- The Washington Times - Friday, March 30, 2007

Neither Virginia nor Maryland got off to an ideal start this season.

The last few weeks have more than rectified the situation for both teams.

The No. 2 Cavaliers (7-1) enter their ACC opener against the No. 8 Terrapins (7-2, 1-1) today at Klockner Stadium on a seven-game winning streak, a stretch that includes a sweep of traditional powers Syracuse, Princeton and Johns Hopkins for the second straight season.

“If you had offered me 7-1 before the season, I would have jumped on it,” Virginia coach Dom Starsia said. “If you would have said we would be 7-1 and lost the opening game to Drexel, I would have thought you were crazy.”

Even though the Cavaliers had plenty of holes to fill from last year’s NCAA champions, Maryland’s turnaround might be more impressive. The Terps built large leads before fending off Towson and UMBC, then routed North Carolina last week to run their winning streak to five.

One obvious difference between the team that could barely muster any offense against Georgetown and Duke in early losses and the group suddenly rolling toward yet another NCAA berth is improved output from the midfield. The Terps don’t have a dynamo like Brendan Healy, Bill McGlone or Xander Ritz, but six midfielders already have at least five goals.

Maryland also has shot at least 28 percent in each game of its winning streak. In coach Dave Cottle’s six seasons, the Terps are 43-1 when they reach 28 percent shooting and 21-23 when they do not.

Still, both teams remain reliant on defense. Both teams have permitted just one opponent to reach double figures in scoring, and that figure could remain the same today.

“The question is going to be whether five goals will be enough to win this game — can either of these teams bust out on offense?” Starsia said. “People talk about these scores being low and I tell them ‘We’re trying.’ We beat Hopkins 7-5 and we beat Princeton 7-6. Seven goals might be enough to win this game.”

A second season?

There is a distinct line of demarcation in Navy’s schedule every year that separates its early-season games with meetings with local and traditional rivals.

This year, the No. 3 Midshipmen (8-0) crossed it unscathed.

This is no disrespect to Navy’s early opponents. Rather, it is merely an acknowledgment of the value of series against No. 9 Georgetown — who plays host to the Mids today — Maryland, Army and Johns Hopkins.

“Our league has become so much more competitive that it’s really kind of like we take a deep breath once we get through March. …,” Navy coach Richie Meade said. “The answer is pretty much yes, it is a second season. But I think it is a second season for everybody. The jockeying for position is now over with and I think the real battles are now unfolding.”

Navy, which defeated Bucknell 6-3 on Sunday, would match its best start since going 12-0 in 1965 with a victory today.

No Hilltop distractions

With all the scurrying around at Georgetown for preparations for the men’s basketball Final Four, it wouldn’t have been surprising if the bustle created a minor headache for other programs.

Instead, coach Dave Urick said other issues — namely injuries and illnesses that kept 13 players out of practice one day earlier this week — are far more problematic than trying to navigate students camping out for tickets at McDonough Gymnasium.

“I wondered when we started why we kept 47 guys and I think I’m beginning to figure that out,” Urick said.

The Hoyas (4-2) have won five of their last six meetings against the Mids, including an NCAA tournament game last year. Although early schedules released by Georgetown indicated a 3 p.m. start, it actually will begin at 1 p.m.

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