Stephenson builds quickly at Binghamton

Coach has Bearcats atop America East in 3rd year

Men's notebook

College Lacrosse

April 15, 2004|By Jeff Zrebiec | Jeff Zrebiec,SUN STAFF

Richie Meade has gotten - and deserved - a lot of attention for guiding a turnaround at Navy this season.

But another candidate for national Coach of the Year is emerging in an unlikely place.

Nearly 300 miles north of Annapolis in New York state, former Dulaney High and Towson State standout Ed Stephenson has built a program from scratch at Binghamton University. In just their third year of varsity play, the Bearcats are playing well beyond their age.

A team with one senior, no juniors and no full-time assistant coach sits atop America East after a 5-4 upset of preseason favorite UMBC last week. Entering a crucial game with Quinnipiac on Saturday, the Bobcats are 3-0 in the league, 5-4 overall.

"I worked with some great programs and learned from some of the best coaches on how to build a program," said Stephenson, who was an assistant at Hobart, Towson State, UMBC and Gilman. "You're not going to get the kids that Hopkins and Maryland might get, so you have to have an eye for kids who fly under the radar a little bit."

He has had to recruit unconventionally, too.

Rather than giving the coach a year to recruit, like St. John's is doing before lacrosse becomes a varsity sport there next year, Binghamton accelerated its plans to start a varsity team in 2002 so America East would retain the required number of teams to keep its automatic bid.

Before his team's inaugural Division I season that year, Stephenson posted signs in the school cafeteria asking anybody with high school lacrosse experience to come out

The Bearcats were 1-8 that season, but with a year of recruiting, improved to 4-8 in 2003.

"We're right on track to where we want to be," said Stephenson.

Future site for rivalry?

Maryland and Johns Hopkins officials said this week that M&T Bank Stadium, the host of the 2003 and 2004 NCAA final fours, was considered as a site for the 100th game between the schools, which will be played Saturday at Hopkins' Homewood Field.

The game at the 10,000-capacity stadium has been sold out since early Tuesday, but there is still heavy demand for tickets.

"We talked a little bit about [playing at M&T Bank], but we just couldn't work it out," said Hopkins athletic director Tom Calder. "Next year, when we go down to Maryland, if there are 18,000 people there, then it's something we've really, really got to consider."

UVa., Duke in trouble

Believe it or not, the game with the most impact this weekend will not be at Homewood Field. It will be in Charlottesville, Va., where No. 16 Virginia hosts No. 11 Duke.

A loss to the Blue Devils would eliminate the Cavaliers from contention for the NCAA tournament, which requires teams to have a .500 record while playing a minimum of 10 games.

Virginia (3-6) will need to win its remaining four games - starting with Duke and including two games in the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament - to even be eligible for tournament consideration.

If not, it will become the first team since Cornell (1971-72), to win a national championship and not make the tournament the following year.

For Duke (4-5), loser of four straight, the situation is not as dire, but it's close. Along with Virginia, the Blue Devils have the ACC tournament on their schedule, and then games with No. 8 Army and No. 18 Denver.

A loss to the Cavaliers, followed by a defeat in the ACC tournament semifinals, in which Duke's opponent will be either No. 4 Maryland or No. 6 North Carolina, would eliminate the Blue Devils from NCAA tournament contention.

Hopkins-Maryland

Matchup: No. 4 Maryland (8-1) vs. No. 1 Johns Hopkins (7-1) in 100th meeting in the series

Site: Homewood Field

When: Saturday, 8 p.m.

TV: Ch. 2

Series: Hopkins leads 62-36-1

Tickets: Sold out

The week ahead

No. 1 J. Hopkins (7-1)

Schedule: vs. No. 4 Maryland, Saturday, 8 p.m.

Skinny: Blue Jays coach Dave Pietramala can say 100 times that Saturday is just another big game, but it is hard to believe him. Hopkins' specialty units (man-up, man-down, faceoff) will go a long way in deciding this game.

Loyola (3-4)

Schedule: vs. No. 7 Georgetown, Saturday, 1 p.m.

Skinny: The Greyhounds must beat Georgetown to keep NCAA hopes alive. Some payback is in order, too. The Hoyas have beaten Loyola by a combined 29-11 the past two meetings.

No. 4 Maryland (8-1)

Schedule: at No. 1 Hopkins, Saturday, 8 p.m.

Skinny: Hopkins' opponents have played "stall ball" in recent weeks to slow down the Jays. What will Terps coach Dave Cottle, one of lacrosse's premier tacticians, have up his sleeve?

Mount St. Mary's (3-6)

Schedule: vs. Penn State, Saturday, 2 p.m.

Skinny: The Mountaineers and Nittany Lions have something in common: They both made the NCAAs last season. But injuries and inconsistency have all but ruled out return trips.

No. 2 Navy (8-1)

Schedule: vs. Lehigh, tomorrow, 4 p.m.; vs. Holy Cross, Sunday, 2 p.m.

Skinny: If the Mids beat Lehigh and Holy Cross, they'll take the Patriot League regular-season crown and stay at home in the conference tournament. It sure is tempting to look ahead to Hopkins (April 24), though.

No. 12 Towson (5-3)

Schedule: at Hofstra, Saturday, 7:30 p.m.

Skinny: Tony Seaman's Tigers historically don't play well in Hempstead, N.Y., but Hofstra has been a shell of its old self this season. What will red-hot Jonathan Engelke have in store for his homecoming?

UMBC (4-4)

Schedule: at No. 6 North Carolina, Saturday, 1 p.m.

Skinny: The Retrievers have been up-and-down, but there have been constants. Pat Muston is one of the best faceoff men in the country, Drew Westervelt is an emerging star, and Brendan Mundorf is a reliable goal scorer.

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