Final four in Baltimore is nearly set for 2003, '04


The NCAA Division I tournament opens at UMBC on Saturday. Expect the 2003 and 2004 tournaments to conclude in Baltimore; the men's lacrosse committee is ready to rubber-stamp PSINet Stadium as the location for the championship weekend those two years.

Johns Hopkins, Loyola, Towson and UMBC, with the help of the Maryland Stadium Authority, will make a joint bid. The men's lacrosse committee asked the Baltimore bid group to make a formal presentation in two weeks, during this year's Final Four at Rutgers.

UMBC athletic director Charlie Brown handled the application process for the Baltimore bid. He sits on the NCAA Championships Cabinet Committee, which, at its late June meetings in Albuquerque, N.M., figures to accept the recommendation of the men's lacrosse committee. The process is a formality, since the Baltimore bid faces no competition.

"As of the selection meetings we had last weekend, there are no alternate bids," said Bryan Matthews, the chairman of the men's lacrosse committee.

Matthews favors the championships - a Memorial Day weekend event that will include the Division I semifinals on Saturday, the Division II and III finals on Sunday and the Division I title game on Monday - being held at PSINet. The Baltimore bid is also endorsed by some of the game's most influential coaches, such as Syracuse's John Desko and Virginia's Dom Starsia.

"We want them to give us an answer so that the NCAA can approve the site and we can move forward," UMBC's Brown said. "The Orioles, the WHFS concert that's been at PSINet - they need notice so they can plan future dates.

"We need to reciprocate the cooperation we've received. We've got letters of support from the mayor, the convention bureau, the MSA, the Ravens. We've looked at every facet, and we think we have everything covered."

The championship weekend was held at Maryland's Byrd Stadium seven of the last eight years. The Terps' athletic department needs a break, but plans to bid for the 2005 and 2006 championships.

Backers of the Baltimore bid claim that it will take the event to a higher level, and one school of thought says that once the lacrosse community experiences a late spring weekend at PSINet Stadium and the Inner Harbor, it may not want to go elsewhere.

It's telling that no other bidders came forward for the 2003 and 2004 championships.

"Other groups talked about it," Brown said. "No. 1, it's a huge undertaking. No. 2, they don't think they can beat us."

Berry's health crucial

The outcome of Saturday's first-round game at UMBC between Towson and Duke could hinge on the tender hamstring of Justin Berry, the Tigers' faceoff man. He has won 64.4 percent, but the Blue Devils' Scott Bross has controlled 67.5.

"I don't think there's a better faceoff specialist in Division I lacrosse than Scott," Duke coach Mike Pressler said. "What makes him special is that Scott picks it up himself, without help from his wings.

"We came into this season with a young offense, and we needed the ball more. We wouldn't be where we are without Scott. He's a physical hombre, our kind of guy. I thought he'd be good, but I didn't think he'd be this good."

The 5-foot-11, 190-pound Bross attended Centennial High.

No strain expected

Centennial also produced the faceoff specialist for Salisbury State, and freshman Andy Murray and the Sea Gulls should have an easy opener in the Division III tournament at home today.

Stevens Tech of Hoboken, N.J., has a lacrosse history that dates to the 19th century, but the Ducks are making their NCAA debut. As champions of the Knickerbocker Conference, they received an automatic bid into the 14-team field, but the only opponent they've had in common with Salisbury suggests Stevens Tech is not in the Sea Gulls' league. On April 13, Whittier beat the Ducks, 18-6. A day later, it lost to Salisbury, 13-5.

Salisbury anticipates a quarterfinal at home Saturday, against the winner of today's game between Denison and Hampden-Sydney.

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