The outstanding caliber of play in the finals of the 11th annual Potomac Memorial soccer tournament was overshadowed yesterday by scheduling complications caused by the weekend's inclement weather.

With many fields closed because of the rain, games backed up, and in most division co-champions or tri-champions were named.

This left coaches and players in the three-day tournament that drew 235 teams from 14 states and Canada with an unfulfilled feeling.

"This is one of the best tournaments in the country," said All-Met Steve Sietsema, whose Potomac Mustangs lost, 2-0, to the Ohio Jets in the 19-and-under division final. "There are lots of good teams here, it just didn't seem right not having a champion."

Because of the rearranged championship format, there was talk that the highly regarded Union (N.J.) Lancers wouldn't compete yesterday. But they agreed to play and handily beat the Olney Tigers, 6-0.

"What we really wanted to do was continue playing in the original format of the tournament," said Union Coach Walter Meier. "This way we really wouldn't have a co-champion and we could all participate and have one champion. However, due to the weather conditions delaying the scheduling of the games, it just wasn't permissible to do it in today's schedule."

But Meier said he didn't think the games should have been called off en masse because of weather.

Bethesda Alliance Coach Graham Ramsay concurred: "I think every field needed individual attention. They made a blanket decision about every field in Montgomery County. One field can drain well and another field can become like the Potomac River, you just don't know. I think they probably could have let the field marshals make their own decisions about each set of fields."

Tournament director Jerry Langdon said the decision was made with the safety of the players given first consideration.

"It was a tough call," said Langdon, who noted that the Springfield Spirit and Fairfax Express refused to play the girls 19-and-under final because of field conditions at Quince Orchard High School.

"The main thing is the safety thing. I don't want kids to get hurt. The only way {to get in championship games} was to play until 9. Most teams wanted to be leaving in the middle of the afternoon with eight- to ten-hour drives home."

An illustration of Langdon's point occurred in the girls 13-and-under division. The Spirit of Massachusetts forfeited its 1:30 game with the Prince William Spice because it needed to start its 10-hour drive home. Under normal scheduling, the game would have been played at 10 a.m. The forfeit gave Prince William a one-point edge over the Bethesda Comets in the round-robin format.

Langdon said he didn't think any team officials were upset enough to not return next year.

He and Ramsay also said the scheduling difficulties would not taint the credibility of the tournament.

"Everyone got in three to four games anyway," Langdon said. "And the competition was such that they couldn't find it {in tournaments} anywhere else anyway."

The competition is "always good," Ramsay said. "That's why the better teams on the East Coast come here. They're all trying to get primed for the regional competitions and this is probably the best place to get primed for it. This is the ideal place to come."

Especially when the weather cooperates.