Towson State's Randy Ernst said "I couldn't ask for anything more inmy senior year" while his teammate David Shoul said "it was a dream come true."

Salisbury State's Dan Gourley said he had "never experienced anything like it."

All three Carroll County lacrosse players had the opportunity to play in NCAA championships last month.

Two others, University of Maryland's Bob Huggins and Matt Ritter, also were part of the DivisionI Final Four excitement.

Nobody expected Towson, seeded 11th in the tournament, to reach the final but it did -- losing to top-ranked and undefeated North Carolina, 18-13.

"Virginia (who they beat in the first round of the tournament) was the most talented team we played aside from North Carolina," said Shoul, a tri-captain midfielder from Hampstead.

"Once we tackled Virginia, we had a feeling that wewere on our way."

And they were.

After nipping Virginia, 14-13, Towson posted a 14-13 triple-overtime win at Princeton to reach theFinal Four at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse, N.Y.

The semifinal game pitted a rematch with Maryland and it didn't take much to get up for that game, said Liberty grad Ernst, who recently graduated from the Baltimore County university with a degree in economics.

"We werejust happy to be in the Final Four and felt we had a great opportunity to redeem ourselves against Maryland (which beat Towson 17-16 in the regular season)," he said.

They made the most of the opportunity, ousting Maryland, 15-11, to reach the national championship game.

"When I came off the field after losing to Carolina, I thought of all the Division I teams out there and that there were only two who played in this game. It was an unbelievable feeling," said Shoul, who had 12 goals this season.

Both Shoul and Ernst played major roles in Towson's success.

"David Shoul was an offensive player who usually ran the show for us," Towson coach Carl Runk said. "He was an individual who was a great team player and could well have been our unsung hero this season.

"Randy came to us as a transfer with tremendous athletic ability. He began as an offensive midfielder but we felt we could use him more effectively as a defensive player and he adjusted well with no complaints," he added.

Gourley, a junior psychology major, scored a goal in Salisbury's 12-11 loss to Hobart in the Division III final.

"I was just hanging out at the edge of the goal and an attackman put it right on my stick. I was just happy it went in," Gourley said of his goal late in the third quarter that cut the Hobart lead to 8-6.

Gourley began playing lacrosse at Westminster High his sophomore year. Last month's championship game was something he will soon not forget.

"I never experienced anything like it, a big game like that," the midfielder said.

"There are so many thingsinvolved in a game of that magnitude with the crowd hype and all. Itwas tough to stay focused at times, but I just sat back and enjoyed it."

Salisbury finished the year with a 15-1 record, rolling off 15 wins prior to the loss to Hobart. Gourley finished the season with 13 goals and two assists.

Salisbury coach Jim Berkman attributes most of Gourley's success with a summer job he had between his freshman and sophomore years.

"He was a great athlete as a freshman but lacked some lacrosse skills," Berkman said. "He worked at a summer camp in New England after his freshman year and had a stick in his hand all summer. He came back his sophomore year a totally different player."

With three top attackmen graduating this year, Gourley and themidfield are ready to pick up the slack next season.

"The middiesare going to have to step up next year and lead the team. It will definitely be our strong point," he said.

Ritter and Huggins are a pair of Maryland sophomores looking to get right back into the Final Four next season.

After not getting much playing time in his freshman campaign, Ritter came on strong this year, starting most of the season as a defender.

"He came from a great high school program (Calvert Hall) and really paid his dues his freshman year," Maryland coach Dick Edell said.

"He didn't play a lot last year but took advantage of practice time. This year, he started most of the season and was fundamentally sound and played well all year long."

Huggins is hoping to rebound after missing half of this season with nagging injuries.

"It was an up and down year for me. I had a pretty serious groin injury that slowed me up early in the season," he said.

"It was awesome getting this far this year and I would like to see the Final Four a couple more years."

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