Aggressive Mids quickly emerge as lacrosse force

Commentary

April 13, 2004|By MIKE PRESTON

A DAY FOR rumbling and rambling:

The difference between the old Navy and the new Navy in men's lacrosse is speed, with an emphasis on attacking instead of being attacked.

Watching Navy (8-1) upset then-No. 1 Maryland, 9-6, on Saturday was unbelievable, because it was the first time in recent memory that the Mids played up-tempo on offense instead of being deliberate and boring, trying to keep the score close.

The Mids, who moved from No. 4 to No. 2 in the rankings, have quality scorers in attackmen Ian Dingman (23 goals, 14 assists) and Joe Bossi (22, four), but they dominate with two midfield groups consisting of Ben Bailey, Graham Gill and Billy Looney, and Adam Reel, Taylor Harris and Matt Midura.

The fastest players on the team are midfielder Steve Looney, who seems to pick up every ground ball, and attackman Jon Birsner, an excellent feeder behind goal. The Mids were relentless riding the Terps on clears and seemed to always have two more players on the field than Maryland.

Navy has a 364-276 advantage in ground balls this season and has allowed 143 of 204 clears, as opposed to converting on 148 of 196.

If you think Navy is going to disappear, think again. Two of the Mids' three remaining regular-season games are against Lehigh on Friday and Holy Cross on Sunday before hosting No. 1 Hopkins on April 24. The Mids are for real.

Meanwhile, Maryland (8-1) has to play at Hopkins (7-1) on Saturday night in the 100th meeting between the schools. The Terps, now ranked No. 4, have to prove that they won't have their usual late-season meltdown.

Former Dunbar High and University of Maryland standout Keith Booth is being mentioned as a possible replacement for Terps basketball assistant Matt Kovarik if Kovarik decides to leave and concentrate on law school.

Booth was a crowd favorite at Maryland in the mid-1990s, averaging 14.1 points and 7.3 rebounds. More importantly, he still has connections in Baltimore and might be able to lure some top recruits to College Park.

Since getting Juan Dixon, a former Calvert Hall standout, the Terps haven't had any significant success recruiting in Baltimore. They've lost out on forwards Carmelo Anthony (Syracuse) and Rudy Gay (Connecticut), partly because coach Gary Williams doesn't come off as personable as the Orangemen's Jim Boeheim or the Huskies' Jim Calhoun.

Guard Tamir Goodman (no laughing, please) was the best the Terps could get out of Baltimore in recent years. He eventually opted for Towson University, and he couldn't handle a lack of stardom and playing time there, either.

"Keith is a good guy," said Anthony Lewis of the Cecil-Kirk Recreation Center. "He grew up locally and could add some insight, pending on how large his voice would be. There are a lot of guys locally who can play. There is a ton of talent to pick from."

Why doesn't the University of Colorado just fire football coach Gary Barnett? His suspension appears to be nothing more than a slow demise amid recruiting scandals that include rape allegations and other misconduct by recruits and players.

Evidence keeps mounting, and regardless of the outcome, it will be quite awhile before parents send their 18-year-olds off to play for the Buffaloes or Barnett. It would be in Colorado's best interests to fire Barnett now and let the healing process begin.

Parents want to send their kids to college, the school of hard knocks, not to the school of hard living.

Let's establish one major point right off the top: Los Angeles Lakers center Shaquille O'Neal is a big dummy. No media member should go to him to gain insight after a game because his knowledge of the game is as limited as his vocabulary.

But after the Sacramento Kings blew out the Lakers, 102-85, Sunday, reporters ran to O'Neal, who gave them an expletive-laced comment, his second outburst of the season. He drew a one-game suspension in February for cursing about the officials during an on-court post-game interview.

In a way, though, you can't blame O'Neal. He's just a kid, a big, boneheaded baby. If we ignored him more often, he'd go away or find some other avenue to entertain himself.

Instead of criticizing the Kings and the officials, O'Neal should have gone after teammate Kobe Bryant, who passed up open shot after open shot in the first half while taking just one in the first 21 minutes.

Bryant apparently was unhappy with recent comments by coach Phil Jackson, who criticized him for averaging 24 shots in the previous five games.

You couldn't tell if it was the rain or tears in general manager Ozzie Newsome's eyes yesterday as he pleaded for fans not to get upset if the Ravens don't get a receiver on draft day.

Speaking at the team's annual draft luncheon, Newsome basically asked fans to trust the front office, which is akin to coach Brian Billick asking fans to "take a leap of faith" with him on the decision to start Scott Mitchell at quarterback in 1999.

Uh, oh. Trust us, as in Mitchell, Stoney Case, Tony Banks, Chris Redman, et al ... We haven't seen a Raven come as close to tears since quarterback Elvis Grbac leaked one on the sideline during the 2001 season.

But if the Ravens don't get a good receiver via the draft, free agency or trade, they won't be much better than last season, when they were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs.

And more tears, especially from defensive players, will be shed.

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