This weekend marks the beginning of the NCAA lacrosse season, and once again the state of Maryland brings a couple of strong squads that will compete for the tournament.  Last year the Old Line State did not have a team in the semifinals despite four teams in the tournament, but a few squads will be looking to change that this year.  Some teams will be looking for a title, some coaches will look to save their jobs, and we are looking at a pretty good lacrosse season coming to Maryland in 2010.

Johns Hopkins Blue Jays
–2009 results: 10-5, #8-seed, NCAA Quarterfinals
–Head coach: Dave Pietramala
–Conference: Independent
–Returning All-Americans: Michael Kimmel (2nd M), Steven Boyle (HM A), Kyle Wharton (HM A)

When you think of Baltimore lacrosse, Johns Hopkins is the first thing to come to mind.  They are not flashy, but Pietramala’s squad is know for saving their best play for last, trudging through a very tough schedule and running through the NCAA Tournament.  Last year was a bit of a disappointment, narrowly beating Brown in the first round and getting destroyed by Virginia in the quarterfinals.  This year the Blue Jays hope to change all that, returning their top three scorers and starting keeper.

The Blue Jays return three players that scored at least 45 points last season: Senior attackman Chris Boland, senior middie Michael Kimmel, and junior attack Kyle Wharton.  Kimmel was the most dangerous all-around player for JHU last year, a solid shooter with great stick skills that also could play well on the ride.  Also in the mix is senior attack Steven Boyle, who earned All-American status despite a problematic thumb.  One of the Blue Jays big losses on the scoring end is middie Brian Christopher, the clutch player Hopkins often depended in for big games.

On the defensive end, the Blue Jays lose their leader Michael Evans from the long sticks.  Senior Michael Gvozden returns to defend between the pipes for the third year starting, but his junior campaign saw him allow two goals more per game than his sophomore year, so the pressure will be on him this year.  Two senior longsticks return to the starting role, Matt Drenan and Sam DeVore.

Maryland Terrapins
–2009 record: 10-7, unseeded birth, NCAA Quarterfinals
–Head coach: Dave Cottle
–Conference: ACC
–Returning All-Americans: Ryan Young (2nd A), Max Schmidt (3rd D), Grant Catalino (HM A)

Maryland did manage to get an NCAA Tournament win over undefeated Notre Dame before losing to eventual champion Syracuse, but it was a very disappointing year for many with the expectations coming into the season.  Coming into this year Maryland returns a very deep attack core and one of their starting keepers in what looks to be a tough year in the ACC, with Duke, Virginia and North Carolina all strong teams coimng into this year.  Also added, Dave Cottle is in the final year of his contract and could be in trouble if Maryland fails to produce this year.

The Terps will have plenty of good attacks to choose from and may need them running a midfield line as well.  Senior Will Yeatman, juniors Ryan Young, Grant Catalino, Travis Reed and sophomore Joe Cummings make up the unit.  Yeatman and Catalino are known for being big players that can push through players while Young, Reed and Cummings are more speed players.  Some will need to run midfield especially with last year’s first midfield of Dan Groot, Jeff Reynolds and Jeremy Sieverts all graduated.

On defense Maryland brings back senior Brian Phipps to defend the cage, who’s season ended last year on a torn ACL in the quarters against Syracuse.  He will likely be the full-time starter after splitting the role with Jason Carter the last two years.  Maryland also brings back senior Brian Ferrell on the longpole, who also was injured after three games last year, as well as junior Max Schmidt on defense.

Navy Midshipmen
–2009 results: 11-5, unseeded birth, NCAA First Round
–Head coach: Richie Meade
–Conference: Patriot (defending champion)
–Returning All-Americans: Tim Paul (HM A)

Navy is another classic non-flashy defensive squad that will plays most teams close no matter what.  Last year the Mids got into the NCAAs after winning the Patriot League but got destroyed by Duke in the first round.  Now head coach Richie Meade will shake up his defense and prepare for the season.

The offense, which rarely gets above 10 goals, still has some strong points.  The one-two senior attackman punch of Tim Paul and Brendan Connors is very strong; both have the ability to feed and score.  Leading the midfield unit is senior Patrick Moran, but the Mids run many players on the midfield lines.

On the defensive end, three keepers got starts last year, but only one of them returns for this season, that being sophomore R.J. Wickham, who played during the middle of last season.  Matt Verdum returns after a good freshman season to lead the long poles along with junior Michael Hirsch, who returns from injury.

UMBC Retrievers
–2009 record: 12-4, unseeded birth, NCAA First Round
–Head coach: Don Zimmerman
–Conference: America East
–Returning All-Americans: Kyle Wimer (HM M)

Armed with a very reliable first midfield line and keeper, UMBC nearly upset North Carolina in the first round of the NCAAs.  Don Zimmerman’s squad has done well with fielding local talent, but this year will see many new faces as much of their key players from last year have graduated.

On offense last year’s midfield line of Peet Poillon, Kyle Wimer and Alex Hopmann was a great line that competed with most squads.  The now-senior Wimer returns as a threat on both sides of the field, but UMBC will need to replace Poillon and Hopmann.  Helping out the problem will be the return of two senior attacks: Matt Latham and Chris Jones, both strong finishers.

Replacing Jeremy Blevins in goal will be a very difficult task for whoever tries it, and as of now nobody has been named the starter.  Matt Kresse, a senior defender, will return to the starting lineup to protect the new keeper, but two new starting defenders will be needed.

Loyola Greyhounds
–2009 record: 9-5, missed NCAA Tournament
–Head coach: Charley Toomey
–Conference: ECAC
–Returning All-Americans: None

Loyola is considered to be the last team left out of the NCAA last season, so the Greyhounds will be looking for some payback this year.  Head coach Charley Toomey will be leading his team into a new stadium this year, the Ridley Athletic Complex, as he returns some key players on the offensive end.

Though Loyola will need to replace Shane Koppens’s production, they bring back their two leading scorers, senior attack Cooper MacDonnell and senior Duke-transfer Collin Finnerty, both of whom are solid but will be tested more with Koppens out.  The Greyhounds will also need to replace P.T. Ricci, one of the best defensive LSMs last year and was a caused turnover machine.

Junior Jake Hagelin returns to protect the cage after getting seven wins last season.  Senior longpole Steve Layne was a solid defender last seasion, but he is the lone returner to the unit.

Towson Tigers
–2009 record: 7-10, missed NCAA Tournament
–Head coach: Tony Seaman
–Conference: CAA
–Returning All-Americans: None

Towson had a somewhat rough offseason with the status of Tony Seaman’s job in doubt from both sides; Towson had reportedly considered firing him plus Seaman had reportedly been interested in the Penn head coaching job.  Towson has some good players returning from each side of the field in an attempt to return to the tournament.

The offense will likely give a starting spot to senior middie Will Harrington, who led the team in goals last year, but he is the only one of the top four scorers returning.  Also key will be junior attack Tim Stratton.

The defensive side should see more stability.  Senior Rob Wheeler returns after a good year between the pipes plus two starting defenders, senior Joe Wascavage and sophomore Marc Ingerman return to the starting lineup.