The Washington Times - May 24, 2009, 02:19PM

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – The story of the semifinals (besides the noncompetitive games) was the attendance.

It was a little suspicious when there was no announcement about the crowd by halftime of the second semifinal. It wasn’t even ready when the media horde departed the press box for postgame interviews.

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But when the number did come out – 36,594 – it was a surprise.

The total was down 24 percent from last year’s semifinals at Gillette Stadium and was the smallest crowd to watch a semifinal or final since the event moved to pro football stadiums in 2003.

And the culprit? A little monster I like to call The Economy.

“I think at the end of the day, fans are making tough decisions,” NCAA lacrosse committee chairman Tim Pavlechko said. “Memorial Day, with trying to manage tickets everything else, but some people have to make tough choices. I do think that’s most of it. It’s really a byproduct of where we are right now not necessarily a reflection on the event.”

Other factors: Duke and Virginia don’t bring a huge bunch of fans with them, especially to New England. And then there’s the location, which probably deterred some folks  (even if it didn’t last year when there was a novelty factor of having the event in the Boston area).

Chances are, attendance will rebound next year, the combination of a return to Baltimore and likely improved economic conditions helping to vault things back toward the crowd of 50,000+ the semifinals drew in 2007.

“36 is disappointing,” Pavlechko said. “I’m not disappointed in the event.”

Patrick Stevens