Two years ago in an NCAA Division I lacrosse quarterfinal, Maryland was an underdog against Syracuse and lost.
This time, the unseeded Terps (11-4) hope for a different result when they play No. 1 Syracuse (15-1) Sunday at Gillette Stadium.
In 2009, Maryland could slow Syracuse's offense, but the Terps couldn't score because attackmen Ryan Young and Grant Catalino were both sophomores. The Terps made simple, costly mistakes, and Maryland couldn't hold the ball long enough to rest its defense in an 11-6 loss.
But Catalino (25 goals, nine assists) and Young (19, 24) are seniors now. Plus, Syracuse no longer has its thrill-a-moment offense. In fact, the Orange has become complacent at times.
Syracuse's calling card in 2011 has been its defense, which might be the best in the country. Led by goalie John Galloway (6.77 goals against average and .567 save percentage) and close defensemen John Lade, Bryan Megill and Thomas Guadagnolo, the Orange is allowing just seven goals and 27.9 shots per game. Opposing teams have scored on just 11 of 57 extra-man opportunities.
Maryland is also strong defensively, and both teams like the transition. This game could come down to which team wants to sell out on defense the most, and which team gets back in the hole fastest to cut off the transition.
And somewhere along the way, Catalino and Young have to control the pace and deposit a few goals.
Tar Heels lacked toughness
Throughout the regular season there were whispers about North Carolina's toughness and questions about whether or not the Tar Heels could handle the postseason's rigors.
The answer came Sunday, and it was a resounding no.
The Tar Heels play six or seven freshmen regularly, and it's been a long season for them — especially competing in the fall for the first time.
As much as Division I coaches overcoach their teams, the outcome usually comes down to which team wins the most ground balls because it's a reflection of toughness, hustle and attitude.
Maryland held a 27-15 advantage in ground balls, and appeared hungrier than North Carolina. Maryland sophomore Curtis Holmes also outdueled Tar Heels freshman R.G. Keenan in faceoffs. Holmes won 15 of 22 and Maryland had an overall edge with 16 of 23.
CCBC-Essex comes up short
Onondaga (N.Y.) Community College scored three goals in the final four minutes to edge CCBC-Essex, 12-9, for the junior college national championship Sunday.
Essex, the No. 3 seed, upset Nassau, 6-5, in a Saturday evening semifinal, and then played Onondaga the following afternoon. Attackman Dixon Green had three goals and midfielders Neil Hutchinson and Travis Crane each had two goals for Essex against Onondaga — a team which had beaten the Knights 23-9 three weeks ago.
"To get back to our hotel at 9:30 on a Saturday night, and then play the following day for what was really a home game for Onondaga, I can't be any prouder of our kids," said second-year Essex coach Shawn Burke, who will lose nearly half of his 35-player roster next season.
"I'm real excited about the step we took this year, and we have a really good recruiting class coming in. We also have Nassau and Onondaga at home next year, so things are shaping up well."
Denver's Tierney brings the heat
Denver coach Bill Tierney has apparently taken his winning — and whining — ways with him from Princeton.
There is no other sport in America where officials take more criticism and abuse than lacrosse, and if you watched Tierney on the sidelines in the Pioneers' win over Villanova on Sunday, he was an absolute mad man.
Off the field Tierney is one of the most polite, calm and sensible people you'd ever meet. But his tirades work on the field. On Sunday, Villanova was penalized eight times for seven minutes, and Denver was penalized twice for 1:30. Those two penalties came in the last minute of the game.
Tierney shouldn't complain because he has some outstanding athletic talent in midfielder Cameron Flint, attackman Mark Matthews and goalie Jamie Faus. But after watching his performance Sunday, I now understand why Tierney is a church-going man.
Bucknell throws it away vs. Virginia
Virginia coach Dom Starsia made some excellent strategic moves and junior attackman Steele Stanwick dominated late as the Cavaliers pulled out a 13-12 overtime win against Bucknell on Sunday. But despite Virginia's strong play, the Bison also self-destructed.
With a two-goal lead and four minutes remaining, Bucknell took three ill-advised shots — one of which was a full-field attempt by defenseman John Collett on an empty goal when the Bison should have held the ball to run time off the clock. Instead, Virginia got the ball back twice and scored to send the game into overtime.
Virginia remained poised and played like a team with playoff experience, and Bucknell showed its inexperience by panicking.
Virginia won't get pass next round against Cornell unless the Cavaliers improve defensively. Their slides were simply too slow, and at times the Cavaliers looked like they were totally unprepared.
Coaching searches on for Towson, Navy
Towson University is still in search of a coach to replace Tony Seaman. The suspicion here is that the Tigers are looking for someone young and energetic.
Meanwhile, Navy is also looking for a replacement for longtime coach Richie Meade, but finding a coach who can get along with Mids athletic director Chet Gladchuk might be a problem.