- The Washington Times - Friday, February 20, 2004

Some pressing questions for selected college lacrosse teams:

Georgetown

Who replaces Kyle Sweeney?

This one’s easy. Brodie Merrill started at long-stick midfielder after Sweeney’s season-ending injury last year and thrived as the Hoyas reached the NCAA quarterfinals. Another in a long line of tenacious poles (including Sweeney) on the Hilltop, Merrill will help keep Georgetown’s defense among the most physical and stingy in the nation.

Is there a go-to guy on offense?

It doesn’t appear so. Speedy midfielder Walid Hajj scored 23 goals last year and attackman Neal Goldman 21, but the rest of the offense is relatively unproven. Attackmen Trevor Casey, Sean Denihan and Kevin Langtry and midfielders Mike Boynton, Peter Cannon, Nick Miaritis and Brice Queener will all be in the offensive mix, and solid contributions from each would alleviate the preseason concerns.

Maryland

Who’s in goal?

Not even coach Dave Cottle knows yet who will replace Danny McCormick. Graduate student Tim McGinnis (brother of former Terps goalie Pat McGinnis), who was the Division III goalie of the year at Gettysburg in 2002, is one possibility. The other is freshman Harry Alford, who led the United States to the under-19 world title last summer.

Where will the offense come from?

The graduation of three offensive cogs, coupled with Dan LaMonica’s decision to take a leave of absence from school, leaves the Terrapins looking uncertain on attack. Joe Walters was one of the country’s top freshmen last year and will team on attack with sophomore Xander Ritz, a transfer who scored 17 goals for Delaware last season, and veteran J.R. Bordley. Senior Justin Smith will anchor the first midfield line, but sophomores Brendan Healy and Bill McGlone could have breakout seasons.

Navy

Will it be more up-tempo?

The Midshipmen should be. Sophomore attackman Ian Dingman (6-foot-3, 248 pounds) is a physical player around the cage. He often will draw double teams, opening up opportunities for veterans Ben Bailey, Jon Birsner, Joe Bossi and Graham Gill. An improved defense will allow the athletic Mids to create more transition opportunities as well.

Can Navy return to the NCAA tournament?

Yes, but it might have to win the Patriot League tournament to do it. The Mids will have chances to boost their postseason resume with games at Georgetown, Maryland and North Carolina and a home date with Johns Hopkins, but they might need to win two of those games if they don’t get the Patriot’s automatic bid.

Virginia

Can the Cavaliers repeat as national champs?

They certainly will be in the mix. The starting attack unit of John Christmas, Matt Ward and Joe Yevoli returns intact, and goalie Tillman Johnson and defenseman Brett Hughes are probable All-Americans. If Johnson stops nearly everything in sight come tournament time, Virginia will be tough to overcome.

Who’s in the midfield for Virginia?

A lot of familiar names — Billy Glading, Chris Rotelli and A.J. Shannon — are gone from last year. Coach Dom Starsia will trot out three sophomores — Kyle Dixon, Foster Gilbert and Matt Poskay — in his first midfield. All three had their moments last year, but their collective inexperience could be costly early on.

Around the nation

Can Johns Hopkins end its title drought?

Until Memorial Day last season, it looked like Hopkins was going to win its first title since 1987. The Blue Jays lost some great players (Bobby Benson, Adam Donegar, Michael Peyser) but still bring back a wealth of talent. Hopkins again will have an unrelenting attack (including Duke transfer Matt Rewkowski), a deep midfield and a formidable defense (though untested in goal). On paper, the Blue Jays are the nation’s most complete team and the favorite to win it all.

Will Princeton bounce back from last year?

It’s a safe bet. The Tigers missed the final four last spring and were then pummeled by graduation as much as anyone in the top 10. However, a talented freshman class should be able to help immediately, and Princeton remains the favorite to win the Ivy League. There shouldn’t be expectations of a national title run, but it’s foolhardy to count out the possibility so long as Bill Tierney prowls the Tigers’ sideline.

Will Syracuse return to the final four?

The Orangemen should reach their 22nd straight semifinal this season. As usual, Syracuse’s strength is its offensive firepower, including attackman Michael Powell (218 career points). The senior has a chance to surpass his brothers Casey (1995-98) and Ryan (1997-2000), who had 287 points each.

Which teams could crash the NCAA tournament after missing it in 2003?

It’s hard to believe one-time juggernaut North Carolina hasn’t played in the NCAA tournament since 1998 and has dropped a combined nine straight ACC and NCAA tournament games since winning the ACC tournament in 1996. John Haus has built a rapidly maturing foundation, though, and the Tar Heels are poised to end both streaks this year. Cornell and Loyola also could make runs at postseason bids.

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