Intense rivalry, little hostility

Trip to UM brings return to normality for Duke lacrosse

March 03, 2007|By Don Markus | Don Markus,Sun Reporter

COLLEGE PARK -- This was clearly not the Comcast Center or Cameron Indoor Stadium, not the kind of rivalry that fills arenas with overheated fans and overhyped story lines.

Except for one handwritten sign in the third row of the mostly empty stands at Byrd Stadium last night, Duke's first road lacrosse game since the program was shut down last spring amid rape charges against three of its players was rather civil.

It wasn't the early lead the third-ranked Blue Devils took in their 14-7 rout of the No. 5 Terps that quieted the Maryland contingent or brought the rather boisterous group of Duke fans, friends and family members out of their seats.

The celebration of a new season, and a fresh start, began when Duke opened at home in Durham, N.C., with two victories last weekend. There are other victories that aren't measured on the scoreboard.

"I think every game is a big game for them," said Steve Schroeder, who, along with his wife, Pam, drove from their home in Summit, N.J., to watch their son Rob, a junior reserve goalie. `To see them back on the field, to see them back together, to see the parents back together, it's been a wonderful time."

Schroeder and his family were profoundly affected by the scandal surrounding the lacrosse program. Their son roomed with Collin Finnerty last year and with Reade Seligmann during his freshman year. Finnerty and Seligmann, along with David Evans, saw the charges against them dropped but are still face charges of kidnapping and sexual offense.

"We feel absolutely deeply for Collin, Reade and Dave, they're still a part of us," said the elder Schroeder, whose oldest son, Steve Jr., played baseball at Duke and whose wife is a Duke graduate.

Evans, who was a senior last year, spoke to the Blue Devils in their dressing room before the game.

"It was really, really motivational for us," said senior attackman Matt Danowski, who matched his career high with six goals. "He told us to take advantage of this, to not come off any shift without leaving it all out there. He misses being out here for us."

As Evans' parents, David and Rae, walked down the steps to the section where many of the Duke fans were seated, they were greeted with a warm ovation. Rae Evans politely declined to comment. "Right now I'm with my family," she said, referring to the parents of the other Duke players.

In reality, those who came to watch last night's game were part of an extended family that even included some former Terps - the lacrosse family.

Pat Burke, who played attack for Dick Edell from 1983 through 1986, came down for the game from Boston with his two teenage sons and some friends for a weekend of lacrosse that will continue with today's doubleheader at M&T Bank Stadium that feature four more top 10 teams.

"It's more for the lacrosse, it has nothing to do with the scandal," Burke said. "It feels like the NCAA tournament, but chilly."

The atmosphere certainly wasn't. In the tailgate parties that preceded last night's game, fans from each school exhibited the kind social graces that Gary Williams and Mike Krzyzewski would find difficult to comprehend. There were a few of the X-rated T-shirts worn at Comcast Center, but few of the expletives.

"A lot of us know people from Maryland who went to Duke and played lacrosse there," said Daniel Polm, a Maryland senior from Annapolis. "We're not going to root for Duke. I'm sure there are going to be a few people with signs. There are definitely be people out there that will hate on Duke, but the majority of the people are here to see a good lacrosse game."

The only sign visible was held by three Maryland students - "NO MEANS NO," it read. One of the students who wrote and brought the sign, Ariel Lampert, said it wasn't meant to open old wounds as much as to stir the rivalry between the two schools that extends beyond the basketball court.

"It was completely in jest," Lampert, a freshman from Baltimore, said of the sign, which was tucked away by the second quarter.

First-year Duke coach John Danowski said he didn't see the sign or hear anything that was directed toward his Blue Devils in a derogatory way.

"Some of it is good-natured, some of it's pretty mean, but these guys have seen a lot worse," he said. "They've lived through a lot worse."

Now on the other side, it's looking much better for Duke.

Even in what is usually considered enemy territory.

don.markus@baltsun.com

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