It is nearly impossible to decipher whether the University of Maryland's lacrosse team has just won or lost by the postgame expression on Coach Buddy Beardmore's face. The only sure interpretation is how well the Terrapins played.

Even in the case of an easy Maryland victory, Beardmore often open his comments by listing what the Terps could have done to make it easier.

Is Beardmore a whip-cracking, impossible-to-please tyrant?

Far from it. Instead, the Terrapin mentor personifies the end product of his own evolution through state-of-the-art lacrosse, both as a player and coach. Beardmore has been to the top, liked it there and intends to return.

"The players don't always see eye-to-eye with him," Terp goalie Bryant Waters said, "but they respect him because he's been No. 1 before. So have some of us, but he's gotten there more time than we have."

On Saturday, Maryland will try to climb that final step for the third time in Beardmore's 10-year reign when they face top-ranked Johns Hopkins for the national championship at Maryland's Bryd Stadium (2 p.m.)

The Terps are out to avenge a 13-12 regular-season setback to the Blue Jays-Maryland's only blot in 11 games.

Beardmore's teams have complied a 102-25 mark and have appeared in the NCAA championship game six of nine times, including this year.

Before returning to his alma mater in 1970, Beardmore coached Hobart College to small-college lacrosse prominence and led Virginia to the Atlantic Coast Conference championship in his second and last season in Charlottesville.

As a collegian, Beardmore was an All-America midfielder three times. He tried Maryland's career record of 108 points until four-time All-America Frank Urso broke it in 1975.

Beardmre, who wanted to coach since his high school days in Annapolis, took over at Maryland just when the sport was beginning to gain national recognition. Recruitment pressures were increasing, as were expectations for the traditionally good college teams to remain so.

"The alumi and the athletic director wanted winners," Beardmore said. "They gave us their total support. As years went by, added values were put on recruiting. There were and still are times when I got completely exhausted.

"But I feel fortunate to be doing what I enjoy. The only real pressure is what I put on myself. We were able to put together a good program that, I think, sells itself."

The players are sold on the idea that they are the best. That made the loss to Hopkins, their arch rival, extremely difficult to swallow.

"That was a very tough loss for the team," Beardmore said. "I really thought we could beat them, but things didn't bounce our way. As far as we were concerned, the closeness of the game didn't count. We worked hard and came close, but we weren't playing horseshoes."

Beardmore said he does not believe in the Vince Lombardi philosophy of yelling and screaming at his players during a game, no matter what the circumstances.

"I save that for lackluster practices," Beardmore said. "During a game you want to calmly assist them to do what they know they ought to. They've been through pressure games before. I have honestly been on the borderline between blowing my stack or controlling my temper. I have always chosen the latter, and it's proved out pretty well."

"He points out team responsibilities on the field, making people aware of what their jobs are," Waters said.

"He spends a lot of long hours trying to improve us. We respect him enough to respond." CAPTION: Picture, Buddy Beardmore