So far, the USILA and the NCAA selection committee have had this season pegged.
In order, the USILA preseason coaches' poll voted the top four spots to Syracuse, Princeton, North Carolina and Johns Hopkins. By mid-April, the pecking order was North Carolina, Princeton, Syracuse and Hopkins, and that's the way the NCAA saw it when it handed out seeds and awarded the four first-round byes two weeks ago.
For the third time since the tournament expanded to 12 teams in 1986, the top four seeds successfully parlayed the home-field advantage into quarterfinal victories, as only Hopkins had a tough time Saturday.
In addition to the establishment, revenge will be one of the themes for the Final Four at Maryland's Byrd Stadium. Saturday's semifinals (1 and 4 p.m., approximately) pit top-ranked North Carolina (13-1) against Hopkins (11-3), whom the Tar Heels beat, 14-9, on April 3. The second semifinal sends No. 2 Princeton (13-1) against Syracuse (10-2), and the Orangemen still argue that the Tigers' overtime victory in last year's championship was a fluke.
The winners remain in College Park for the NCAA title game a week from today at 12 noon. The Division III championship between Ohio Wesleyan and Hobart, which defeated Nazareth, 20-16 yesterday, will be Sunday at 3 p.m. at Byrd Stadium.
Hopkins, Syracuse and North Carolina took turns atop Division I from 1978-91, and Princeton is determined to prove that that gang of three is now the Big Four. The Tigers had never made the tournament before 1990. Hopkins, meanwhile, will be making its 18th trip to the Final Four in 22 years; Syracuse is there for the 11th straight time, and North Carolina is in the semifinals for the 12th time in 14 seasons.
The Tar Heels have beaten everyone left while the Blue Jays' three losses were to the other semifinalists, but in late May coaches put little credence in past performance.
As expected, the Nos. 4-5 matchup provided the closest quarterfinal, as Hopkins needed a 7-0 run in the fourth quarter to repel Virginia, 14-10. The Blue Jays got a superb game from their defense, but the other three Final Four teams allowed fewer goals in runaway wins.
North Carolina pulled away from Army for a 14-5 victory; Princeton raced to a 7-0 halftime lead and pounded Loyola, 12-6; and Syracuse had a 12-2 halftime lead on Hofstra in its 20-8 win.
What: NCAA men's lacrosse championships
Site: Byrd Stadium, College Park
Saturday: Division I semifinals: No. 4 Johns Hopkins (11-3) vs.
No. 1 North Carolina (13-1), 1 p.m.
No. 3 Syracuse (10-2) vs.
No. 2 Princeton (13-1), 4 p.m.
Sunday: Division III final: Ohio Wesleyan (12-1) vs. Hobart (10-3), 3 p.m.
Monday: Division I final: noon
Tickets: Can be purchased in advance for all three days, $30 reserved and $25 general admission, plus $10 for pre-paid parking. Individual game tickets go on sale Saturday, at $15 for Saturday's games, $7 for Sunday and $12 for Monday. Call (301) 314-7070 or (800) 462-8377.