer CC); Steve Panarelli, freshman D.

Sun's take: Though they took their 21st consecutive trip to the final four, last season was a disappointment for the Orangemen, who hadn't suffered six losses in a season since 1977. Syracuse has retooled its defense in front of Pfeifer, and is more athletic on that end, thanks in large part to Panarelli. Crockett's move from the midfield will make Syracuse's attack even more formidable. Powell is aiming for a proper sendoff on Memorial Day.

No. 4 Massachusetts

Coach: Greg Cannella (10th season, 79-47).

2003 record: 13-3, NCAA quarterfinals.

Conference: ECAC.

Top returning point-getter: Jeff Zywicki, senior A (41, 20).

Also back: Kevin Glenz, senior A (9, 13); Gene Tundo, junior A (14, 12); Chris Doyle, junior M (19, 4); Sean Morris, sophomore M (14, 8); Matt Garcia, junior D; Chris Gervat, senior D; Jack Reid, sophomore D; Bill Schell, junior G.

Key additions: Andrew Reccione, freshman M.

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