Johns Hopkins makes NCAA tournament

Blue Jays join Maryland, Loyola, Mount St. Mary's in field of 16

May 10, 2010|By Edward Lee, The Baltimore Sun

The NCAA tournament announcement Sunday night confirmed what Johns Hopkins men's lacrosse coach Dave Pietramala had suspected during the previous 24 hours.

But that didn't make the waiting any easier to accept.

When the 16-team field was announced, the Blue Jays — ranked 20th in the most recent Baltimore Sun poll — learned they will be making their 39th consecutive appearance in the tournament, keeping alive the longest active streak in any Division I team sport.

Virginia, the Atlantic Coast Conference regular-season and tournament champion, earned the tournament's top seed. The No. 2 Cavaliers (14-1) likely will play under heavy scrutiny after senior midfielder George Huguely was charged last Monday with first-degree murder in the death of 22-year-old Cockeysville native and Notre Dame Prep graduate Yeardley Love.

Virginia coach Dom Starsia, whose team has not played since May 1, also lost his father, 86-year-old Dominic Starsia, on Friday after a long battle with cancer.

After Johns Hopkins' 9-6 victory over No. 12 Loyola on Saturday, which evened its record at 7-7 and thereby made it eligible for postseason consideration, Pietramala said the Blue Jays — who boast a Ratings Percentage Index of 8 and the country's third-toughest strength of schedule, according to Laxpower.com — belonged in the discussion for one of the field's 10 at-large bids.

"When you have an up-and-down season like we did, you prepare yourself for both, and you prepare yourself to be disappointed and you hope for the best," said Pietramala, who has a 113-37 record in 10 years at Johns Hopkins.

"We had no illusions," Pietramala said. "We knew that some things had to go our way, and we knew that we had a great strength of schedule and RPI and that the Loyola and Towson wins would help. But we didn't know how the committee would approach it. So we're thrilled to be a part of things. We're privileged with the understanding that we came close to the cut."

The Blue Jays, who have never lost in the first round of the tournament, didn't get any favors from the NCAA selection committee, which sent them to Durham, N.C., for a meeting at noon Saturday with Duke, the No. 5 seed. The Blue Devils (12-4) have won 10 of their last 11 games, including handing Virginia its only loss of the season.

Despite the loss to Johns Hopkins, Loyola earned a berth in the tournament for the third time in the last four years and will travel to face No. 7 seed Cornell on Saturday at 2:30 p.m. The Big Red (10-5), last year's runner-up, fell to No. 6 seed Princeton, 10-9, in overtime in the Ivy League tournament final earlier Sunday.

The Greyhounds (9-4) were poised as recently as two weeks ago to claim a top-eight seed and host a first-round game, but they were humbled, 12-4, by Denver for the Eastern College Athletic Conference championship and automatic qualifier and then dropped Saturday's decision to the Blue Jays.

"Over the last couple of years, I never really understood the inner workings of the committee," said Loyola coach Charley Toomey, who sat on the selection committee this spring.

"They go over everything. There's not a stone left unturned. To know that we were in the conversation was somewhat comforting, but until you actually know that you're in, it's a little bit nerve-racking," Toomey said.

Maryland (11-3) was awarded the No. 3 seed in the tournament. The Terps will play host at noon Saturday to Hofstra (9-4), which qualified despite finishing outside of the top four spots in the Colonial Athletic Association and missing out on that league's tournament.

This is the eighth time in the program's history that the Terps earned a third seed. Maryland captured the 1975 title as the No. 3 seed.

"When you watch Hofstra, it doesn't seem like you're the No. 3 seed, because I think they're an excellent team," said coach Dave Cottle, who was led the Terps to eight straight tournament appearances.

"We were happy with our regular season, and we're in the process of climbing that mountain," Cottle said. "When you fall down in the regular season, you're given a chance to recover. When you fall down in the playoffs, it's fatal. So we're in the process of climbing that mountain. We're excited about the challenges that are presented. We get to play a great team with a great coach, and we're excited."

Mount St. Mary's will face the aforementioned Cavaliers on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. The Mountaineers (12-4) upset Siena for the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference tournament crown earlier Sunday to clinch their first berth in the NCAA tournament since 2003.

"I'm not upset about drawing them," said Mount St. Mary's coach Tom Gravante, whose team set a school record for wins in a single season. "That's what happens to our conference. We usually get seeded 15th or 16th."

Syracuse, which has captured the last two NCAA championships, was given the No. 2 seed. The No. 1 Orange (13-1), which has won a record 11 national crowns, will meet Army, the Patriot League regular season and tournament champion.

edward.lee@baltsun.com

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