John Hopkins against the University of Virginia at Cornell at 2 p.m. That sounds like an NCAA debating team match, but it's not. It's a meeting of the two best college lacrosse teams in America.

Last November, the Hopkins basketball team was invited to Virginia to be patsies while the Cavaliers showcased 7-foot-4 freshman Ralph Sampson. Now, there are no patsies. The Cavs will be playing more than a lacrosse team today. They'll be playing a mystique.

"Hopkins definitely has a mystique to a lot of people around the country," Virginia senior defenseman Tony Savarese said. "If we do the things we're supposed to, we'll win."

In the first meeting between the two teams this season, Virginia dominated, 12-9. The Cavs outshot, outhit, outgroundballed and outdefensed Hopkins.

No one expects a repeat. Most can't imagine Hopkins losing to the same lacrosse team twice in one season.

"Oh, I'm sure it could happen," said Cav Coach Jim Adams. "We really enjoy playing Hopkins and we are just delighted to be going to Ithaca. We will just see what happens from there."

The Cavs haven't had the easiest road to Ithaca. They won in the first and second round of the tournament in overtime.

"We could have been beaten by either of those two teams (Cornell or North Carolina)," Adams said. "But I'm not worried about the close games. I'm just thankful we won them. Cornell played their best game of the season against us an we weren't quite up to our best but we still came back to beat them. We lost to North Carolina early in the year, and beat them in the tourney. That's how the tourney is set up, to make up for lapses during the season."

The Cavs are basically healthy except for high-scoring attacker Bato Pellington, who has been injured much of the time since Virginia beat Maryland April 12.

The Cavs offense still has freshman sensation Mike Caravana and faceoff master Kevin Corrigan. But it's defense that wins for Virginia. Goaltenders Joe Bottner and Bryan Gregory are the keys.

"There's nothing better to see that if you make a mistake on defense, the guy behind you makes the save," Savarese said. "I've owed the goalies a lot of beers this year."

Hopkins has serious injury problems, Jeff Cooke (back) and Ned Radebaugh (mononucleosis) are out and Wayne Davis (shoulder) might be.

Hopkins beat Harvard and Syracuse on its way to Ithaca. Coach Henry Ciccarone hopes the midseason loss to Virginia will help his squad. "We have some injuries but we're ready and our loss to them earlier makes us even more ready," Ciccarone said.