- The Washington Times - Friday, April 27, 2007

There’s more than an automatic berth to the NCAA tournament at stake for No. 4 Georgetown and No. 11 Navy this week.

There’s also piece of mind.

Both teams can clinch spots in next month’s 16-team NCAA tournament in the next few days, removing any sense of anxiety heading into the May 6 selection announcement. Georgetown (9-2) will clinch the outright ECAC title with a victory over Rutgers (5-5) on Saturday, while the Midshipmen (9-3) are in if they win the Patriot League tournament.

“It certainly a big advantage,” Navy coach Richie Meade said of the automatic qualifier. “For anybody who has been in that situation, it is a big relief to know you are in. It is tough to wonder if you are.”

The Mids, who have dropped three of four, could find themselves in a precarious postseason position without at least one victory this weekend at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium. Navy meets Army (6-6) in Friday’s first semifinal, with the winner facing Bucknell or Colgate on Sunday.

Meanwhile, the Hoyas are in a more secure situation and need only one win in their last two games to earn the ECAC’s first automatic berth since 2003. The league lost its bid when Navy and UMBC departed, but it has since added four schools and maintained a membership of at least six teams to earn the AQ back.

“I think its very important for the league to have it and get it back,” Georgetown coach Dave Urick said. “I was never concerned because I thought the team that won would get in anyway and I still feel that way. There is relief knowing it’s a done deal. There’s no doubt about that.”

With a victory against Rutgers, the Hoyas might have the luxury of nursing some injuries for next week’s season finale against Penn State (4-7). But even then, Urick is mindful of the potential impact of a loss on his team’s seeding this late in the season.

Mids’ bright side

There are two ways of looking at Navy’s possession time — a mere 12 minutes in their offensive set — in a 10-9 loss at Johns Hopkins last weekend.

The Mids were good enough on offense to shoot 9-for-21 and solid enough defensively to contain Hopkins, which ran its offense in a settled situation for 32 minutes. It is also further evidence that shaky clearing (10-for-19) and faceoff play doomed Navy.

“We played very good offense and very good defense,” Meade said. “We can’t play as much defense against a quality team like that and win. I thought after all that, I was impressed The clearing was an issue. Losing faceoffs led to all that stuff. It all comes back to the same stuff, ball possession.”

Dowd delivers

Efficient attackman Craig Dowd keeps giving Georgetown a jolt off the bench.

The freshman, who had two late goals last week at Massachusetts, has scored on 11 of his 24 shots and provides the Hoyas a chance to give attackmen Andrew Baird, Brendan Cannon and Jake Samperton some rest.

He’s also helped Georgetown cope with the absence of Matt McBride, who has played in only two games because of a concussion-related injury.

“Having someone that can step up and play at the level he has been has been significant,” Urick said. “We’re playing those four guys on an almost equal basis. Who starts isn’t as important as who finishes.”

Hopkins turnaround

Johns Hopkins has erased the sting of its three-game losing streak, defeating Maryland and Navy to solidify its postseason resume and rise back to No. 5 in the rankings.

But the Blue Jays (6-4) aren’t ready to forget their struggles just yet.

“It’s tough, especially playing at a program like this where we set the bar so high,” midfielder Paul Rabil said. “When we don’t get the result we want, it kills us. We basically sleep, eat, drink lacrosse during the season, and if things don’t go well it takes a toll. These last two games have been really good for us mentally.”

One lingering concern for Hopkins, which visits No. 15 Towson (8-4) on Saturday, is goalie play. Jesse Schwartzman made only one save in the first half against Navy, and freshman Michael Gvozden has warmed up during consecutive games before Schwartzman re-asserted himself.

“The best person for Jesse to get pressure from is me and Michael Gvozden,” coach Dave Pietramala said. “Michael Gvozden is well-prepared and ready and capable to go in a game. Jesse is a senior.

Before I make that move, I feel like I owe him an opportunity to correct things. He certainly did.”

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