- The Washington Times - Monday, May 9, 2005

In a matter of hours, the NCAA men’s lacrosse tournament committee had to rework its 16-team field yesterday.

What it wound up producing is a tournament filled with interesting first-round matchups and several exciting possibilities for the quarterfinals and beyond.

After Penn State vaulted off the bubble and into the tournament with its victory yesterday at Georgetown, the committee had to re-evaluate its bracket on the fly before last night’s announcement.

“They were so intertwined with everyone else’s strength of schedule and RPI,” said Butler associate athletic director Jon Hind, the committee chairman. “Everything changed incredibly on us at 2 o’clock. I wouldn’t say we had to go back and change everything, but we had to recrunch all the numbers.”

All four area teams drew home games in the first round, which will be played Saturday and Sunday.

Maryland (9-5) earned the No.3 seed for the third consecutive season. The Terrapins struggled to a 5-5 start, but a late run that included victories over Duke and Virginia vaulted them into a meeting with Penn State (9-5).

“I went to the Penn State-Georgetown game, and I’m kind of glad I did,” Maryland coach Dave Cottle said. “They’re a very athletic, good team. It’s going to be a good game.”

Virginia (9-3) returns to the tournament after a one-year hiatus. The 2003 champion, which has played only once since April18, bounced back from last year’s disastrous 5-8 season to earn the No.4 seed and a meeting with Albany (10-5).

“In my case, even though it was a foregone conclusion we would be in the tournament, I was very excited, and I sensed the same in our players,” Virginia coach Dom Starsia said. “[Last year] gave us a chance to enjoy ourselves again. I think we’re all excited to be back in the playoffs.”

If Virginia advances, it will have a chance to meet fifth-seeded Navy (11-3) in the quarterfinals at Johns Hopkins on May21. The Patriot League champs will open the tournament against Delaware (11-5).

“We are pretty much exactly where we thought we were going to be,” Navy coach Richie Meade said. “We thought we could play a variety of different teams, but we had anticipated the possibility of playing the winner of the Towson-Delaware game. We’ve seen Delaware play twice this week, and they’re a very good team. It’s going to be a battle like all the games in the tournament.”

Georgetown (9-4) earned the No.6 seed and was granted a home game despite losing two of its last three. The Hoyas will play host to Army, which stumbled into the tournament with back-to-back losses to Navy and Ohio State.

“We’re glad to be in and delighted to be at home,” Georgetown coach Dave Urick said. “The thing we don’t know is when we’re playing. We have a lot of exams, and it’d be much better to play on Sunday, so we’re trying to scramble. I went over and watched the Army-Navy [Patriot League final May 1] as an interested spectator, and I took a few notes for sure. I was just really impressed with Army’s whole game.”

Still, it is a quarterfinal matchup that provides the most tantalizing possibility: A potential meeting between host and top-seeded Johns Hopkins (12-0) and Syracuse. The defending champion Orange (7-5) have reached 22 consecutive final fours, a streak that could end against the Blue Jays, who have won 34 straight at Homewood Field. Of course, that assumes Syracuse can win at eighth-seeded Massachusetts in the first round.

Geography was a factor in determining pairings, though three teams will be forced to travel beyond the NCAA’s preferred limit of 300 miles. Both Albany (to Virginia) and Fairfield (to second-seeded Duke) have significant distances to travel, while Cornell’s trek to Towson is a little more than 300 miles.

“Syracuse and Albany are far enough north that everything is a flight for them going south,” Hind said. “We had some wiggle room with Army and Marist that they could get into the Baltimore area without incurring any flights. It’s really a seeding of one through eight and working the system and doing the best you can to appeal to fairness.”

The most notable teams to miss the tournament were Dartmouth and Bucknell. Both teams had quality victories (Dartmouth over Maryland, Bucknell over Navy) but were ultimately doomed by weaker RPIs.

Since the field expanded to 16 in 2003, home teams have won 15 of 16 first-round games. That could change next weekend.

“The way the wind is blowing in Division I, you’d have a tough time just predicting who’s going to win these first-round games with one or two exceptions,” Urick said. “The teams that are five through 15, there’s not much difference.”

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