- The Washington Times - Friday, May 21, 2004

Drew Virk is providing a boost at the faceoff X at the perfect time for Maryland.

The senior has sparked a turnaround in the third-seeded Terrapins’ faceoff game entering today’s NCAA tournament quarterfinal against sixth-seeded Princeton at Scott Stadium in Charlottesville. It was never more apparent than last Saturday, when Virk won 13 of 19 draws — including nine in a row — to help the Terps defeat Army 16-12 in the first round.

“When it was 7-7, that was the first spark where I realized I didn’t want the season to end,” Virk said.

The Terps (13-2) have used a committee approach all season, trotting out six players to take the draws. Since a 7-for-13 performance in the ACC title game against Virginia, Virk has emerged as the group’s most reliable member.

In his last four games, Virk has captured 31 of 48 faceoffs (64.6 percent). Over that stretch, the Terps are 4-0 and have won the overall faceoff battle three times after doing so once in their first 11 games.

“I always tell him he’s the litmus [test] for our team,” Maryland coach Dave Cottle said. “He’s the guy that I can [look at and] tell when we’re ready and when we’re not.”

Tillman’s homecoming

When Navy visits Cornell in Ithaca, N.Y., tomorrow afternoon, no one will enjoy the trip quite as much as assistant coach John Tillman.

Tillman, the second-seeded Midshipmen’s offensive coordinator, spent nearly his entire life in upstate New York before joining the Navy staff in 1996. He grew up about an hour from Ithaca in Corning, then attended Cornell. After graduation, he was an assistant at Ithaca College under former Navy great Jeff Long for four seasons before coming to Annapolis.

The trip also affords Tillman the opportunity to see his mother, who is suffering from Parkinson’s disease.

“I’m definitely looking forward to it,” Tillman said. “I’ve had a lot of nice times, and there’s a lot of people up there. … Anytime I go back, there’s a lot of memories. It’s going to be great.”

Carolina’s X-factor

Of the many weapons North Carolina (10-4) takes into today’s quarterfinal against top-seeded Johns Hopkins (12-1) in Charlottesville, the most valuable might be senior Kevin Frew. The Tar Heels’ faceoff specialist has won 66 percent of his draws this season and could help Carolina establish the tempo it wants against the opportunistic Blue Jays.

“With all the success they’ve had, a big part of it is Kevin Frew,” Hopkins coach Dave Pietramala said. “You look at his stats against Ohio State — he won 15 of 21 and somewhere around there again the second time. … What it does is allow them to go on runs and to stop runs. It allows them to control the pace of the game.”

A look ahead

Rutgers and Maryland will be the two sites for next year’s quarterfinal doubleheaders, NCAA Director of Championships John Williams confirmed this week. Rutgers will play host to two games May 21 at Rutgers Stadium, while the final two games will be played at Maryland’s Byrd Stadium the next day.

Philadelphia’s Lincoln Financial Field was selected as the site of the 2005 final four last year.

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