Although Maryland lacrosse Coach Dick Edell regards polls as "purely a publicity gimmick," he can't help but think Maryland's No. 1 ranking this week proves he knows what he's doing.
Last Saturday's 10-9 victory over then-No. 1 North Carolina helped convince the 15 coaches who vote in the weekly poll to move the Terrapins from No. 5 to the top spot for the first time since 1976. A come-from-behind victory, a sophomore-dominated team and a 6-0 record lead many Maryland fans to believe a return to the glory days of 1973-76, when the team won two national championships and was runner-up twice, is possible.
Understandably, Edell is reluctant to make any predictions.
"A lot of my comments on what kind of team I have will have to do with how we practice and play this week," he said. "To have a great win and to be placed publicity-wise on the top of the heap is a tough thing for a young team to handle. If we allow them to sit back and get fat over this, then what can be a great season might be affected."
This week is important to Edell because Virginia visits Byrd Stadium Sunday. Last year, Maryland upset North Carolina, only to lose to Virginia, 15-9, in the next game. Virginia has beaten Maryland in each regular-season game since 1978.
"We certainly can't look back on last year's preparations as any kind of step-by-step plan for winning this year," said Edell.
Virginia lost by one goal to Johns Hopkins Saturday and is 3-2. Edell said: "Everyone says Virginia is having a tough season, but losing to Hopkins by one goal was probably their best showing in 10 years against Hopkins, and their other loss to UMBC came on a day and a field that wasn't fit for a game."
Maryland awards game balls to the star players in each victory. For the North Carolina game Edell handed out six. "It was an expensive victory in that regard," said Edell. "But I don't think our athletic director, Dick Dull, minds too much."
Dull is pleased with the team's performance under Edell.
"Dick Edell has got things going quicker than I thought he would," said Dull, who hired Edell from Army three seasons ago to straighten out a program known for lack of discipline. "I don't want to criticize any former coaches or players but, whether or not it was actually so, that was our reputation."
During his seven years at Army, Edell took the team to the playoffs four times and went 66-24 while establishing a reputation as a disciplinarian.
This may be the first year that Edell is having much fun with his job. Last year, his first recruits were only freshmen and the Terrapins went 7-5.
Tom Worstell from Manassas is the kind of player Edell has been trying to attract. Like several of his sophomore teammates, Worstell played extensively as a freshman. Against North Carolina, he scored the winning goal with 25 seconds to go.
"Scoring a goal like that is the best thing in the world," Worstell said. "But the North Carolina game is over, it's history, and we've got to think about Virginia."
If the Terrapins can maintain the strong defensive effort led by senior all-America defenseman Dan Tracy and goalies Jim Beardmore and Dennis Sullivan, they may be able to stay near the top. Maryland has six regular-season games left, five against teams among the top 10, including Johns Hopkins and Navy.