Championship rematch on slate
Also: Elite compete at Mary Nutter Classic; ’Cuse streak on line
Attention all lacrosse fans -- clear your calendars on Saturday at 1:30 p.m. You have a big game to watch.
Defending NCAA champion Loyola (Md.) will play host to Maryland in a rematch of last year’s national title game, which will be televised nationally on NBC Sports Network.
This one will be tough to resist even for lacrosse newbies, because it just doesn’t get any better than No. 1 vs. No. 1. No, that’s not a typo. The Greyhounds currently hold the top spot in the Inside Lacrosse media poll, while the Terrapins snuck into the No. 1 spot in the USILA coaches’ poll on Monday.
An added bonus for fans, this is a series that is not contested very often in the regular season. In fact, this will be the first regular-season meeting between the pair of instate schools since 1989. And it wasn’t easy getting the match-up on the schedule.
“Coach [John] Tillman and I are very close friends and run camps together,” Loyola head coach Charley Toomey said. “I’ve been talking about this to him since he became the head coach [at Maryland three years ago]. They play such a tough schedule in the ACC, and we feel like we play a very competitive schedule in the ECAC.
"We really believe this is a great game for both programs, and the state. The only way we could figure it out was to play early in the season. I think we would both prefer to play this game in March or April, but our schedules just didn’t work out this way.”
|MARYLAND VS. LOYOLA (MD.) (SATURDAY)|
|USILA rank||No. 1||No. 2|
|Inside Lacrosse rank||No. 2||No. 1|
|NCAA title-game appearances since '90||5||2|
|Note: Maryland leads all-time head-to-head 19-2|
|Related: Loyola (Md.) beats Maryland 9-3 to capture first national championship|
The programs have met 21 times with Maryland leading the series 19-2, and all but three of those contests were played 1959 or before. And, the series may not even continue due to Maryland’s impending conference move.
“Unfortunately, it might be a one-year deal because of them moving to the Big Ten,” Toomey said. “We’re going to try to continue to play the game, but have some things to figure out. In the meantime, it’s a RPI game … a strength-of-schedule game … that can benefit both of our programs come May.”
While both teams return eight of 10 starters, along with their starting goalies from last season, and are 2-0 entering the contest, this game will likely be a bit different than a postseason meeting.
“It’s just such an early season game that both teams are still trying to find their identity,” Toomey said. “It’s very different than playing a game in late April. We have to worry about Loyola and what we do well, and continue to fix some things.”
Loyola began its title defense with a 9-8 win against Delaware on Feb. 16, but needed a game-winning goal from Chris Layne with 4.4 seconds left in regulation to escape with a victory. On Wednesday, the Greyhounds followed it up with a 14-9 defeat of Towson.
“I think the guys now understand they are going to get everybody’s best shot every weekend,” Toomey said. “It’s learning to be the hunted, rather than the hunter. We’re going to go out and embrace this role.”
Loyola defeated Maryland 9-3 to win the program’s first NCAA Championship last season. The Greyhounds set a title-game record by allowing just three goals in the contest.
• The No. 5 Duke women’s basketball team will face two of its toughest tests this weekend, hosting No. 19 Florida State on Friday, and then traveling to No. 8 Maryland for a Sunday contest. Both the Seminoles and the Terrapins will be looking to knock Duke off its undefeated pedestal in the Atlantic Coast Conference standings.
The Blue Devils will have to fend off their two foes without junior point guard Chelsea Gray, who suffered a season-ending knee injury last Sunday against Wake Forest. Gray was averaging 13.1 points, 5.6 assists, 5.4 rebounds and 3.7 steals per game, and was leading the conference in both assists and steals. While Duke is the lone unbeaten in ACC play with four regular season games remaining, the Blue Devils will have to play the next four teams in the standings during the next two weeks. After fourth-place FSU and second-place Maryland, Duke heads to fifth-place Miami (Fla.) and third-place North Carolina to conclude the regular season. Sunday’s game against Maryland will be broadcast live on ESPN2 at 3 p.m.
• A critical game in the Mountain West Conference men’s basketball standings will be featured on Saturday as No. 16 New Mexico travels to No. 23 Colorado State in a battle between the first and second-place teams in the league. New Mexico has reached the 20-win mark for the sixth consecutive season, and owns a 9-2 mark in conference action. Colorado State, which dropped a two-point contest at UNLV on Wednesday, has recorded back-to-back 20-win seasons for the first time since 1996-97 and 1997-98. The Rams have won a school-record 27 consecutive games at Moby Arena, which is the nation’s third-longest active home win streak behind Syracuse and South Dakota. The game will air nationally on NBC Sports Network at 4 p.m.
• Speaking of home winning streaks, No. 8 Syracuse will put its’ 38-game home winning stretch on the line when the Orange hosts No. 11 Georgetown on Saturday in a sold-out Carrier Dome. The game will also be key in the hunt for the regular season league title. The Orange and Hoyas are knotted in a three-way tie with No. 17 Marquette for first place in the Big East Conference. Georgetown enters the contest on a winning streak of its’ own – eight in a row, which includes three wins against top-25 teams. The game will be broadcast live on CBS at 4 p.m.
• After stunning cross-town rival San Diego in the season-opening weekend with a sweep of the then-No. 20 Toreros, San Diego State earned some recognition for the feat with a No. 22 ranking in the Collegiate Baseball poll. The Aztecs will look to move up the ladder when they open their home schedule against No. 6 Oregon State for a three-game series beginning Thursday. The Beavers also started the season with a flawless record, winning in extra innings against UC Riverside on Monday. OSU is 4-0 for the first time since 2007.
• Some of the nation’s top Division I track and field teams will be showcased at the 2013 Southeastern Indoor Track and Field Championships beginning Friday at the Randal Tyson Track Center at Arkansas. The SEC boasts the nation’s No. 1 teams in both men’s and women’s entering the weekend with Arkansas and LSU, respectively. The championship meet will feature 11 ranked teams between the men and women.
Highlighting the meet on the women’s side will be LSU’s Jamin Stowers, who will be seeking her third consecutive SEC title in the 60-meter hurdles. She would be the first person to accomplish the feat since LSU’s Lolo Jones achieve three in a row in 2002-04. On the men’s side, Ole Miss jumper Ricky Robertson is vying for his fourth consecutive SEC indoor high jump championship. He would become just the second person in SEC history to accomplish the feat, joining Arkansas’ Kenny Evans, who won four in a row from 1998-2001. Robertson currently is the SEC leader in the men’s high jump with a leap of 2.29m/7-6.
• The Concordia (Minn.) women’s basketball team broke in to the latest national WBCA Division II poll at No. 24 after winning 16 of its last 17 games following a 3-4 start to the season. The Golden Bears have won 11 consecutive games heading into the final weekend of the year, and need just one win (or a Minnesota State-Mankato loss) to clinch the Northern Sun Intercollegiate overall and South Division titles. Concordia has already earned home court throughout the first two rounds of the 16-team NSIC Tournament. The Golden Bears close out the regular season by hosting Southwest Minnesota State and Sioux Falls on Friday and Saturday, respectively.
• The No. 1 Metro State men’s basketball team continues to hold on to the No. 1 spot in the Division II rankings, but the Roadrunners will be challenged on Friday when they visit No. 17 Fort Lewis for a Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference showdown. It will be the first time in FLC program history that the Skyhawks will host a No. 1 team. Metro State (22-0) is one of just two unbeaten teams in Division II men’s basketball, joining defending NCAA champion and second-ranked Western Washington (24-0).
• The No. 17 Merrimack men’s hockey team has put together a 7-1-2 record in its last 10 games and currently sits on top of the Hockey East standings with six regular season games remaining. The Warriors will host No. 4 Boston College on Sunday in a critical league game as the Eagles look to gain ground in the standings. The Warriors are 4-0-1 in February and have won five consecutive games at Lawler Arena. Merrimack junior goalie Sam Marotta leads the Hockey East in goals against average (2.01) and save percentage (.931), and has posted a 1.16 GAA and .963 save percentage in his last five starts, including a 2-1 overtime win against Boston College on Feb. 15.
• The No. 2 Boston College women’s hockey team will be attempting to set a school record for wins in a season as the Eagles (24-5-2) play Vermont in a two-game series to wrap up the regular season. The Eagles have already broken the mark for most goals in a season with five in their 5-2 victory against Providence on Tuesday. The total now stands at 146.
Boston College is currently tied for first place in the Hockey East standings with No. 4 Boston University as the two schools have identical records and point totals. The Terriers will play a home-and-home series against Connecticut to compete their regular season schedule this weekend. BU’s 6-0 win against New Hampshire on Wednesday improved the Terriers’ Hockey East winning streak to 13 games. BU also eclipsed the program record for league wins in a season (16) with the UNH victory.
• No. 5 UCLA looks to bounce back from last weekend’s loss to Oregon State as the Bruins remain on the road to face No. 2 Oklahoma on Friday. The meet is the second of three consecutive away meets against top-15 teams for the Bruins. UCLA’s Vanessa Zamarripa is the nation’s top all-around with a 39.595 average, and ranks No. 1 on the floor exercise with a 9.930 mark. Oklahoma is one of just two unbeaten teams in the nation, and has scored a 197-plus in five consecutive meets. Three Sooner gymnasts rank in the top 25 in the all-around - No. 4 Taylor Spears (39.446), No. 9 Erica Brewer (39.375) and No. 22 Brie Olson (39.242). Friday's meet will be televised live on Fox Sports Southwest and Fox College Sports Central at 8 p.m.
• The No. 2 Gustavus Adolphus women’s hockey team looks to conclude its regular season with an undefeated record when the Gusties square off with Saint Benedict on Friday and Saturday for their final Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference series of the year. The Gusties are 22-0-1 entering the weekend. No. 1 Plattsburgh State (23-0-2) has already posted an unbeaten record in the regular season, and received a first-round bye in the ECAC West Tournament. The Cardinals will host the championship on March 2-3 in their bid to remain flawless.
• The No. 2 California men’s swimming and diving team will finish off the regular season with a perfect dual meet record when the Golden Bears host rival Stanford on Saturday in the Big Meet at Spieker Aquatics Complex at 4 p.m. Cal is looking to defeat the No. 9 Cardinal for the first time since 2005. Last season, Cal fell at Stanford 146.5-96.5, but went on to win the NCAA title, while the Cardinal finished in third place.
• Thirteen of the top 25 Division I softball teams in the nation will converge upon Big League Dreams Park in Cathedral City, Calif., for the 10th annual Mary Nutter Collegiate Classic beginning Thursday. No. 2 Oklahoma, No. 4 Tennessee, No. 5 Florida, No. 7 Missouri and No. 8 California headline the 35-team tournament, in which 84 games will be played on five fields in four days.
Formerly the Cathedral City Classic, the tournament was renamed in honor of Mary Nutter, a member of the NFCA Hall of Fame, who died unexpectedly last June. She was a former coach at Pittsburg State, and a leader in softball education.
• Albright freshman Kelecia Harris is the current field goal percentage leader in Division III women’s basketball with a 59.6 mark. She finished her rookie season with a stellar 22 points on 11 of 13 shooting in Albright’s loss to Elizabethtown on Feb. 16 as the Lions ended their season with an 11-14 record. And while that may not seem out of the ordinary, if Harris remains the field goal percentage leader, it will be the lowest mark to lead the statistical category since Division III women’s basketball started in 1982. That season, UNC Greensboro’s Michele Blazevich compiled a 59.8 percentage, and the annual statistical champion has never been below 60 percent since that year.
• One of the most heated Division III rivalries will be on display on Friday as No. 17 Wooster hosts Wittenburg in the North Coast Athletic Conference Tournament semifinals. While the two teams have faced each other 11 times in the NCAC finals since Wittenburg joined the conference in 1989-90, the rivals of the “Witt-Woo” have never tangled in a semifinal match. One of the two teams has won the NCAC Tournament all but three times in the past 23 years. Wooster has won eight titles, including the last four.
Follow Amy Farnum on Twitter: @NCAA_Amy