Has Md. lost its grip on lacrosse?

Long the center of the lacrosse universe, state has seen its grip on the sport slip as New York schools win more titles and trophies

February 12, 2010|By Edward Lee | edward.lee@baltsun.com

The road to the national championship goes through Syracuse. And C.W. Post. And SUNY Cortland. And Onondaga Community College.

Last year, the aforementioned New York schools captured the Division I, Division II, Division III and National Junior College Athletic Association titles, respectively.

So, has the Empire State replaced Maryland as the pre-eminent lacrosse hotbed?

One former player turned analyst doesn't see it as a trend, but as a continuation of what has always been.

"When was Maryland the dominant power?" asked ESPN analyst Quint Kessenich, a former Johns Hopkins All-America goalkeeper and a native of Lynbrook, N.Y. "I don't know if anything shifted. Syracuse and Cornell have always had dominant programs."

Slow down, cautioned Towson coach Tony Seaman.

"I don't think that's true at all," he said. "[Last year's] Division I championship was a great game between Syracuse and Cornell, and it just worked out that those two were there. The years before that, it's been Hopkins or Virginia. ... As long as Syracuse is in the North and Cornell is in the North, they're going to be well-represented. And as long as Hopkins and Virginia and Carolina are in the South, we're going to be well-represented."

The numbers, however, seem to support Kessenich's stance. Even if you eliminate the Division II statistics from the debate because there are no Maryland schools competing at that level, New York-based programs have won 32 NCAA Division I and III titles. Maryland-based teams have captured 20.

Maryland schools have a slight edge in championship game appearances, reaching the Division I and III finals 50 times compared to New York's 49 appearances. But in the nine years that the Tewaaraton Trophy has been awarded to the college game's top player, six have gone to New York-born players (Watertown native Michael Powell of Syracuse won it in 2002 and 2004). Only once has a Maryland-raised player (Baltimore's Kyle Harrison of Johns Hopkins in 2005) claimed that honor.

Paul Carcaterra, a Yorktown, N.Y., native who became an All-America midfielder at Syracuse and a lacrosse analyst for CBS College Sports, said there is some bias associated with the Tewaaraton, pointing out that the award is usually given to players whose teams at least reach the championship game.

At the same time, Carcaterra said, "I will say that New York kids' skills oftentimes translate into the college game and [they] become standouts individually because of the way the game is played in the state of New York. That's not to say that it's not being implemented in Maryland, but I think in the state of New York, high school kids are part of programs that like to get up and down and run and gun, and when you play that up-tempo style of lacrosse, that translates into individual success."

Syracuse coach John Desko noted that unlike their counterparts down South, teenage lacrosse players in New York are insulated from distractions by the sheer size of the state. From Syracuse, it's a three-hour drive to Buffalo to watch the NFL's Bills and five hours to catch a Yankees game.

"So we have more of a captured audience with the Carrier Dome," Desko said. "In springtime, it's lacrosse, and it's Syracuse University lacrosse. And you've got Le Moyne and Cortland and Cornell and Hobart. They're certainly well supported. I think we tend to draw more simply because it's popular and there's less to choose from. People go see the Ravens in the fall and the Orioles in the spring and summer. So we're fortunate in that way."

There are two generalizations concerning Maryland- and New York-bred players. Maryland players are considered more skilled with their sticks, where New York players are touted for their physical style. Of course, there are exceptions to the rule. No one would accuse former Johns Hopkins midfielder Paul Rabil of avoiding scuffles or former Duke attackman and Farmingdale, N.Y., native Matt Danowski of being boring with the stick.

Many coaches, such as Virginia's Dom Starsia, say they are simply looking for players who can contribute, regardless of their home state.

"I would tell you that I don't spend one second of time thinking about that," Starsia said. "Anyone that wants to say that Long Island is more physical or more athletic and that Baltimore is more finesse, I don't think those generalizations hold one bit of water. What you have there is two areas that produce lots of really well-skilled, seasoned lacrosse players. If you had to pick one or the other, I would take a dart and throw it at the board and you would be fine with one or the other."

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