- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 13, 2006

Senior attackman Matt Ward suffered a broken bone in his right hand in Virginia’s ACC title win over Maryland on April 30.

But don’t expect it to cost him any time in this month’s NCAA tournament, starting with today’s first-round game against Notre Dame (10-4).

“He’s definitely going to play,” Virginia coach Dom Starsia said. “If you were asking Dr. Ward for his self-diagnosis, he’d tell you he’s fine. The truth of the matter is that will not be determined until game day.”

Ward leads the Cavaliers (13-0) with 45 points as they enter the postseason as the No. 1 seed. He played the second half of the ACC final with the hairline fracture and didn’t practice the next week. Ward has worked out in the last week, and doctors have determined he cannot cause any further damage.

Bracketing fallout

The chatter among many coaches all week centered around the tournament selection committee’s decision to send Notre Dame and not the lowest-ranked team in the field (Providence) to unbeaten Virginia.

The committee was hamstrung by a two-flight limit, which went to Denver and Notre Dame. That meant Providence could not fly, and the Friars were ultimately shipped to third-seeded Hofstra.

“That’s hard for us to accept when we look at the tournament and how financially successful it is and has grown over the last 10 to 12 years,” Georgetown coach Dave Urick said. “Then we’re told by Big Brother at the NCAA you have only two flights. When you look at the women’s tournament, there are three flights and if the seeds hold, there’ll be three more flights. That makes you start to scratch your head a little bit.”

Starsia acknowledges his Cavaliers “clearly didn’t get the No. 16 team in the field,” but maintains a broader perspective despite drawing a tougher first-round foe.

“There used to a championship formula, eight teams [overall] to every one in your tournament, and clearly we’re in excess of that,” Starsia said. “The NCAA allows us to have a 16-team field because we do well. If we scream too loudly, the NCAA could say ‘Well, OK, but we’re cutting your field in half.’ It may be the big boys versus what is good for the game. I think with where we’re at in our sport, we need to keep the big picture in mind.”

Pioneers’ new territory

Denver makes its first NCAA tournament appearance today when it visits second-seeded Maryland, capping a steady climb under coach Jamie Munro.

The Pioneers (12-4), who came within a game of the tournament last year, bring one of the nation’s finest all-around players with them. Midfielder Geoff Snider, who leads the country in groundballs (182) and faceoff percentage (228-for-328, .695), is one of the jewels on a team that values versatility and athleticism and utilizes a relentless 10-man ride.

“He’s kind of a throwback player,” Munro said. “He’s a faceoff guy who also has 31 points and can play defense. He draws the other team’s best long stick defensive midfielder. [But] the facing off is the biggest deal.”

Seven-year itch

UMBC returned to the tournament for the first time in seven years after winning the America East tournament and will visit seventh-seeded Princeton today.

The Retrievers (10-4) have won eight of their last nine and are seeking their first tournament victory after first-round exits in 1998 and 1999.

Attackmen Brendan Mundorf and Drew Westervelt both have 46 points, and sophomore midfielder Terry Kimener has 23 goals and 17 assists. The balance has allowed coach Don Zimmerman to open up the offense, resulting in arguably the most potent attack since he arrived at UMBC in 1994.

“We haven’t had the restraints and we’ve been able to play the game a little bit more,” said Westervelt, who scored six goals Sunday against Albany. “We haven’t had to structure our game plan around that. We’ve had the people to play, and he’s been letting us do that a little more.”

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