- The Washington Times - Monday, May 14, 2007

Well, so much for being right about parity not arriving in the postseason. UMBC and Delaware sure put the kibosh on that idea by knocking off Maryland and Virginia, respectively. And so much for a rerun of the ACC tournament this Sunday at Navy. That didn’t work out too well, either.

There is also the assurance of getting a very different looking final four. Maryland, Princeton, Syracuse and Virginia are all at home. With them are 35 of the 52 final four appearances since 1994. In total, only 11 of the semifinalists in that span (Hopkins eight times, Duke in 1997 and 2005, Georgetown in 1999) remain in this year’s field.

There was plenty to learn about every team in the field. Here’s a rundown of the eight teams whose seasons ended over the weekend, and the lasting fallout for each.

* Virginia (12-4): The defending champions thrived during a brutal stretch in March, then just didn’t get much better before losing in shocking fashion to Delaware as the No. 2 seed. Virginia’s offense usually flows from its attack, and it did so this year with an explosive unit that will return intact next year. But when the Cavaliers were superb in recent years, it was because they could frequently score from the midfield. The 2003 team had Chris Rotelli, A.J. Shannon and the underrated Billy Glading; last year’s unbeaten bunch unleashed Kyle Dixon and Matt Poskay. This spring, the Cavaliers were simply predictable, with no midfielder capable of consistently remaining a threat in the face of a pole. Yeah, Virginia gave up double-digit goals in its last three games, a surprise for a unit so strong earlier in the season. But the greatest issue remained an imbalanced offense to could do little in situations like Sunday’s, when star attackmen Ben Rubeor and Garrett Billings shot a combined 0-for-11.

Virginia had a young group, and its biggest losses will come at goalie (Kip Turner) and defenseman (Ricky Smith). Despite their weaknesses, they still were a top-five team nearly all season. There’s no reason to believe they can’t be in the title mix next year.

* Maryland (10-6): Was the first-round loss to UMBC an embarrassment? Somewhat, certainly. And would a goalie change have helped matters in the 13-9 loss? Possibly. But it’s important to remember no one expected this to be a halcyon season for the Terrapins. They had injuries galore (losing defensive midfielders Jimmy Borell and Jeff Reynolds for the year was especially rough), were forced to replace the bulk of their offense from back-to-back final four teams and struggled badly with faceoffs all season. Message board maniacs satisfied with nothing short of a title and thoroughly clueless about the team’s talent level are demanding coach Dave Cottle’s head (yet again), and even though he’s made 19 career NCAA trips without a title, this season turned out about right given the circumstances. (Frankly, the home loss to UMBC should be less frustrating than playing ultra-cautious and falling to unseeded Massachusetts in last year’s final four.)

The Terps will have big holes at close defense (Ray Megill and Steve Whittenberg) and at pole (Ryan Clarke) to plug, but a promising recruiting class should improve an often sluggish offense. Maryland will definitely be more fun to watch next spring; more importantly, it should be better as well.

* Princeton (10-4): The Princeton mystique seems to have lost its luster. That’s four times in five years the Tigers won’t make the final four after an overtime loss at Georgetown. They’re certainly not bad, but the Tigers never did anything to prove they were more than a nice, solid team, losing one-goal games to Hopkins, Virginia and Georgetown. They were the Navy of the north. Speaking of which. …

* Navy (11-4): The Midshipmen departed in the first round for the second straight year after losing 12-8 at North Carolina. They’ll take a serious hit in the midfield next year (Billy Looney, William Wallace and Tommy Wallin are all seniors), and could be vulnerable to Colgate or Bucknell in the improving Patriot League. The more time that goes by, the more special the Mids’ 2004 team that nearly won a national title looks. The next Golden Age of Navy Lacrosse isn’t upon us, but the program should again contend for a spot in the top 10 next spring.

* Loyola (7-6): A chic upset pick, the Greyhounds were instead pummeled at Albany. Loyola gets credit for returning to the postseason after a five-year drought, but its performance is probably something best soon forgotten.

* Providence (7-10): The Friars did exactly what the champions of the weakest Division I league are supposed to do: Get drilled by the No. 1 seed (Duke). Still, it wasn’t a lost season for the MAAC winners, who overcame an 0-8 start just to make the postseason.

* Towson (9-7): You could see the blowout loss coming for the Tigers, who simply couldn’t keep up with unbeaten Cornell. Towson had only one even strength goal in a 14-6 setback. Nevertheless, it’s hard to believe the Tigers won’t at least contend for a postseason berth next year.

* Notre Dame (11-4): The Fighting Irish are for real after scaring Johns Hopkins at Homewood, and will bring back the bulk of their team. It would be a real surprise if the Irish doesn’t start next season in the top 10.

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