Reporting David Elfin
With the exception of the national title in field hockey, it has been a very tough year for University of Maryland sports.
Gary Williams, who coached the Terps to their lone national championship in men’s basketball, retired a year ago Sunday. Maryland didn’t reach the NCAA Tournament or the NIT under his successor, Mark Turgeon, and just lost Terrell Stoglin, the ACC’s leading scorer, to the NBA after he was suspended from school.
Football coach Randy Edsall’s first season in College Park was a 2-10 disaster that was followed by the transfer of a slew of players, including star quarterback Danny O’Brien.
Brenda Frese’s women’s basketball team rallied to win the ACC Tournament but was crushed in an NCAA regional final.
And men’s cross country, indoor track and outdoor track, men’s and women’s swimming and diving, men’s tennis, women’s acrobatics and tumbling, and women’s water polo are all scheduled to be eliminated by July 1 to balance second-year athletic director Kevin Anderson’s budget.
However, in the face of all this bad news, the men’s and women’s lacrosse teams, which begin NCAA Tournament play this weekend, should be making Terps fans smile.
Maryland is one of eight schools whose men and women both qualified for the big dance, joining Duke, Loyola (Md.), Massachusetts, North Carolina, Notre Dame, Syracuse and Virginia. The Blue Devils, Greyhounds and Tar Heels are the only ones to have both teams seeded.
The third-seeded Maryland women, who open at home against UMass on Saturday at 2, are 17-3 and have won six straight, including a payback triumph over UNC that secured their fourth straight ACC title.
Attack Alex Aust, a junior from The Bullis School in Potomac, leads the run-and-gun Terps with 90 points (40 goals, 50 assists). Junior Katie Schwarzmann tops the midfield with 78 points. All told, Maryland outscores its opponents by an average of 24-15. Senior goalie Brittany Dipper is also a stalwart for coach Cathy Reese, who led then defending champion Maryland to last year’s national title game. The Terps lost that day to Nortwestern which is seeded second this year behind Florida’s still-growing program.
If it’s odd to consider the Gators a lacrosse power, look at the the men’s tournament. Maryland, unseeded at 9-5 after losing the national championship game to Virginia last year, will visit seventh-seeded Lehigh Sunday at 7:30 PM in the last of the weekend’s 16 games. The Mountain Hawks are competing in their first NCAA Tournament in a field that also includes fellow upstarts Canisius, Colgate and Stony Brook while traditional powers Cornell, Navy and Georgetown are nowhere to be found.
In contrast, Maryland will be playing in its 10th consecutive tournament and its 35th overall as it searches for its first title since 1975. Senior Joe Cummings leads the Terps with 27 goals and 41 points. No teammate has more than 18 goals or 31 points for defensive-minded second-year coach John Tillman, whose team averages just 10.9 goals but only allows 7.9 per game.
If Maryland upsets Lehigh, it would likely earn a rematch with second-seeded Johns Hopkins, which opens against Stony Brook. The Terps shocked the Blue Jays 9-6 in Baltimore on April 15, holding them scoreless for the final 29:17.
If the Maryland women top UMass and then defeat the winner of the match between Penn and sixth-seeded Loyola, the Terps will be back in the Final Four with a decent chance to claim their 12th trophy in the tournament 31-year history and give the university some satisfaction at the end of an ugly year.
David Elfin began writing about sports when he was a junior at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School. He is Washington’s representative on the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee and the author of seven books, most recently, “Washington Redskins: The Complete Illustrated History.” A pre-game regular on 106.7-The Fan the last two Redskins seasons, he has been its columnist since last March.