Unrivaled Rivalry

College lacrosse: The Blue Jays and Terrapins, who meet for the 100th time tonight in a rivalry that dates to 1895, have engendered fierce loyalties both on and off the field.

College Lacrosse

April 17, 2004|By Jeff Zrebiec and Kevin Van Valkenburg | Jeff Zrebiec and Kevin Van Valkenburg,SUN STAFF

The greatest rivalry in college lacrosse, Maryland vs. Johns Hopkins, has always been about much more than lacrosse.

It has been a battle for state pride, a volatile clash of social dynamics and a chance to make recruiting inroads. It has been a family feud - both literally and figuratively - and a contest that has juggled hatred, heartache and heroes, often all at once.

"It's always been like the Hatfields and the McCoys," said Maryland coach Dave Cottle.

When the two schools met for the first time in 1895, it would have been impossible to predict what was about to unfold over the next century. But tonight, when top-ranked Johns Hopkins (7-1) and fourth-ranked Maryland (8-1) face off for the 100th time, at sold-out Homewood Field, what's at stake is obvious. Though neither school has won a national championship since 1987, the rivalry is still as big as it's ever been.

FOR THE RECORD - A photo caption in yesterday's sports section misidentified a Johns Hopkins lacrosse goalkeeper who played in the 1998 quarterfinals against Maryland. Brian Carcaterra was the goalie pictured.
The Sun regrets the error.

"The easiest way to describe it is intense," said Blue Jays coach Dave Pietramala, who has participated in 13 games as either a player or coach. "It's an intense game. It's a ferocious game. It's a game that has a lot of different meaning."

Nobody understands that more than brothers Andrew and Jesse Schwartzman, who grew up as teammates, but will be on opposite benches tonight.

Longtime Maryland assistant Dave Slafkosky also knows the feeling of divided loyalty. He was on the 1974 Blue Jays team that beat the Terps to win Hopkins' first NCAA championship.

"I'm so far removed from it as a player," said Slafkosky, in his 21st season as a Maryland assistant. "But I've had a lot of good friends who are Hopkins grads call me up this week and wish me luck. Sometimes I doubt how truthful those statements are."

In 1973, Kevin Boland helped Maryland win its first national championship, beating Hopkins in two overtimes. His son, Kevin Jr., is now an All-American midfielder for the Blue Jays.

"Every year my dad goes to this game and sees some of his old teammates," Boland Jr. said. "They ask him, `How could you let your son go to Hopkins?' ... There's a little bit of hatred everywhere."

Even Maryland's all-time leading goal scorer, Matt Hahn (1995-98), has been forced to choose between his school and his family this week. Even though his younger brother, Jake Byrne, runs on the Blue Jays' second midfield, Hahn will wear red and black to the game.

"I'm happy for my brother, and I'm really glad things are working out for him at Hopkins, but I'll definitely be cheering for Maryland," Hahn said. "I'm sure my parents will be wearing Hopkins gear, but I won't."

More than 10,000 people are expected at tonight's game, and countless others will watch the Channel 2 broadcast, expecting another physical and close affair between Maryland's two most storied programs.

Ties that bind

Twelve times since the inception of the NCAA tournament in 1971, Maryland and Johns Hopkins have done battle in the postseason, including three meetings (1973, '74 and '79) in the national championship game.

But long before it became official, the two schools customarily met in the last game of the season. The winner was often recognized (by a vote) as the national champion.

"Being that it always was the last game, you didn't want to go out with a losing taste in your mouth, especially not to Maryland," said former Blue Jays coach Bob Scott, whose last game of his 20-year coaching career was a 17-12 victory over the Terps in the 1974 national championship game. "Everybody knew how big it was. It was never a case of being caught not being ready for Maryland."

Sometimes, the teams were so closely matched that not even the games could decide who was superior. In 1952, the schools played to a 10-10 tie, the only one in the series. In 1967, Maryland and Hopkins shared the United States Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association title with Navy.

Though only 37 miles separate the two universities, their differences are profound. With 33,000 students, Maryland is the state's flagship public university, and for much of the rivalry, the Terps lacrosse team has embodied the tough-guy, blue-collar, public-school image.

Some of their best recruits, like four-time first-team All-American Frank Urso, came from Long Island, where high school players were known for their gritty and fast style of play.

Johns Hopkins, with 3,900 undergraduates, is one of the country's elite private schools, and as a result, its lacrosse team has often been seen as methodical, skilled and tactically superior. It drew a large number of recruits from Baltimore private schools that now make up the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association.

"We used to say, `Let's go out and beat them because we might be working for them in a couple of years,' " said former Terps coach Dick Edell, who guided Maryland from 1984-2001. "We were definitely seen as the tough-guy, public school."

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