If there ever was a time for Washington & Lee to register its first lacrosse victory over Maryland, today is that day.

W&L has elbowed its way into the lacrosse spotlight the past few seasons by handling the other members of the sport's Old Guard: Navy, Johns Hopkins and Virginia. But the Generals have not been able to keep pace with Maryland, an oversight that has knocked them out of two NCAA Tournaments.

But those Maryland teams were not coming off a defeat quite like the one the Terrapins were dealt Saturday against Johns Hopkins. That 21-20 loss unraveled a lot of confident egos at College Park, and it will be coach Bud Beardmore's job to do some quick patching before W&L completes the destruction.

This 3 p.m. confrontation at Byd. Stadium - one of three first-round tournament games scheduled today - is a rematch of an exciting overtime contest at W&L two weeks ago.

W&L had a great chance to take that game in regulation. The Generals led, 7.3, at the half, and were still four goals ahead entering the fourth period. But Maryland rallied and went in front before a W&L goal with 70 seconds to go forced the overtime. The Terrapins dominated the extra periods to win, 17-15.

"We made a lot of turnovers," said Beardmore. "They didn't do anything special to hurt us. Our own mistakes were our worst enemy. But they played smart. They didn't get into a run-and-shoot contest with us and they caught us on some well-executed plays.

"I'm really glad that we have a game against a team like W&L instead of against someone we had beaten badly earlier in the season. Our players realize that this one isn't going to be easy and that will keep them alert.

Another incentive for the Terrapina is the reward they will most likely get for winning today: a rematch with Hopkins Saturday. The Blue Jays first have to beat North Carolina in Baltimore at 4 p.m. today, but they should have little problem against the Tar Heels.

Beardmore wanted no part of any Hopkins rematch talk yesterday. "Please, I'm trying to concentrate on W&L," he said. But he admitted being concerned over where the thoughts of his team are this week.

"We can't be looking ahead," said Beardmore, whose team had won 20 straight regular-season games before Saturday. "I know that is a cliche but I really think it applies to our situation W&L is no pushover; we can't take them lightly, figuring a rematch with-Hopkin is locked up.

So far, I've been encouraged by now these young men have responded. [WORD ILLEGIBLE] attackman Chris Kearney, who stands 60foot-5, and another sophomore, Jeff Fritz, combine with midfielder Jack Dudley to provide offensive punch.

Thi could be the most interesting of the fist seven NCAA lacrosse tournaments. The top three teams, Maryland, Hopkins and undefeated Cornell, are so closely matched that a real favorite has yet to emerge.

Cornell, which hosts Massachusetts at 5:15 p.m. today, has beaten both Hopkins and No. 4 Penn. But the triumph over Hopkins was by only a goal on tre Reds' home field, and there is little apparent difference between Maryland and Hopkins off their game Saturday.

Maryland's major problem entering the playoffs is consistency. The Terrapins have quickness and depth but they are arratic, a reflection of the young players Beardmore fields. Maryland is capable of explosions followed by droughts in which they resort to in effective one-on-one tactics.

"We know we are a better team than we showed at times against Hopkins," said Beardmore. "There are some things we are going to have to iron our. But I haven't lose confidence in what this club can do."

They seem determined to salvage this season. We don't lose very much and you never know how they are going to take it."

W&L features one of the games best goalies, Charlie Brown, and a unique defenseman. Tom Kiegler, who has the mobility of a midfielder. Cre-