- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 22, 2005

Nick Miaritis remembers fondly Memorial Day weekends at the college lacrosse final four, an annual outing he and his family carried on for a dozen years.

All the Georgetown midfielder wants now is to continue the tradition, only as a participant in the last weekend of his college career.

“I was the kid standing behind the benches asking for sticks after the teams won or lost,” Miaritis said. “Ever since that time, it’s always been such a special weekend. The reason I came to Georgetown, the reason I wanted to play college lacrosse was to get there — not only to get there, but to win it all.”

Miaritis and the sixth-seeded Hoyas (10-4), who meet third-seeded Maryland (10-5) today in an NCAA tournament quarterfinal in Princeton, N.J., have harbored those ambitions in the past. Yet a graduating class that has wracked up a gaudy 46-11 record has not reached the final four, thwarted from establishing themselves among the sport’s top tier by the likes of usual powers Princeton, Syracuse and Virginia.

To be fair, Georgetown has reached nine consecutive tournaments, a feat only Johns Hopkins and Syracuse can match. The Hoyas have been remarkably consistent, winning at least 10 games in each of the last eight seasons — double the next-longest streak in Division I, Hopkins’ four-year run — and have a final four trip in 1999 to their credit.

Georgetown also has finished at least eighth in the final poll in each of the last nine seasons. Of course, the Hoyas’ only top-four finish was a No.4 ranking in 2002, further reinforcing the invisible barrier separating Georgetown from the elite.

“When you are a team that has ended the season pretty much the last eight years or so in that 5-to-10 range and you’re so, so close to getting that bid to the final four, it’s one of the hardest things because you’re always working harder,” senior midfielder Andy Corno said.

The Hoyas’ recent postseason history is excruciating. In 2002, Georgetown dropped a 14-13 quarterfinal to eventual finalist Princeton. A year later, the Hoyas lost All-American long pole Kyle Sweeney to an ankle injury with a week left in the regular season and wound up getting clobbered in the quarterfinals by Virginia, which went on to win the title.

Last year’s quarterfinal loss hurt even more. Georgetown outplayed eventual champ Syracuse for much of the game, but committed an offside penalty in the final minute. The Orange went on to score with five seconds left and escape with an 8-7 victory.

“It’s a startling truth that we’ve failed to achieve our goals in those years,” said Miaritis, who has a team-high 21 goals. “I think it’s something for other people to talk about. For us, it’s all about right now, this year. What happened in years past is in the past. We’ve learned from it. … You get too sidetracked wondering ‘What if?’ Six years, seven years, that’s semantics. What’s important is right now and the game [today].”

That game is against a Maryland team the Hoyas have never defeated. The Terrapins pummeled the Hoyas 13-6 in the teams’ season opener on Feb.26, a game Corno was ejected from after he shoved Maryland midfielder Travis Holmes out of frustration in the second half.

Georgetown has changed significantly since that game. The Hoyas’ offense has emerged the last month, scoring 55 goals in the last four games. The return of Reyn Garnett (hamstring) and Rob Smith (mononucleosis) has solidified a defense anchored by star long pole Brodie Merrill.

The Hoyas’ approach, though, could be their biggest asset. Corno said an adjustment of the team’s ultimate goal — from simply reaching the final four to winning a title — has helped the Hoyas in close regular-season games and last week’s 16-6 rout of Army. However, the faceoff ace concedes reaching the final weekend would bring added satisfaction to his career.

“I get chills thinking about it,” Corno said. “It’s the last block I feel like we as a class have to do on our way out and really leave our mark on Georgetown lacrosse. It would complete my career.”

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