Hopkins, Towson on the rise

Outlook: The Blue Jays and Tigers are hoping to build on last year's breakthrough seasons.

Women's Lacrosse Preview

February 26, 2005|By Katherine Dunn | Katherine Dunn,SUN STAFF

As Lacey-Leigh Hentz sifted through her college lacrosse options four years ago, perennial contenders Georgetown and Loyola caught her eye for a while. Then, another program drew her attention, not for its history but for the promise of things to come.

Hentz sensed something big was about to happen for Johns Hopkins women's lacrosse, and she wanted to be part of it.

"Loyola was an established program and every win to them was kind of expected. At Hopkins, every win at the Division I level was celebrated and you could get caught up in a whirlwind of progression instead of trying to maintain what had already been established," said Hentz, a North Carroll graduate.

Just up the road at Towson, another senior defender, Martha Dwyer, recalls a similar feeling when she chose the Tigers.

"I knew they hadn't had great seasons in the past, but my mentality at the time was, `Where can the program go?' I never thought we'd stay a mediocre team," said Dwyer, who is from the Syracuse, N.Y., area.

Hentz and Dwyer had the right idea. A year ago, they helped their teams to breakthrough seasons as the Blue Jays and the Tigers each fashioned the best Division I season in school history.

Coach Janine Tucker's Blue Jays finished 12-5 and cracked the Division I Top 10 for the first time. Since moving up from Division III in 1999, the Blue Jays have always had a winning record, but they did not make it to the NCAA Division I tournament until last season.

Towson, despite missing the NCAA tournament, made a comparable climb to 14-4 and No. 18, but they started from further behind - a 7-9 2003 record - with a new coach, former Princeton assistant Missy Holmes.

In her head coaching debut, Holmes earned Colonial Athletic Association Coach of the Year honors for leading the Tigers to their first winning season since 1997 and their second winning season in the past 11 years.

At Johns Hopkins the tide began to turn in late 2003, when the Blue Jays upset then-No. 14 North Carolina. At Towson last season, a few come-from-behind wins, including an 11-9 victory over Connecticut after trailing 7-1, fueled the turnaround.

While Towson junior Becky Trumbo said Holmes' arrival had a lot to do with the Tigers' success, growing confidence was also key.

"We all believed we could be pretty good at the beginning of last season," said Trumbo, "but when we won a few close games, everyone thought, `We really are good.' We had more confidence in each other to make the plays when we needed to."

In the end however, season-ending losses stung both teams. Hopkins fell to James Madison in the NCAA tournament first round. Towson lost to William and Mary in the CAA semifinals.

"We set our goal to get into the NCAA tournament, and we made it," said Hopkins sophomore Mary Key, "but it was almost like, at that point, we had done what we wanted to with the season. That loss was a smack in the face, and we all realized how much we wanted to go to the next level."

Johns Hopkins and Towson now accept the challenge to continue moving forward. The Blue Jays, who open the season this afternoon vs. Davidson at Homewood Field, face a tougher schedule. The Tigers, who open at home Tuesday vs. American, must fill some key positions, especially in the goal.

Both Tucker and Holmes, native Marylanders who played college lacrosse at Loyola and Maryland, respectively, agreed that recruiting is the key to fueling further success.

"The bottom line is, you have to keep getting the horses in or it's going to be tough to maintain," said Tucker, in her 12th season at Hopkins. "The second you sit back and think you're good for a couple of years, you're done. This is not something you can take for granted."

Holmes said she was fortunate to inherit a strong core of veteran players, including Trumbo.

Trumbo, a Liberty graduate, and Key, a St. Mary's graduate, have drawn a lot of attention to their programs as the scoring leaders for their teams. Both blue-chip players turned down more established programs such as Maryland, Loyola or North Carolina.

Tucker and Holmes have signed up strong recruiting classes for this season as well as next. Tucker's freshman class, one of the best in the nation, includes five players from last year's All-Metro team.

"They've both done a very good job bringing in the right kids to help their programs build and to fit the philosophy of the coach," said Loyola coach Kerri O'Day. "You need to have a couple kids start that and develop traditions that generate more interest in the program, and that's what's happening."

On the Web

Access women's college lacrosse schedules online at: www.baltimoresun. com/lacrosse.

Women's Div. I poll

IWLCA preseason Top 20

No. School '04 rec. '04 rank

1. Virginia 19-3 2

2. Princeton 19-1 1

3. Northwestern 15-3 8

4. Duke 13-6 7

5. Georgetown 13-5 6

6. Johns Hopkins 12-5 10

7. Maryland 15-5 3

8. North Carolina 9-7 12T

9. Loyola 14-4 4

10. Dartmouth 11-6 12T

11. Hofstra 8-8 20

12. Syracuse 9-6 15

13. J. Madison 16-4 5

14. N. Hampshire 15-4 17

15. Boston U. 9-10 NR

16. Vanderbilt 12-6 11

17. Penn State 6-11 NR

18. Towson 14-4 18

19. Delaware 6-10 NR

20. Notre Dame 12-5 9

Others receiving votes: William and Mary, George Mason, Yale, Penn.

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