Always, Syracuse

Men's Lacrosse : Projected Ncaa Field

February 25, 2005|By GARY LAMBRECHT | GARY LAMBRECHT,SUN STAFF

SYRACUSE, LONG KNOWN as one of the kingpins of men's lacrosse, is on familiar ground once again. For the third time in the past five years, the Orangemen are defending NCAA Division I champions. They have taken some graduation hits, notably at the offensive end, where attackman Mike Powell is gone after dominating the game for four years, but maybe even that will not prevent Syracuse from going to its 23rd straight final four.

Among the top teams gunning for Syracuse is, of course, Johns Hopkins, which lost to the Orangemen in last year's NCAA tournament semifinal round. Hopkins is blessed with an outstanding senior class that desperately wants to end the school's 17-season national-title drought. Other top challengers include Princeton, another familiar face; Maryland and Navy, which lost by a goal to the Orangemen in the championship game a year ago.

The 16-team NCAA tournament field will consist of six league champions and 10 at-large selections. Independents such as Syracuse and Hopkins will fill out the field, along with teams that finish behind the automatic qualifiers in their respective conferences. Watch the seven-team Eastern College Athletic Conference, which does not get an automatic bid until 2007, but could yield as many as three tournament teams among the likes of Georgetown, Massachusetts, Rutgers and Loyola.

THE TOP FOUR SEEDS

No. 1 Johns Hopkins

Coach: Dave Pietramala (fifth season, 47-10; eighth season overall, 70-27).

2004 record: 13-2, NCAA semifinals.

Conference: Independent

Top returning point-getters: Kyle Barrie, senior A (26 goals, 11 assists), Matt Rewkowski, senior M (26 goals, 11 assists).

Also back: Kyle Harrison, senior M (26 goals, seven assists); Peter LeSueur, 10 goals, 15 assists); Greg Peyser, junior M (9 goals, 10 assists, .670 faceoff pct.); Jake Byrne, sophomore A (8 goals, 10 assists); Benson Erwin, senior M (one goal, four assists); Tom Garvey, senior D; Chris Watson, senior D; Scott Smith, junior G (.545 save pct); Jesse Schwartzman, sophomore G (.614 save pct.) Key additions: Paul Rabil, freshman M (DeMatha); Michael Doneger, freshman; Kevin Huntley, freshman A (Calvert Hall).

The Sun's take: The talent is always there for the Blue Jays to make a run at a national title, and this year Hopkins combines more experience than ever under Pietramala, whose first recruiting class is now the senior group that makes this team stand out. Peyser leads a four-man faceoff rotation that will give the Blue Jays plenty of scoring chances. Harrison can beat a team with his scoring, dodging, defense and faceoff ability. Garvey and Watson lead a superb close defense. Barrie can finish with the best. A knee injury could keep Rewkowski out for half the season, but Hopkins is nicely positioned to win its first NCAA crown since 1987.

No. 2 Syracuse

Coach: John Desko (seventh season, 80-19)

2004 record: 15-2, NCAA champion

Conference: Independent

Top returning point-getter: Brian Crockett, junior A (39, 15)

Also back: Brett Bucktooth, junior A (9, 5); Greg Rommel, junior M (13, 1); Jarett Park, senior M (2, 5); Steven Brooks, sophomore M; Dan Brennan, sophomore M; Steven Panarelli, sophomore D; Scott Ditzell, senior D; John Gallagher, junior D (Boys' Latin); Jay Pfeifer, senior G (Gilman).

Key additions: Mike Leveille, freshman A; Greg Niewieroski, freshman A; Kyle Guadagnolo, freshman D; Jamie Ireland, junior M (Herkimer CC).

The Sun's take: Major losses to graduation have not stopped Syracuse from retooling enough to get to 22 consecutive final fours in the NCAA tournament. Could this be the year the streak ends? For the first time since 1994, there is no one named Powell on the roster. The Orangemen lost more than Michael Powell, the game's best player. They lost 82 percent of their points from the 2004 squad. Crockett leads an inexperienced attack that includes Leveille, one of the sport's more highly touted recruits. Defense will keep Syracuse on course for another trip deep into May. Ditzell and Panarelli will anchor the team, along with Pfeifer, who has won two national titles as a three-year starter, yet has never been an All-American.

No. 3 Georgetown

Coach: Dave Urick (16th season, 139-55; 26th season overall, 276-89)

2004 record: 11-4, NCAA quarterfinals

Conference: ECAC

Top returning point-getter: Sean Denihan, junior A (16, 13).

Also back: Trevor Casey, sophomore A (20, 4); Nick Miaritis, senior M (16, 10); Peter Cannon, junior M (7, 2); Andy Corno, senior M (.681 faceoff pct.); Brodie Merrill, senior LSM; Reyn Garnett, junior D; Rich D'Andrea, senior G. Key additions: Andrew Baird, freshman A (Loyola); Scott Kahoe, freshman M; Dan D'Agnes, freshman M; Miles Kass, freshman G.

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