Expectations for NCAA runner-up Virginia ran high in the preseason, but the top-ranked Cavaliers have raised those limits.
Virginia, which plays at No. 2 Johns Hopkins tomorrow at 2 p.m., is undefeated after its first five games for the first time in four seasons and last was ranked No. 1 in March 1991. The Cavaliers also have stopped Princeton's 18-game and Syracuse's 23-game home winning streaks.
Besides becoming only the fifth school to defeat Syracuse at the Carrier Dome, the Cavaliers won by eight goals, which is the largest margin of victory by a Syracuse opponent since Cornell's 13-goal win in 1987.
"If you offered me a 5-0 start in any shape or form, I would have taken that," coach Dom Starsia said. "I think we might have snuck up on Syracuse when we came in there. I don't think they thought we were this good. Whatever element of surprise we had, we have lost that advantage now."
Virginia, which won its only national title in 1972, is trying to make a crack in the Syracuse-Hopkins monopoly. With a win over the Blue Jays tomorrow, the Cavaliers can become the first team since Army in 1938-39 to beat Syracuse and Johns Hopkins back-to-back seasons.
"If we want to be among the Hopkinses and the Syracuses as one of the top programs in the country, we have to learn to play in the lead," Starsia said. "A couple of years ago, Syracuse began the season ranked No. 1 and finished No. 1. It's a lot easier to beat No. 1 than be No. 1."
It's also a lot easier for the Cavaliers when their offense gets into the open field. Virginia is averaging 16.6 goals per game and has Tim Whiteley (St. Paul's), one of the top feeders in the nation.
"There is no substitute for speed," Whiteley said. "We have the fastest middies in the nation, and they get the ball up to us in transition. I think Hopkins will try to slow the ball down, putting their middies behind the goal."
5-0 Terps on a roll
No. 4 Maryland attempts to end its longest current losing streak in a series tomorrow when it plays host to No. 8 North Carolina. The Terps have dropped 10 straight and 12 of their past 14 to the Tar Heels.
"When you've got 14 new kids, they don't want to dwell on last week, much less that streak," Maryland coach Dick Edell said. "What's great about this team is that they approach each game like it's their last."
The Terps are looking for their first 6-0 start in eight years.
No. 3 Loyola will try to reverse a similar trend against No. 12 Brown. The Bears have won seven of nine against the Greyhounds, including a 14-3 win in the NCAA tournament quarterfinals last year.
Syracuse coach Roy Simmons Jr. is expected to be on the sidelines when No. 4 Syracuse plays at No. 14 Towson State tomorrow, school officials said yesterday.
Simmons, 59, who was rushed to the hospital before Saturday's 14-13 overtime loss to Johns Hopkins, was released Tuesday after recuperating from pneumonia. The Orangemen (2-2) have lost back-to-back games for the first time since 1982.
Fast start for Lions
Tenth-ranked Penn State is off to its best start in three years and is ranked in the Top 10 for the first time since 1986. The Nittany Lions (4-1), who never have gained an NCAA tournament berth, have only two ranked opponents (Hobart and Delaware) left on their schedule.
Penn State has 11 area players, including two of its top three scorers, Greg Jackson (Broadneck) and Mike O'Keefe (Overlea).
A scholarship fund has been established in memory of Kevin Reichardt, a North Carolina midfielder and St. Mary's High graduate who was killed in a shooting in Chapel Hill, N.C., on Jan. 26. Contributions should be sent to The Kevin E. Reichardt Foundation, P.O. Box 6055, Annapolis, Md., 21401.