- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 11, 2004

Rematches, tossups and intriguing story lines abound for the NCAA men’s lacrosse tournament — and that’s just in this weekend’s first round.

The tournament committee unveiled its 16-team field yesterday, and there were few surprises among the teams selected. Yet with four rematches of regular season games there will be plenty of familiarity when the postseason gets under way.

Locally, Maryland drew the No.3 seed and will face Army at Byrd Stadium on Saturday night. Navy earned the No.2 seed and a home date with Pennsylvania on Sunday, while fifth-seeded Georgetown will welcome Towson to the Hilltop on Sunday.

As expected, Johns Hopkins is the No.1 seed and will face Providence at Homewood Field on Saturday.

Interestingly, the other four first-round games are regular season rematches. Two of the games — Cornell-Hobart and North Carolina-Ohio State — will feature teams that met last weekend. An emphasis on proximity clearly played a role in some of the pairings, such as Albany-Syracuse, Cornell-Hobart and Princeton-Rutgers, while the committee managed to pair the tournament’s geographic outliers (North Carolina and Ohio State).

“If anything surprises me, it’s that they matched up Carolina and Ohio State after playing recently, along with Cornell and Hobart,” Georgetown coach Dave Urick said. “But sometimes you can’t massage it too much.”

Navy (12-2), in the tournament for the first time since 1999, will face a Penn (7-6) team making its first postseason appearance since 1989. The Midshipmen defeated two top-five teams (Georgetown and Maryland), boosting their case for the second seed.

The Mids would get sent to Ithaca, N.Y., for the quarterfinals if they win Sunday and could meet Cornell on its home field, though Navy coach Richie Meade had no complaints about his team’s draw.

“It doesn’t matter where you play or who you play but how you play,” Meade said. “Besides, one of my favorite restaurants is in Ithaca.”

Meanwhile, Maryland could help provide an ACC presence in Charlottesville in the quarterfinals. The Terrapins (12-2) are the No.3 seed a year after reaching the semifinals from the third spot.

Maryland will face Army (10-4) for the first time since losing to the Black Knights in the first round of the 1993 tournament. Army features two of country’s most-prolific attackmen in Jim Wagner (58 points) and John Walker (53 points).

“I think the tournament committee did as good a job as they could,” Maryland coach Dave Cottle said. “I think they were fair. We have a big task at hand, and we have to play well against Army.”

Urick’s Hoyas (10-3) will play a home game a year after getting shipped to Rutgers for the first round and will meet Towson (11-4) for the first time since 1971. The game will pit two of the nation’s top faceoff men — Georgetown’s Andy Corno and Towson’s Ben DeFelice.

A possible rematch with Syracuse looms in the quarterfinals, but the Hoyas are pleased to be back in the tournament for the eighth straight year.

“Quite a few guys are putting down their sticks and picking up their golf clubs right now,” Urick said. “It’s a step toward the ultimate goal. You can’t win it without getting in.”

Georgetown’s game is one of several opening round matchups that could go either way. Several teams are harboring realistic upset hopes, a far cry from last year, when only one road team advanced to the quarterfinals.

“I thought once you got past the first two seeds, the three through eight seeds are going to have games that can go either way,” Urick said. “Carolina-Ohio State is a pick ‘em. Georgetown-Towson is a pick ‘em. With Army, you expect Maryland to do well, but you don’t underestimate a service academy. There’s potential for any number of teams to advance.”

The at-large field shook out as expected. Penn was rewarded for its tough schedule, while Army squeaked into the field with a pair of decent victories over Penn and Rutgers. Notre Dame (7-5) was perhaps the best team left out, but the Fighting Irish did not defeat a top-20 team in the final RPI.

The most fascinating possible quarterfinal would pit Hopkins (11-1) and eighth-seeded North Carolina (9-4). The Tar Heels have lost one-goal decisions to the Blue Jays the last three years, including a 10-9 setback last month.

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