What a long, painful trip the 2000 season has been for Johns Hopkins junior midfielderConor Denihan.
In Saturday's critical, 16-12 victory at Loyola - which earned Hopkins a first-round, NCAA tournament bye - Denihan fought through the searing heat that turned Curley Field into a sauna. He also fought through the same left knee pain that has dogged him since the first day of practice.
Before the season, Denihan envisioned another All-America year, with numerous days like the four-goal afternoon he had at Loyola.
But the soreness, stemming from an arthritic knee condition discovered during arthroscopic surgery five months ago, turned his season into a torturous ride. Before the Loyola game, Denihan had managed only nine goals on 62 shots - with five goals coming in a 13-12 loss to Syracuse on March 17. He had been bumped to the second midfield unit at midseason.
He even had considered ending his season early and declaring this a medical redshirt year.
"I had a few emotional meetings with Coach [John] Haus. I felt like the team was losing faith in me," said Denihan, the younger brother of Dan Denihan, the Blue Jays' All-America attackman. "He just told me to keep working hard and good things would happen."
Said Haus: "I have a lot of respect for Conor. That's an individual who is playing on 60 or 65 percent [of his full strength]. I looked him in the eye in practice on Friday, and said this [second midfield] was his unit, and it was time for him to step up."
Denihan, running with freshmen Donald Scott and Tim Muir on the second group, stunned Loyola with two goals early, as the Blue Jays set the tone by taking a 4-1 lead. Denihan ran well and shot sharply from the wing. For one of the few times this spring, he seemed to be moving without noticeable pain.
An exhausted Denihan grimaced at any suggestion that his knee felt fine.
"I know I can play, but some days the pain is worse than others. Monday practices have been tough," he said. "Sometimes it still hurts so much, I feel like I should have redshirted. The training room has been great to me. I live in there. They are fed up with me."
UMBC era ends
UMBC could not repeat history by upsetting Maryland to end its regular season. The Retrievers also knew long ago that they would not return to the NCAA tournament for the third consecutive season.
But by finishing 7-7 in a rebuilding year, UMBC will say goodbye to a senior class that produced four straight, non-losing seasons for the first time in the program's 20-year history at the Division I level.
"It was a disappointing end to a tough year, but the kids deserve some credit for hanging in there," coach Don Zimmerman said.
Senior attackman Dan Marohl went out on a strong note. His three assists in Saturday's 15-7 loss to Maryland gave Marohl 89 for his career, good for third in school history. He also ended with 103 goals, just two behind his brother Steve, who still holds the career scoring record (242 points) at UMBC, where he played from 1989-1992.
Edell's memory lane
The last time Maryland faced Hofstra in the NCAA tournament, Terps coach Dick Edell was in the middle of his first career move at Division II University of Baltimore, and Maryland was beginning a roll toward its last national crown.
The Terps, who face Hofstra in a first-round game on Sunday at UMBC, beat the Flying Dutchmen, 19-11, on May 21, 1975.
Tom Calder scored four goals for Hofstra that day. Calder is the athletic director at Johns Hopkins.
Maryland is 7-1 overall against the Flying Dutchmen.
Johns Hopkins is making a record 29th consecutive appearance in the national tournament. Loyola is second with 13 straight postseason trips, all under coach Dave Cottle. Edell has been in the tournament 16 times, including 12 at Maryland and four at Army. ... Loyola attackman Tim Goettelmann, who leads the team with 43 goals, needs three goals to surpass Kevin Beach for the all-time, single-season lead among Division I players at the school. The overall record belongs to Gary Hanley, who scored 47 goals in 1981, when the Greyhounds were in Division II. ... A day after losing to Hopkins, and seeing a first-round bye slip away, Loyola senior midfielder Mike Battista was sporting an ice pack on his sore shoulder. "Naturally, we would have liked the bye, so the bumps and bruises could heal more, but we can't cry about it," he said. "Some people think the bye is a curse. Last year [as the top seed], we got a bye and we lost our first game. I want to go out with a bang this time."