Jays keep streak alive

Late-season push helps Hopkins make NCAAs for 37th straight time

NCAA tournament

May 05, 2008|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,SUN REPORTER

Once thought to be in jeopardy, the nation's longest current streak of NCAA tournament appearances is intact.

The Johns Hopkins men's lacrosse team earned its 37th consecutive appearance in the tournament, as it was awarded the No. 5 seed last night.

The seventh-best Rating Percentage Index, the country's second-toughest schedule and a five-game winning streak to end the season helped the Blue Jays (8-5), ranked fifth by The Sun, overcome a five-game skid that threatened to link Hopkins with the 2004 Virginia team and the 1972 Cornell squad as the only defending national champions not to qualify for the tournament.

"It's been a long road," Blue Jays coach Dave Pietramala said. "We went from being a team that everybody thought would never be here to a team that got a top-five seed. That speaks volumes to what our team has accomplished."

The Blue Jays will play host to No. 19 Hofstra (9-5), the 12th seed, on Saturday at 2:30 p.m. It is a rematch of the Pride's 8-7 overtime upset of Hopkins on March 8 that began the Blue Jays' five-game slide.

No. 9 Maryland (9-5) drew the seventh seed and will play host to No. 10 seed Denver (10-6) on Sunday at 2:30 p.m. The Pioneers joined No. 6 seed Notre Dame and No. 9 seed Ohio State as the third team from the Great Western Lacrosse League to qualify for the tournament.

The biggest omission was No. 10 Georgetown (9-4), the only team to beat No. 1 and top seed Duke this season. But the Hoyas' RPI was No. 18, and the strength of their schedule was ranked 23rd.

For only the second time since 1990, Princeton was left out of the tournament. The No. 20 Tigers (7-6) could have earned the Ivy League automatic qualifier but lost to No. 16 Brown, 6-5, on Saturday.

No. 8 Cornell (11-3) proved to be the most immediate beneficiary of Princeton's fall, claiming a share of the Ivy League championship and the automatic bid. However, Brown, the co-champion that had won 10 of its past 11 games, missed out on a spot because its schedule, the 32nd toughest, watered down the Bears' RPI of No. 14.

Princeton's setback, as well as upset losses suffered by No. 6 Drexel (13-3) and No. 14 Army (9-6), paved the way for No. 15 Navy to grab the 13th seed and meet No. 18 and fourth seed North Carolina (8-5) on Saturday at 7:30 p.m.

The Midshipmen (9-5) lost four of their final five regular-season contests but were rewarded for having an RPI of No. 15 and the 17th-toughest schedule.

"I'm very excited for the people who believed in us," said Navy coach Richie Meade, whose team was bounced from the first round of last year's tournament by the Tar Heels.

As the 15th seed, No. 7 UMBC (12-3), the America East champion, will meet No. 3 and second seed Virginia (12-3) on Sunday at 5 p.m. No. 13 Loyola drew the 16th seed and will travel to Durham, N.C., for a 2:30 p.m. rematch Saturday with the Blue Devils (16-1), who won the first meeting, 21-8, on March 8.

Last night marked the fourth time five state schools qualified for the NCAA tournament, but the previous three occasions - in 1989, 1992 and 1994 - occurred when the tournament was a 12-team affair. The NCAA opened the tournament to 16 teams in 2003.

In Division III, seven-time national champion Salisbury (18-0) earned the top seed and a first-round bye and will meet the winner of Ohio Wesleyan (9-6) and Kenyon (10-3) on Saturday at Sea Gull Stadium in Salisbury. The Sea Gulls are ranked No. 1 by Inside Lacrosse.

No. 5 Washington College (13-3) also earned a bye and will host No. 4 Lynchburg (16-2) on Saturday.

edward.lee@baltsun.com

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