- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 8, 2012

The Big East’s first men’s lacrosse tournament will unfold early next month, the latest step in the commitment of the big-name league to the sport.

Georgetown, though, is increasingly a long shot to even earn a spot in the four-team event.

The Hoyas, envisioned for years as a potential Big East cornerstone whenever the possibility of the league sponsoring lacrosse was broached, find themselves in a tenuous position after Saturday’s 13-12 overtime loss to St. John’s.

Georgetown (5-5, 1-2 Big East) still must face Notre Dame and Syracuse, two of the league’s heavyweights, in the final weeks of the regular season. Any realistic chance of playing beyond the end of April rests on winning at least one of those games, if not both.

“It always is [a concern],” coach Dave Urick said. “We hope to get into that thing, but you have to play your way in. You’re not going to back your way in, particularly now.”

Saturday was the latest humbling moment for a program that earned 11 straight NCAA tournament berths but hasn’t returned since the run ended in 2007. The final six years of the streak featured exits in the NCAA quarterfinals, some in anguishing fashion and others in blowouts.

It wasn’t an ideal ceiling, but the Hoyas always were in the hunt. That might not be the case after wasting a two-goal lead in the final 30 seconds of regulation Saturday, then permitting the Red Storm to win the opening faceoff of overtime and score after a timeout.

It provided a notable juxtaposition. Georgetown, a top-10 fixture not long ago, is continuing a steady decline and is perhaps headed for the first losing season in Urick’s storied 33-year career. The Red Storm (6-4, 2-2) have won six games for the first time since the program was reinstated in 2005 after a decade-long hiatus.

St. John’s also has a vital tiebreaker against Georgetown for the Big East tournament.

“It’s huge on multiple, multiple levels,” Red Storm coach Jason Miller said.

It also capped a miserable week for the Hoyas.

Georgetown was thrashed 15-7 on Wednesday at Villanova, a program that didn’t need long to surpass the Hoyas once the programs shared a league. Toss in Saturday’s squandered opportunity, and Georgetown dropped back-to-back games to schools it was a combined 18-1 against since 1993.

“It’ll be interesting to see how this group responds to this,” Urick said.

Indeed. No. 6 Notre Dame and its notoriously stingy defense isn’t the best team to try to get well against. And even in a relatively down year for Syracuse, winning in a trip to the Carrier Dome isn’t an easy task.

That was even true when Georgetown seemed like a lock to contend annually in the Big East. Instead, less than a month before the league’s first tournament, the Hoyas are unexpectedly looking up at the feisty, hustling, well-coached Red Storm in the standings.

“It feels awesome to just keep going up and make this program better and better and finally get ourselves on the map,” said St. John’s midfielder Ryan Fitzgerald, who scored the winner in overtime. “We hope to play in May. That’s our main goal.”

The same goes for Georgetown. Its chances happen to look a lot bleaker after Saturday.

Elsewhere in the area:

• Top-ranked Virginia (10-1, 2-0 ACC) cruised to a 15-10 victory at No. 9 North Carolina, ensuring Friday’s showdown in Charlottesville against No. 8 Duke will determine the ACC regular-season champion. Attackman Steele Stanwick had seven points and moved into the top 10 on Virginia’s career goals list.

• Thanks to the weekend’s results, Navy (5-5) most likely will require a victory at Army on Saturday to reach the Patriot League tournament. The Midshipmen missed the four-team event last season for the first time since joining the Patriot League in 2004.

• Patrick Stevens can be reached at pstevens@washingtontimes.com.

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