Last Saturday I attended my first NCAA men’s lacrosse game of the 2010 season (Thanks to ESPN Zone Baltimore for the free tickets!) Watching UMBC take on Maryland, I didn’t really care who won, I just wanted to see a competitive game. I’m a UMBC alum, but a fan of all things Terps (as readers of this blog know), and of the two, the Terps have a much better shot at bringing a National Championship home to Maryland sooner. With UMBC having won the previous three in the series, I expected a hard-fought game. Maryland, though, dominated from the opening whistle, winning easily 13-7. The Retrievers struggled to hit the net all day, as shot after shot flew wide of the pipes.
Dave Cottle’s Terrapins are now 5-0 and ranked fourth in the USILA coaches poll.
On the flip side, the loss dropped UMBC to 1-5. To their credit, they have played an absolutely BRUTAL schedule thus far, losing four games to teams ranked in the Top 8 nationally. They will likely need to win the America East Conference to get into the NCAA Tournament in May.
Don Zimmerman’s Retrievers aren’t the only local team struggling to start the season, though. Perennial power Johns Hopkins finds themselves in a very unfamiliar position, outside of the Top 10. Likewise, the Towson Tigers had a rough March, sitting at 1-4.
With so many local programs threatening to have down years, we face the prospect of the Old Line State being laregely underrepresented at M&T Bank Stadium on Memorial Day Weekend.
If it comes down to non-Maryland teams in the Final Four and/or Championship Game, I have a backup strategy for lacrosse rooting interests: pull for the team with more kids from Maryland on their roster.
Lacrosse is unique among college sports in that, for most of it’s history, the teams on the highest levels were stocked with players from pretty much only two areas of the country: Baltimore and Long Island, NY. Unless there is some sort of NCAA Crab-Picking Championship that I’m unaware of, lacrosse is the easiest sport in which to find Maryland athletes participating. In particular, the MIAA A conference, with school such as Gilman, Boys Latin, and Loyola, routinely sends players to the top programs.
With that in mind, let’s look at the current Top 10, and the number of players that played high school ball here in MD:
#1 – Virginia (8 out of 41 players are from Maryland, or 19.5%)
#2 – Syracuse (0/50)
Hang on a second…REALLY? Really, John Desko? You couldn’t find ONE kid from Maryland worth of your precious roster? Despite ‘Cuse’s “run ‘n gun” offense being a blast to watch, they are now my LEAST favorite team. Congrats, Cuse, you are now the Duke of College Lacrosse. I’m now that much happier about Butler beating the Orange in the Sweet 16 last night.
#3 – North Carolina (10/44 – 22.7%)
#4 – Maryland (20/47 – 42.6%)
#5 – Princeton (8/47 – 17%)
#6 – Hofstra (2/43 – 4.7%)
#7 – Duke (5/46 – 10.9%)
#8 – Lafayette (1/42)
#9 – Cornell (3/43)
#10 – Georgetown (15/47 – 31.9%)
And, for good measure:
#12 – Johns Hopkins (12/50 – 24%)
NR – Towson (23/47 – 48.9)
NR – UMBC (27/48 – 56.3)
First off, big ups to my alma mater for representing proper (make your own joke about win correlation and % of Maryland players).
Let’s now make a new top 10 – in the order that a National Championship would do Maryland proud.
5. Johns Hopkins
6. North Carolina
When I was playing high school lacrosse in the late-90’s, I remember hearing about how much the sport was growing. I don’t have the numbers in front of me, but I’m guessing a similar “Top 10″ from a decade ago would have featured higher percentages of Maryland athletes. Scanning the rosters these days though, it’s much less rare to see kids from not only all over the eastern seaboard, but from well west of the typical lacrosse hotbeds. California, Colorado, Florida, and other states now routinely produce top-level NCAA athletes in lacrosse.
A recent Associated Press article reported that 32 new lacrosse programs (20 women, 12 men) debuted in the NCAA this year.
While it may be a little disappointing on one hand to see Baltimore losing our grip on lacrosse ever so slightly, it’s also promising to see the sport continue to grow. It would be nice one day to have an ACC that features more than just four teams, or to see traditional touchdown and interception rivalries like Ohio State-Michigan or Texas-Oklahoma played out with bounce shots and split dodges as well.
In the meantime, cheer for our Maryland boys…and anyone who plays against Syracuse.
Edit: Somehow Navy slipped my mind on the first stab at this post. I certainly don’t want to disrespect any Middies or their fans out there. Eighteen out of 60, or 30%, of Coach Richie Meade’s roster is from Maryland, which puts Navy in between Georgetown and Johns Hopkins (#5) on the above Top 10. Navy is currently 4-4, unranked in the USILA Coaches Poll.