Xander Ritz said it didn't take long after his arrival at the University of Delaware to realize he needed a change of lacrosse scenery. Tim McGinnis said his decision to leave his final year of eligibility on the table at Gettysburg College boiled down to a chance to win a national Division I title and relieve financial strain on himself and his family.
Each player took advantage of the chance to start over by relocating to the University of Maryland. Ritz, a sophomore attackman, and McGinnis, a graduate student and goalie, have given a boost to the third-ranked Terrapins, who will conclude their regular season at home today against No. 17 Pennsylvania before beginning another quest for an NCAA title.
Ritz has energized the Maryland offense with a team-high 18 assists and 30 points, second highest on the team. McGinnis has been rock steady in the cage, where he has topped Atlantic Coast Conference goalies with a .627 save percentage and is an All-America candidate.
"I knew at Delaware, there was the certainty of a starting spot and having more freedom on offense. I could have gone back to Delaware and been happy," Ritz said. "But Delaware is not a powerhouse of Division I lacrosse, and I didn't feel comfortable there in general.
"During my senior year [at Radnor (Pa.) High], I took a haphazard look at college and made a hasty decision. I don't regret [switching to Maryland] at all."
"I want to go out with a ring, and I didn't want to pay $35,000 for two semesters [at Gettysburg] just to play lacrosse," said McGinnis, an Ellicott City native who had three All-America seasons and lost twice in Division III title games at Gettysburg. He came to College Park to begin his graduate studies in education and is the younger brother of former Terps goalie Pat McGinnis.
Maryland's two most notable transfers are not alone with the impact they have had. At Johns Hopkins, junior midfielder Matt Rewkowski arrived last fall from Duke, became a mainstay in the top-ranked Blue Jays' starting lineup and is their fourth-leading scorer.
Loyola junior attackman Matt Monfett also left Duke last year, joined a youthful squad at Evergreen and is the Greyhounds' second-leading scorer.
Transfers are not new to the game, though in some circles they have gained more of a presence in recent years.
Maryland carried five NCAA transfers as far back as 1999, had two in each of the next three seasons, and has five more on its 45-man roster this season after having four last year, including graduate students Brian Hunt (Yale) and Joe Parker (Colgate).
Loyola has three transfers in 2004, after carrying no more than one in each of the previous four years. Towson has carried three transfers on two of its past three teams.
Other schools hardly absorb talent from other NCAA programs. Rewkowski is the lone transfer during the four-year tenure of Hopkins coach Dave Pietramala. Hopkins has had only one transfer since 1997. UMBC has never had more than two since 1999. Transfers are virtually unheard of at Navy and Mount St. Mary's.
"You spend an awful lot of time and effort finding freshmen. That's your foundation," Maryland coach Dave Cottle said. "When somebody contacts you and they've been released [from their current school], you have to figure out if he can help you.
"What kind of kid is he? Is he a good enough student to be admitted? Can we afford [the scholarship]? All of those things have to be taken into consideration."
"The level of recruiting, the competitiveness of it, has changed dramatically over the last few years," Loyola coach Bill Dirrigl said. "High school kids and their parents are so much more educated about the whole process. I'm not a big fan of [transfers] in general, but sometimes kids make bad choices."
Since the fall of 1989, the NCAA has allowed athletes in all sports except football, basketball and men's ice hockey -- the largest revenue producers -- to transfer to Division I schools without having to sit out a season.
The "one-time transfer exception," which has been modified over the years and now allows graduate students to use up their eligibility at another school, has permitted athletes to change addresses without interruption.
As long as they have never transferred before from a four-year school, are academically and athletically eligible and have been granted a scholarship release from the school they wish to leave, they can move on.
Two years after Pietramala took the Hopkins job in 2000, he released defenseman Dan DiPietro, who wanted to go to Syracuse. DiPietro, now a senior, is a starter for the Orangemen.
"Some of the guys that were here when I got here, we didn't recruit. Every coach's vision is a little different," said Pietramala, who also let backup midfielder Donald Scott leave for Hofstra in 2002. "If a kid isn't happy, there's no reason to hold him back and make him sit out a year. Do the right thing and let him go. It doesn't mean you don't like him."
Rewkowski and Monfett give differing reasons for leaving Duke. For Monfett, it came down to a lack of freedom in the Blue Devils' structured offensive system. Rewkowski said he needed a change of atmosphere, which brought him to the place where lacrosse is the school's most cherished sport.
"The school [Duke] was great and my teammates were great. I just didn't enjoy our style of play," Monfett said. "I canceled all of my official visits after I [orally] committed to Duke. That was a big mistake on my part."
"Playing time was not an issue. Lacrosse is not a big priority at Duke," said Rewkowski, who led the Blue Devils in scoring in 2003. "Maybe a thousand fans at best show up for a home game. I played in front of bigger crowds in high school. It's such a better atmosphere here for me."
Tim McGinnis is thrilled he has had the opportunity to play at Maryland, although he wondered if the transfer option could hurt the game in the future by being used too often.
"I hope it doesn't get to the point where it's overused, where a lot of kids think they should be playing right off the bat and want to transfer just because they're not playing a lot as a freshman, and they think they're that good," he said. "The kids who are on the field earn it. It takes time. You're going to get what you put into it. Take a good hard look at yourself."
Finally in Maryland
Transfers who start at Maryland schools:
........................................ ...Current Former
Name Pos. Yr. school school
Xander Ritz A So. Maryland Delaware
Tim McGinnis G Gr. Maryland Gettysburg
Matt Rewkowski M Jr. J. Hopkins Duke
Matt Monfett A Jr. Loyola Duke
David Donahoe D Jr. UMBC Catawba (N.C.)