Maryland forced to hit road in first round of NCAA men's lacrosse tournament

Terps play at No. 8 seed North Carolina; No. 3 seed Hopkins plays host to Hofstra

May 08, 2011|By Edward Lee, The Baltimore Sun

A poor showing in its regular-season finale at home might have prevented the Maryland men's lacrosse team from beginning a postseason run there.

The Terps learned that they will have to travel to Chapel Hill, N.C., to meet No. 8 seed North Carolina at 1 p.m. Sunday in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

The 16-team field was unveiled Sunday night, and perhaps the biggest shocker was the first-round pairing of Atlantic Coast Conference rivals, the first meeting between former national champions in the first round since 1999, when Princeton and Syracuse played.

But Maryland coach John Tillman took the diplomatic route, saying: "We're obviously one of 16 teams that have the good fortune of continuing to play. So we're excited about any opportunity in the postseason, and anytime you get a chance to play against a team like Carolina, it's an honor. They're a terrific program, and it always seems to be a battle. So we know we're going to have to have a good week of practice and prepare well and really play well as we've played all year."

As late as Friday, the No. 6 Terps, who had captured their first ACC tournament championship since 2005, were considered a near lock to get one of the top eight seeds and a home contest in the first round.

But a 10-8 loss to No. 14 Colgate at Byrd Stadium on Saturday dropped Maryland to 10-4 and marked the team's third consecutive setback at home.

Tillman pointed out that the No. 8 Tar Heels (10-5) had vaulted ahead of the Terps in RPI after Friday night's 9-8 overtime upset of No. 3 Notre Dame and hypothesized that a win against the Raiders on Saturday may not have pushed Maryland ahead in the RPI rankings.

"I think we'd always rather be home because we love playing in Byrd and it'd be great for our fans. But we haven't been as strong in the last month at home," Tillman said. "We seem to have rallied on the road. I think that's going to be our approach. We're going to be together, and we've got a chance to spend some more time together. And I think when you're on the road, you have everybody in one area, in one place, and they can build some camaraderie. The guys enjoy being together. So I think maybe that time together will help us."

No. 4 Johns Hopkins was awarded the No. 3 seed and will play host to Hofstra (13-2) at noon Saturday. The Blue Jays (12-2) pasted No. 15 Army, 15-10, on Friday night and leaped ahead of the Fighting Irish (10-2) after Notre Dame's loss to North Carolina.

"This year was really interesting because I don't think we really knew what would happen," Hopkins coach Dave Pietramala said. "Depending on what went on with Cornell, we could go anywhere from two to four [seeds]. In the end, you like to think it matters, and I guess it does to a point, but everybody's got to play a really good team, and I think this year of all, there's a lot of really good teams that were all very deserving."

Johns Hopkins' 40th straight appearance in the NCAA tournament wasn't nearly as tension-filled as last season, when the team limped to a 7-7 record and was on the bubble in terms of making the postseason.

Pietramala acknowledged that there was a level of gratification to seeing offseason changes aimed at avoiding a repeat of last spring being enacted by the players and coaches.

"I'm proud of the guys for changing our daily behavior," he said. "I'm proud of the guys for learning from last year's mistakes during the regular season. But now, it's a single-elimination tournament. So now we've got to go back to work and rededicate ourselves to the things that we've been doing."

No. 1 Syracuse (14-1) earned the top seed in the tournament and will welcome Siena (13-4), the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference tournament champion. Cornell (13-2), ranked and seeded second, will play host to Hartford (11-6), the America East tournament titlist.

Other matchups include Penn (8-6) at No. 4 seed Notre Dame (10-2), Colonial Athletic Association champion Delaware (12-6) at No. 5 seed Duke (12-5), Villanova (11-4) at No. 6 seed and Eastern College Athletic Conference titlist Denver (13-2), and Patriot League champion Bucknell (14-2) at No. 7 seed Virginia (9-5).

edward.lee@baltsun.com

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