Last year, in its inaugural season, the professional box lacrosse league was basically a gimmick. Remember the television advertisements? "It makes Sunday football look like a cabbage patch picnic."

This year, the league has settled down. It has a new name (the Major Indoor Lacrosse League), a commissioner, an expanded schedule and realistic hopes for increased attendance. This year's motto? "The MILL . . . making contact with the future."

For now, it seems indoor lacrosse may, indeed, have a future. Washington's entry in the four-team league, the Wave, opens its season at 1 p.m. today at Capital Centre against the Philadelphia Wings.

The Wave won only two of six regular season games last year, but upset Philadelphia in the first round of the playoffs to advance to the championship game. The Baltimore Thunder won the title with an 11-10 victory at Capital Centre.

"We're ready to go. I'm really excited," said Wave Coach Glen Little, who was a goalkeeper last year. "I think this is going to be a very exciting team to watch. . . . We were the slowest team in the league last season, but now we're twice as fast."

Matching Little's high aspirations for his team, the outlook for the league appears to be bright. Despite a snowstorm Sunday, 7,106 fans watched the New Jersey Saints defeat Baltimore, 16-10, in the league opener at the Meadowlands.

In 15 games last season, the league drew an average of 8,302, with a high of 14,903 at the Philadelphia Spectrum. The Wave drew 7,983 a game last winter. Little estimates 8,000-10,000 is needed for the MILL to survive another season.

The schedule has been expanded from six to eight games per team and the league is getting more media coverage. The Wave's games will be carried on WBEY-FM (103.1) and WCPT-AM (730), and some away games will be shown on tape delay by Channel 50.

As for the players, rookie Jim Beardmore and veteran Tim Hastings will split goalkeeping duties. Beardmore was an all-America at the University of Maryland last year and Hastings is a former Towson State standout. Last year's starter, Bruce Winand, is out indefinitely with hepatitis.

Former Maryland star John Lamon will quarterback the team. He had seven goals and 14 assists last year. Brad Kotz, who was the Wave's leading goal scorer with 10 in only three games last year, moved to Philadelphia and is on the Wings' roster.