NCAA lacrosse: Maryland enters men’s and women’s Final Four on way out of ACC


TOWSON - MAY 22: University of Maryland women's lacrosse head coach Coach Cathy Nelson-Reese works with her team during practice at Towson University's Johnny Unitas Stadium on Thursday, May 22, 2014. The Maryland Terrapins face Northwestern in the NCAA Division 1 lacrosse semifinals on Friday. (Photo by Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post) (Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post)
May 22

Maryland enters this weekend at the apex of college lacrosse. It’s the perfect vantage point to see the collision of its past and future in the sport.

Maryland is the only school with a team in both the men’s and women’s NCAA Division I lacrosse Final Four — and both championships will be decided in its backyard. The NCAA men’s championships are being held Saturday and Monday at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore. Meanwhile, the women will play their semifinals and final Friday and Sunday at Towson University’s Johnny Unitas Stadium.

The men are in the semifinals for the third time in four years under Coach John Tillman. Under Coach Cathy Reese, the women are in the semifinals for the sixth consecutive year. In honors announced this week, both programs had four players named first-team all-American.

Win or lose, however, this weekend marks a watershed: Both programs are playing for the last time as members of the ACC, the premier conference in the sport. Next year they will join the Big Ten — a storied league but one that will sponsor lacrosse for the first time beginning next season.

The ACC’s preeminence is made clear by one look at the bracket: Among the men, Maryland and Notre Dame, who will play each other in a semifinal at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday, join Duke as three ACC teams among the four left. On the women’s side, should Maryland win its semifinal Friday at 7:30 p.m., it would advance to an all-ACC national championship against the winner of the Virginia-Syracuse matchup.

That semifinal, however, is against Big Ten member Northwestern, an unlikely future rival in geographic terms but a natural match in competitive stature. The Terrapins boast a record 30 NCAA tournament appearances and 10 national championships in the women’s game. Northwestern, meanwhile, is in the Final Four for the 10th consecutive season, seven of which have ended with a national title — all under Coach Kelly Amonte Hiller, a member of the U.S. Lacrosse Hall of Fame on the strength of her achievements as a player at Maryland.

Though most Big Ten schools have little pedigree in lacrosse, the Terrapins could be a vanguard for elite and deep-pocketed athletic programs like Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State to try to match Maryland’s success.

But there is also the reality that the move has at least temporarily upset Maryland’s relationship with some of its longtime ACC rivals and fellow lacrosse powers, particularly among the men’s programs.

In a phone interview this week, Virginia men’s Coach Dom Starsia said he will not schedule Maryland in 2015. The Terrapins and Cavaliers first played in 1926 and have played every year since 1949. Two people in the lacrosse community said it is unlikely Duke will schedule Maryland in the near future.

Though North Carolina men’s Coach Joe Breschi said he expects to play Maryland next year barring any last-minute schedule changes, it’s unclear whether the newest ACC members, Notre Dame and Syracuse, will be interested or able to continue to play Maryland. A person familiar with lacrosse scheduling said Syracuse is considering resuming its long-standing rivalry with Army on the late-February weekend it played Maryland this year, though he added he wasn’t sure whether Maryland and Syracuse would play on another weekend.

Part of the problem is the Big Ten’s edict that its conference lacrosse teams — Maryland, Michigan, Ohio State, Penn State and Rutgers for both men and women, plus Johns Hopkins in men’s and Northwestern in women’s — keep their final six weekends reserved for conference play.

The Maryland-Virginia men’s game fell in that time period. Next season, Starsia said he will play Richmond on the weekend previously reserved for the Terrapins. Virginia and Richmond played in early February this past season.

“It’s not a long-term philosophical decision,” Starsia said. “We think Richmond is a natural rivalry that we’d like to play, and we were ready to move that game. . . . John and I will certainly keep talking. There’s no reason not to do that.”

Meanwhile, the Maryland women’s team is expected to keep several of its ACC opponents for next year but lose a couple, according to Reese.

“We’ll have a few [ACC teams on the schedule]. A couple have decided they’re not going to play us, but we’re trying to keep a lot of our matchups,” Reese said. “They’ve been great games for us.”

A person familiar with ACC scheduling defended schools’ right not to play Maryland anytime soon.

“The league schools were disappointed in the decision [for Maryland to leave] but more than the actual decision was the way it went down,” said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the source was not authorized to speak publicly for the ACC. “More of them were turned off by how it happened. . . . That might change in a couple years if there’s a change in leadership or feelings.”

Regardless of next year’s schedules and the list of other challenges and changes, this weekend remains. The Maryland men last won the NCAA title in 1975. The women, perennially close, have not won since 2010.

Maryland is expecting a strong turnout of fans at both venues, especially given the reception the Maryland men received in beating Duke, 9-4, in a semifinal at M&T Bank Stadium in 2011.

“Those are probably moments and experiences I will take for the rest of my life,” said Maryland senior Michael Ehrhardt, a starting long-stick defender who played on the 2011 team. “Running out behind the [Maryland state flag] as a freshman, the home crowd in Baltimore, the whole stadium erupted. We’re really looking forward to having our home crowd behind us on Saturday.”

by Christian Swezey

Maryland enters this weekend at the apex of college lacrosse. It’s the perfect vantage point to see the collision of its past and future in the sport.

Maryland is the only school with a team in both the men’s and women’s NCAA Division I lacrosse Final Four — and both championships will be decided in its backyard. The NCAA men’s championships are being held Saturday and Monday at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore. Meanwhile, the women will play their semifinals and final Friday and Sunday at Towson University’s Johnny Unitas Stadium.

The men are in the semifinals for the third time in four years under Coach John Tillman. Under Coach Cathy Reese, the women are in the semifinals for the sixth consecutive year. In honors announced this week, both programs had four players named first-team all-American.

Win or lose, however, this weekend marks a watershed: Both programs are playing for the last time as members of the ACC, the premier conference in the sport. Next year they will join the Big Ten — a storied league but one that will sponsor lacrosse for the first time beginning next season.

The ACC’s preeminence is made clear by one look at the bracket: Among the men, Maryland and Notre Dame, who will play each other in a semifinal at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday, join Duke as three ACC teams among the four left. On the women’s side, should Maryland win its semifinal Friday at 7:30 p.m., it would advance to an all-ACC national championship against the winner of the Virginia-Syracuse matchup.

That semifinal, however, is against Big Ten member Northwestern, an unlikely future rival in geographic terms but a natural match in competitive stature. The Terrapins boast a record 30 NCAA tournament appearances and 10 national championships in the women’s game. Northwestern, meanwhile, is in the Final Four for the 10th consecutive season, seven of which have ended with a national title — all under Coach Kelly Amonte Hiller, a member of the U.S. Lacrosse Hall of Fame on the strength of her achievements as a player at Maryland.

Though most Big Ten schools have little pedigree in lacrosse, the Terrapins could be a vanguard for elite and deep-pocketed athletic programs like Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State to try to match Maryland’s success.

But there is also the reality that the move has at least temporarily upset Maryland’s relationship with some of its longtime ACC rivals and fellow lacrosse powers, particularly among the men’s programs.

In a phone interview this week, Virginia men’s Coach Dom Starsia said he will not schedule Maryland in 2015. The Terrapins and Cavaliers first played in 1926 and have played every year since 1949. Two people in the lacrosse community said it is unlikely Duke will schedule Maryland in the near future.

Though North Carolina men’s Coach Joe Breschi said he expects to play Maryland next year barring any last-minute schedule changes, it’s unclear whether the newest ACC members, Notre Dame and Syracuse, will be interested or able to continue to play Maryland. A person familiar with lacrosse scheduling said Syracuse is considering resuming its long-standing rivalry with Army on the late-February weekend it played Maryland this year, though he added he wasn’t sure whether Maryland and Syracuse would play on another weekend.

Part of the problem is the Big Ten’s edict that its conference lacrosse teams — Maryland, Michigan, Ohio State, Penn State and Rutgers for both men and women, plus Johns Hopkins in men’s and Northwestern in women’s — keep their final six weekends reserved for conference play.

The Maryland-Virginia men’s game fell in that time period. Next season, Starsia said he will play Richmond on the weekend previously reserved for the Terrapins. Virginia and Richmond played in early February this past season.

“It’s not a long-term philosophical decision,” Starsia said. “We think Richmond is a natural rivalry that we’d like to play, and we were ready to move that game. . . . John and I will certainly keep talking. There’s no reason not to do that.”

Meanwhile, the Maryland women’s team is expected to keep several of its ACC opponents for next year but lose a couple, according to Reese.

“We’ll have a few [ACC teams on the schedule]. A couple have decided they’re not going to play us, but we’re trying to keep a lot of our matchups,” Reese said. “They’ve been great games for us.”

A person familiar with ACC scheduling defended schools’ right not to play Maryland anytime soon.

“The league schools were disappointed in the decision [for Maryland to leave] but more than the actual decision was the way it went down,” said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the source was not authorized to speak publicly for the ACC. “More of them were turned off by how it happened. . . . That might change in a couple years if there’s a change in leadership or feelings.”

Regardless of next year’s schedules and the list of other challenges and changes, this weekend remains. The Maryland men last won the NCAA title in 1975. The women, perennially close, have not won since 2010.

Maryland is expecting a strong turnout of fans at both venues, especially given the reception the Maryland men received in beating Duke, 9-4, in a semifinal at M&T Bank Stadium in 2011.

“Those are probably moments and experiences I will take for the rest of my life,” said Maryland senior Michael Ehrhardt, a starting long-stick defender who played on the 2011 team. “Running out behind the [Maryland state flag] as a freshman, the home crowd in Baltimore, the whole stadium erupted. We’re really looking forward to having our home crowd behind us on Saturday.”

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