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Faceoff specialist Charlie Raffa key cog for 'unselfish' Terps

ESPN analyst Paul Carcaterra calls Charlie Raffa the most valuable player for the Maryland men's lacrosse team. It's a label the senior faceoff specialist doesn't fully embrace.

"I think that's kind of a bold statement," he said Wednesday. "I think all of us are a huge part of this team, and that's what I love about this team this year. There's no superstar, there's no huge stud. We're all trying to be unselfish and be there for one another on and off the field."

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Still, Raffa has been an important cog for the fifth-seeded Terps (14-3), who have a semifinal date with Johns Hopkins (11-6) on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. in the NCAA Division I tournament at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia.

Maryland has won seven of its last eight games in which Raffa has won at least 50 percent of his draws. And he has won 55.6 percent (20-of-36) of his faceoffs in two postseason games.

Carcaterra, a former Syracuse midfielder, said Raffa sets the pace for the Terps.

"They're methodical in where they want to attack, and they move the ball really well and find the matchups, and they take the right shot rather than just the first one," Carcaterra said. "Charlie Raffa is the reason they're able to do that."

Maryland coach John Tillman didn't disagree with Carcaterra's assessment.

"It's amazing his impact on us," Tillman said. "I haven't had many guys who — when they're on the field and when they're playing well — have been such a big difference maker."

As in his previous three campaigns, Raffa has endured various injuries, including double hernia surgery in the offseason and a painful right shoulder/right arm injury after a victory over Penn State on April 4. But Raffa said he feels healthier than he's ever been and conceded that nothing short of an amputation would prevent him from finishing his senior year.

"I just want to give it all I've got so that I don't look back on my time with this team and this program and have any regrets or wish that I had done something different," he said. "Right now, we're so close to the championship that there's nothing to hold back anymore."

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Notre Dame doesn't feel pressure

As the No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament, Notre Dame is viewed as the favorite to capture the title.

Much of that is based on the Fighting Irish's 12-2 record, stifling defense and recent history of four trips to the national semifinals in the last six years. But none of that seems to matter to coach Kevin Corrigan, who is busy preparing his team for Saturday's game against Denver at 1 p.m.

"We've never concerned ourselves with any of that stuff," Corrigan said during a conference call Tuesday. "The only thing that matters when the bracket comes out is who you play, what time is the game. If you're looking at it any other way, then you're missing something because it really just doesn't matter. Once you're in the tournament, everybody's in the same position: win and move on or lose and go home."

Denver seeking debut in title game

Denver has been here before, advancing to the tournament semifinals in 2011, 2012 and 2013 before getting bounced by Virginia, Syracuse and Duke, respectively.

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That trend might gnaw at the No. 4 seed Pioneers (15-2), who can exorcise some ghosts with a win against Notre Dame. But coach Bill Tierney denied there was any pressure to reach the tournament final on Memorial Day.

"We don't feel any pressure other than to win the next game," he said during a conference call Tuesday. "I've got people here that support me [with] by far the biggest travel budget. We feel that we've got the best support in the game at a school where you don't have football. It's just amazing what's going on out here. One of these days, we'll win one. If it's this year, that would be fantastic. If it's the next or the next or the next or some other time, it will still be fantastic."

Loyola grad Austin Stewart setting pace for Lynchburg

No. 4 Lynchburg's first appearance in Sunday's NCAA Division III tournament final at 4 p.m. has been led by junior attackman Austin Stewart.

The Reisterstown resident and Loyola Blakefield graduate has scored 107 goals this spring, tying the Division III record for goals in a single season set by former Whittier attackman Brad Downey in 1996. Stewart scored four goals during a 9-0 run by the Hornets (21-2) to complete an 11-9 comeback victory over No. 2 Gettysburg (20-1) in Saturday's semifinal.

Stewart, who leads Division III in goals per game (4.7) and ranks second in points per game (5.4), will spearhead Lynchburg's offense against No. 5 Tufts (20-2), which is seeking its second consecutive national title and third in six years.

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