The game is called the same - college lacrosse. But the women's version hardly resembles the men's. Pads and helmets are banned and so is bodychecking. The player must keep both hands on the stick at all times. It is a finesse game.

Nationally, the sport is big on the East Coast, growing fast on the West Coast and barely in the incubation stages in the heartland. But the AIAW will hold its first national-championship tournament this year, May 26-29 at Madison College.

As in women's basketball, the early powers in the game are small schools. Ursinus and West Chester are the Immaculata and Delta State of women's lacrosse. Philadelphia has been the hotbed of the sport because both the prep schools and public schools there play it.

But Maryland, as is the case in AIAW basketball, has the money and its coach believes that the Terps should be the national power in the sport within two years.

Suzanne Tyler's reasoning is sound. Neither Ursinus nor West Chester give scholarships. Under Title 9, Maryland gave seven scholarships in women's lacrosse this year and will grant 12 next season. All that Ursinus and West Chester will have going for it is tradition.

Maryland should be among the top 10 this season, although Ursinus and West Chester are still clearly the class. Maryland lost three games last season, including a two-goal loss to Ursinus and a four-goal decision to West Chester.

The Terps have their entire defense returning, including sophomore goal-tender Denise Westcott. They lost two strong attackers, but gained a top transfer in Lisa Pierce, from Frostburg State. Under AIAW rules, she is eligible immediately. Other top Terps are Karen Knapp and Susan Brown.

Other top teams in this region include Virginia, William and Mary and Madison.

Eight teams will qualify for the AIAW tournament. They will be picked on both record and geographic location, which means some of the eight best teams might not get there.