- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 3, 2007

It was hyped throughout the college lacrosse offseason as an opportunity to see the four dominant teams of the last 15 years — Johns Hopkins, Princeton, Syracuse and Virginia — on the same field early in the season. Thanks to two wild opening weeks, today’s Inside Lacrosse Face-Off Classic doubleheader at M&T; Bank Stadium in Baltimore has a slightly different look.

Defending national champion and fifth-ranked Virginia (1-1) lost its opener to Drexel. Ninth-ranked Syracuse (1-1), its opponent tomorrow, fell last week to No. 16 Army. No. 7 Johns Hopkins (0-1) was upset by No. 12 Albany. All three were stunned at home, leaving Princeton (1-0) as the only team to reach the event unscathed.

“You’re going to have teams scratching each others’ eyeballs out trying to win,” Virginia coach Dom Starsia said. “Princeton is No. 1, and you can guess how much coach [Bill] Tierney likes that, and Hopkins is coming off a loss. There will be blood in the aisles. With Syracuse and Virginia, neither team wants to be 1-2 at the end of the day.

“It has put a desperate edge on these games that will lend itself to the competitiveness. For the educated fan, it makes the subplots even more intriguing.”

It’s tough to imagine it getting much better, especially with the four preseason title favorites visiting the site of the final four. More than 14,000 tickets have been sold for the event.

“It’s great for our sport,” Hopkins coach Dave Pietramala said. “It’s kind of like the Maui Classic or the Coaches vs. Cancer tournaments they have in basketball. It’s great for us to play in that environment and play in front of that crowd.”

Virginia bounced back from its opening loss with a rout of Stony Brook, but it still is trying to get back to full strength. Starsia said midfielder Foster Gilbert and attackman Gavin Gill will probably play, while defensive midfielder Will Barrow (hamstring) could be used in a limited capacity.

Max Pomper, the other starting short stick defensive midfielder, has a broken bone in his foot and won’t make as quick a return.

“It wasn’t the start we anticipated,” Starsia said.

“This is a group, if we can stay in one piece, I think in the second half we can become a very good lacrosse team. We haven’t been in one piece. If we get some guys back and get going, I like who we could become.”

Mids still growing

No. 8 Navy’s first two weeks reflected the inexperience — and potential — expected from a group that hasn’t been talked about much.

The Mids have broken in new starting goalie Colin Finnegan in victories over Saint Joseph’s and Lafayette, and the senior allowed only seven goals in those games. Navy’s offense has not been a model of efficiency, but it has generated plenty of shots.

“If you watch us play on film, I really like what I’m seeing,” Navy coach Richie Meade said. “In terms of our continuity, we’re just not there yet.”

The Mids seemed to make a significant step last night, ripping No. 10 North Carolina 19-8 behind three goals from both Ian Dingman and Nick Mirabito.

Vital win for Towson

Towson’s season-opening 9-8 victory at Loyola on Monday carried greater significance because the 15th ranked Tigers had to scurry to replace disbanded Butler’s place on its schedule this weekend with Division II Molloy.

Midfielder Brian Vetter scored four goals for the Tigers, who missed the postseason for the first time since 2002 last spring and face a tough March schedule.

“We hit murderers’ row,” Towson coach Tony Seaman said. “Loyola’s excellent and then we see Maryland, Virginia and Ohio State. We have our work cut out for us. This was a huge game.”

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