Another strong showing for Maryland lacrosse, with 4 teams making the 16 team NCAA tournament in Maryland, Loyola, Johns Hopkins, and Mount St. Mary’s. It’s hard to imagine an NCAA tournament without JHU, and they just managed to make the field, likely aided by their reputation as one of the great programs in college lacrosse. On the women’s side, the University of Maryland took the #1 seed with Towson and Navy also making the cut. With such a host of teams to root for, there is no question that Maryland is still the heart of lacrosse country.
However, many observers have seen the sport, like many Maryland traditions, starting to move outside the state for its talent and its best teams, to New York particularly. In fact, of the top ten high school lacrosse programs in the country, 4 are located in New York, one more than the Old Line State can boast. New York is a bigger state with a bigger talent pool, but any Marylander can confess that whether he or she watches much lacrosse when it’s on or even knows what teams are good, there is always a sense of pride in knowing that this is our sport to dominate in. I recall my first few days at the University of Michigan sitting in the dining hall meeting some new people. As everyone went around the table saying where they were from, I proudly said I was from Baltimore. Immediately the kid across from me asked, “Oh, so you’re on the lacrosse team here?” He was serious. I will be honest, I am pretty sure I didn’t look the part of elite high school athlete. In fact, I’m not even that good at lacrosse. This state has simply become synonymous with the sport in many parts of the country.
Johns Hopkins will be a key team to watch, as they skated with a record around or even below .500 most of the season. Whether they can start living up to their recruiting hype is another story. However, the Blue Jays did play one of the toughest schedules in the country, so this squad should be ready for postseason play. Maryland, the #3 seeded men’s team, was just a step behind UVA most of the season, losing twice to the Cavaliers during the season. The Towson women will have the unenviable task of taking on a UVA team rallying behind fallen teammate and Baltimore County native Yeardley Love, making the Cavs not only the more talented team but also the emotional favorite in many casual fans’ minds. As a Maryland fan, the idea of UVA lacrosse playing the role of sentimental team is a bit strange, but then again, so are the circumstances around that team right now.
There is a cloud hanging over college lacrosse right now as investigators and fans alike try to unravel the web of entitlement, drug and alcohol abuse, and arrogance that has pervaded the sport in many environments (I must recommend an excellent article here on the subject). But for the 30 other teams playing in the men’s and women’s tournaments not from the University of Virginia, let’s try to keep perspective on their search for college immortality. There will be thrilling finishes, shut-down defense, and shootouts, and most importantly, there will be a champion. Despite the tragedy of Yeardley Love’s death, there is still plenty to root for.