Friday, May 7, 2004

Harold Menninger, chairman of the NCAA men’s lacrosse tournament committee, wants to clear up one thing: Bad losses won’t be a factor in determining this month’s 16-team field.

“There is no such thing; there is no such criteria,” said Menninger, the athletic director at Mount St. Mary’s. “You’ll never hear that out of my mouth. It’s wins. Tell me who you beat.”

Menninger and four other committee members — Butler associate AD Jon Hind and coaches John Espey (Stony Brook), Mike Pressler (Duke) and Bill Tierney (Princeton) — will begin sifting through each team’s wins tonight as they begin determining the field in Indianapolis. The full bracket will be revealed Monday afternoon, a day later than usual.

“The reason is because conference tournaments were not being decided until late [Saturday],” Menninger said. “We didn’t want to spend time putting together options of if, if, if, if. We simply did what soccer did and just pushed it back a day.”

The selection process hasn’t changed much from last year. Quality wins and a tough schedule remain the two most important criteria, although the strength of schedule index has been adjusted to include only the top 10 opponents each team faced.

It could be a difficult year for the committee. The only tournament-eligible team in the at-large pool outside the top five to have defeated a top-five program is Rutgers (over Syracuse). The nearly indistinguishable scrum of teams between No.5 and No.20 could make defeats of top-10 or even top-15 teams a greater factor than usual.

That could bode well for a team like Penn (7-5), which has a defeat of a top-10 team (Cornell) and a schedule rated in the top 10. Meanwhile, both Hobart (8-6) and Notre Dame (7-5) might have helped their cause simply by playing top-five teams closely in the final two weeks of the season.

“You have so many one-goal and OT games,” Menninger said. “If we get to common opponents and we do those matchups, there are a lot of close games. Wins against the top teams might be scarce.”

Journey’s end

One team that won’t be sweating the selection show is No. 13 Virginia, which finishes its season today at Penn State. Less than a year removed from a national title, the Cavaliers (5-7) will miss the postseason for the first time since 1992.

“I didn’t know how to describe the season in a single word,” Virginia coach Dom Starsia said. “If you want to say troubled, that’s not really how to describe it. Interesting and fascinating are not really how to describe it. I’m sorry to see the end in sight. This has been a group with quite a journey, and it wasn’t always easy.”

The finale has taken on special meaning to Starsia, who hopes to send out his seniors — especially likely All-Americans Brett Hughes and Tillman Johnson — with a victory.

“The younger players [can show] what their intent is for their future,” Starsia said. “I don’t mean be to metaphysical, but it’s more than that for me. It’s a continuation of this group deciding to do the things to be successful. We [had] exams through [yesterday] and with the hurdles thrown up in our face, I still want to see us do the right things. And it will serve us best in the long run.”

Sothoron stays busy

A little extra work for goalie Reed Sothoron could help No. 10 Towson go a long way in the postseason.

Sothoron made a career-high 24 saves — the most by a goalie on a top-20 team this season — as the Tigers nipped Hofstra 6-5 in Wednesday’s Colonial Athletic Association semifinal despite the Pride’s 47-25 edge in shots.

“Reed’s a much better player in games like that,” said Towson coach Tony Seaman, whose team plays host to No. 14 Villanova in tonight’s CAA final. “If we can get teams to shoot 40, 45 times against him, I have every belief in the world we’re going to do well and Reed’s going to have a phenomenal night. It’s games when other people get 19 or 20 shots — like us [against Hofstra]. If he’d been at the other end, he would have been horrible because he just needs to focus and stay in it and get a rhythm.”

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