Maryland lacrosse coach Bud Boardmore has the same funny feeling in his stomach about this time every year. The ailment: John Hopkins Sickness.
The cure is readily available.The gueasines will go away as soon as the Maryland-Hopkins game ends today, if the Terrapins have won.
Beardmore has had a contented stomach after eight of the 13 games in which he has either played or coached against Hopkins. And his club is the pick to make it nine of 14 going into the 2 p.m. faceoff at Byrd Stadium.
"It never changes," Beardmore said. "This was always the game that decided everything before we had the NCAA tournament. But even with the tournament, the pressure is still there and the adrenalin is always flowing.
"You prepare for Hopkins the same as everyone but maybe the players are a bit more intent and alert. It's just a feeling everyone gets."
Hopkins-Maryland is the showcase game of college lacrosse. It traditionally attracts a sellout crowd of 8,000 or more to Hopkins' Homewood Field, and Byrd Stadium gatherings have gone as high as 18,000 for the contest. Some 12,000 could show up for this one if the weather is decent.
For the curious, this is the contest they should attend if they want to see lacrosse at its best. "All we hope is that the would-be fan gives this one a chance," said Beardmore. "Once he shows up, we think a Hopkins-Maryland game will hook them on lacrosse. Everything that is exciting about the sport should be displayed."
Maryland is undefeated but still untested. It has not had to play either No. 1 Cornell or No. 3 Hopkins, which lost by just a goal to the Redmen in Ithaca. So no one is sure how good the Terrapins are, including Beardmore.
"We are progressing, just like a team should," he said. "We aren't young anymore like we were at the beginning of the season. but we are young for this game, until these young men go through one Hopkins game, they haven't gone through a real season."
At times, the Terrapins have been as explosive as any of Beardmore's last four clubs, two of which won national titles and two of which finished second. But at times, they've been sluggish and careless, characteristics that produced overtime squeakers over UMBC (13-12) and Washington and Lee (17-15).
Yet no team in lacrosse has the midfield depth Beardmore can field. He will use as many as 14 midfielders - most teams are fortunate to have nine - and rarely experience any dropoff in performance.
And the Terrapins' best moments are in the future. Four of Beardmore's top six scorers are freshmen and another is a sophomore. Only Mike Hynes, a senior attackman, has interrupted this youth parade with his team-best 47 points. But he's had plenty of help from two freshmen, attackman Bob Boneillo (35 points) and midfielder Pete Worstell (team-high 22 goals).
"We're becoming more consistent," said Beardmore, "but we'll never completely get rid of our lapses. We are a run-and-gun team and when you play like that, you'll make mistakes. But if the other guy makes mistakes, we'll take advantage of it."
Maryland has scored an amazing 24 goals within 23 seconds of a faceoff this year, although the Terrapins have not played an opponent with the midfield quickness of Hopkins, which has the potential to put an end to such Maryland antics.
This is a different Hopkins team. It relies less on its attack for scoring and, instead, has showed improved balance. And its midfield depth is probably the best in the school's rich lacrosse history. But in presume moments, Hopkins still can go to such talented attackmen as David Huntley (22 goals) and Mike O'Neill (19 goals).
The game has added significance. Although both teams long ago clinched spots in the NCAA tournament, the winner can earn at least a No. 2 seeding, which would carry with it the home-field advantage for both quarterfinal and semifinal playoff games.