- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 16, 2002

With a new postseason alignment in men's lacrosse this season, playoff anxiety has filtered into March.
"[Coaches] would be lying if [the playoffs] were not in the back of their minds," Virginia coach Dom Starsia said. "Qualified teams will be left out this year. Early season games I worry about. Where are the wins coming from?"
Starsia's Cavaliers (3-1) will have ample opportunity to post significant victories because Virginia has the toughest schedule in the nation. It already has played three of last year's Final Four teams and will face the other, Towson (2-1), tomorrow at noon at Baltimore's Minnegan Stadium.
The general unease concerning the playoffs stems from the fact that a sixth automatic bid has been added to the 12-team NCAA tournament. The MAAC, a league of scholarship-limited schools, will get a berth to the postseason, most likely for Mount St. Mary's or St. Joseph's. Combine the fact that Towson and Hofstra left the America East conference for the Colonial which also includes Loyola, but does not have an automatic bid until next year and there will be a scramble for the six at-large bids.
That means schools in the ACC Maryland, Virginia, Duke, North Carolina (the conference has four lacrosse schools and the NCAA requires six for an automatic bid) independents Syracuse and Johns Hopkins, the three mentioned Colonial teams, and the ECAC and Ivy League runners-up, will be vying for the six slots.
"I love the schedule we play," Starsia said. "It makes me anxious, particularly this year."
Starsia believes that this year will be "worth the aggravation" if the NCAA expands the lacrosse bracket to 16 teams next year, a strong possibility. In February, the NCAA Championship/Competition Cabinet approved the expansion. It now must pass through the Management Council in April.
If the tournament is not expanded, Starsia said the ACC schools would consider bringing in two other schools to form another conference in order to gain an automatic bid. But there the ACC is unlikely to expand because of Title IX and economics.
With very little margin of error this season, teams need quality victories to build postseason credentials. Towson failed to get one last week at Maryland, and needs to win today or it could be in trouble. The Tigers have just Johns Hopkins and Loyola left on the schedule, in terms of quality opponents.
"I'm not worried," Towson attackman Kyle Campbell said after the loss to Maryland. "It's just the third game of the season."
Maybe so, but in this lacrosse season, the third game of the year is just as important as the last.


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