- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 19, 2007

It isn’t rare for Georgetown midfielder Andrew Brancaccio to cram six or seven of his freshman teammates into his Ford Explorer and head home to Chevy Chase and a trip to a friend’s pool.

His class is a tight-knit group of a dozen, and it provides the Hoyas plenty of promise for the future. But their talent has spilled onto the field throughout this season for sixth-seeded Georgetown (12-2), which will meet No. 3 Johns Hopkins (10-4) in today’s NCAA tournament quarterfinals in Princeton, N.J.

They have made an impact all over the field, from Craig Dowd’s role as a fourth attackman to Brancaccio and Scott Kocis’ impact in the midfield to the immediate contributions of Chris Nixon and Barney Ehrmann at the defensive end.

The group is so vital to the Hoyas’ present and future that 10 freshmen were among the team’s 32 active players in Sunday’s first-round victory over Princeton. Freshmen scored six of the Hoyas’ nine goals in that game.

“I don’t think it’s unusual for freshmen to come into programs like ours; I think it’s maybe unusual to have so many,” coach Dave Urick said.

Brancaccio, a former star at Georgetown Prep, was well-known in lacrosse circles and figured to play an immediate role. Sure enough, he leads the team’s midfielders with 19 goals and even earned his first assist of the season Sunday, much to his veteran teammates’ amusement.

Ehrmann and Nixon are both part of the stingy Hoyas’ defensive rotation, and Georgetown has capitalized on both players’ athleticism by finding them work on the faceoff wings. Nixon has 46 groundballs, while Ehrmann has grabbed 39.

Kocis and Dowd were late additions to the class. Both originally committed to Duke but decided to seek more stable options when the school’s program was suspended last spring in the wake of a rape investigation. Dowd ranks fourth on the Hoyas with 17 goals in a reserve role, while Kocis has seven goals while playing primarily with the second midfield.

All along, Urick steadily put them in positions to thrive on a team that has won eight straight.

“He’s been patient throughout the year,” Brancaccio said. “He hasn’t tried to put too much on us or yelling at us too much. We’ve been kind of going down the road ourselves trying to take as much as we can each week.”

They collectively have seen a lot in their first year, but one stage that isn’t familiar is the final four. Then again, Georgetown has lost in the quarterfinals a record five straight years, so none of the Hoyas’ players has that experience.

Yet it has been a significantly different season for the Hoyas, who have beaten Maryland and Princeton for the first time in program history. Georgetown lost its only meeting with Johns Hopkins, the lone obstacle to the Hoyas’ first final four since 1999.

“I think at this point when you’re at the final eight teams and you haven’t got past this, it’s history you don’t really want to remember,” Nixon said. “It’s a totally new team every year, and obviously I haven’t been a part of any of the past teams. I don’t think it really makes a difference.”

That will prove especially true if the Hoyas break through today. And though Urick warns it is necessary to follow up one stellar recruiting class with another, it’s clear these freshmen eventually might push Georgetown further in the postseason than it has gone before — perhaps even this year.

“It’s pretty exciting that all of us are going to be together for the next three years,” Kocis said. “Hopefully we can make another run like this and hopefully win a national championship.”

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