It’s official: Johns Hopkins has the swiftest women in the country. At the NCAA Division III Women’s Cross Country championship in Terre Haute, Indiana, the Blue Jays zipped along the course, accumulating a total of 153 points — 63 more than their nearest competitor — to win the national championship. This is the first-ever national title for Johns Hopkins’ women’s sports; the last time the school won a Division III title was back in 1979, when the men’s swimming team emerged victorious from the pool.
Tag: ncaa championships
The last time we talked, the NCAA men’s lacrosse tournament was about to begin, and three Maryland teams were vying for the top spot. Now it’s time for the final four teams to head to Foxborough, where the Loyola Greyhounds will face Notre Dame and the University of Maryland will take on Duke. (Unranked Maryland destroyed Johns Hopkins, the number two seed, in the quarterfinals. It was painful.) This is where things start to get very, very intense.
So intense, in fact, that wagers are starting to be made. The staff at Loyola Magazine has cut a deal with their counterparts at Notre Dame Magazine that “when the Greyhounds win on Saturday,” the Indianans will send over a box of kielbasa and some South Bend Factory chocolates. (In the off chance that Loyola loses, Notre Dame will receive some crab cakes. But we can’t imagine that’ll happen.) This matchup promises to be a dynamic one: Loyola has a killer offense, with two attackmen who’ve scored 45 or more goals this season; Notre Dame is famed for its defense. But, according to Baltimore Sun sportswriter Mike Preston, Maryland is actually the team to watch… and perhaps to beat: “Of the four remaining squads, the Terps play with the most emotion, which is why they have been so inconsistent through the years,” Preston writes. But “they’ve got more motivation going in than any other team.”
Meanwhile, another set of Terps is gearing up for a championship bid: Maryland’s women’s lacrosse squad faces number two seed Northwestern tomorrow night. The team can gain some enthusiasm by looking to former coach Cindy Timchal, who will be inducted into the National Lacrosse Hall of Fame this fall. But plenty of Baltimoreans may find themselves cheering for top-ranked University of Florida instead; that team’s roster includes ten women who graduated from Baltimore-area high schools.
Who are you rooting for?
If you’re a college lacrosse fan who lives in Maryland, your odds of a hometown victory of one kind or another are pretty stellar this year. The 2012 NCAA men’s lacrosse tournament opens this weekend, and 3 of the 16 teams vying for the championship are from Baltimore schools. Not only that, but the top two ranked teams — Loyola and Johns Hopkins, in that order — are local. (The University of Maryland is in the tournament, but isn’t ranked in the top 8; this is “not necessarily a bad thing,” according to the Baltimore Sun’s lacrosse columnist.)
The one thing everyone seems to agree on this year is that there are no sure bets. Last year, the Loyola Greyhounds didn’t even make the tournament, and the team started this season unranked; now they’re in the top spot. But for the past five years, the tournament’s number one seed has lost — not even making it to the championship game four of those times. And while there are plenty of powerhouses out there, no one team seems primed to steamroll its competitors. “The lack of a dominant team gives everybody hope,” UVA coach Dom Starsia told the Washington Times. “I think you’d be hard-pressed [to pick a champion], though you may as well take a try at it. If you took 10 chances, you might get one right.”
After the thrill of success comes the agony of having to do it again. In Loyola of Maryland’s case, their foray into the 2012 NCAA tournament — their first in nearly two decades — won’t be easy. They’re slated to play Ohio State in Pittsburgh on Thursday. The Buckeyes are a 2 seed; Loyola is 15. According to the logic of seeding, they don’t stand a chance. But I can’t help but be hopeful, especially when I remember how people were talking in my hometown of Richmond, Virginia last year.
Back then, another small, obscure mid-Atlantic school with a charismatic coach and low expectations from the wider world made the tournament as a wild card pick. Then Virginia Commonwealth University went on to power through all the way to the Final Four. Their improbable success galvanized Richmond, and is still celebrated on billboards all over town. Here are a few lessons the Greyhounds could take from the Rams:
It’s six p.m. on Memorial Day and the city air is hot and still. After nearly two hours of watching back-and-forth goals and sweat-drenched celebrations at the NCAA Lacrosse Championship, the masses of red and orange clad fans filter out of M&T Stadium and back onto the streets of Baltimore. Two boys, no older than ten, wear Terps jerseys and grip lacrosse sticks roughly as long as they are tall. They chatter excitedly to each other, recounting each “sweet” goal and seriously deliberating which “sick” moves they should employ against their next opponent. They are sunburned, their hair plastered with sweat to their foreheads and necks, and their chosen team has just lost to its long-standing rival. All of this is secondary to the spirit and the drama of the game. This is the relationship Baltimore has with lacrosse.
There aren’t many things for which Baltimore can claim exclusive credit — Hairspray, Poe (who really just died here), The Wire, Natty Boh…the list is short and eclectic, and perhaps that is why Baltimore remains so fiercely loyal to lacrosse. The city and surrounding area are home to powerhouses at both the high school and college level, like Gilman, Loyola, Boys’ Latin, St. Paul’s, McDonogh, Bryn Mawr, The University of Maryland, and, of course, Johns Hopkins. The Blue Jays legendary history has made them standout in the pantheon of lacrosse greats. In both the 1928 and 1932 Olympics, lacrosse was a demonstration event, and in both years Hopkins beat out every other team in the playoffs to become the American representative in the games. The men’s team has appeared in every NCAA tournament since the creation of the playoffs in 1971 and has won the championship nine times.
But great teams do more than just create devoted fans, they also create educated fans. It seems frequent success makes fans less rabid, allowing them to appreciate the sport rather than just the victories. At the national championship on Monday afternoon, I sat among enthusiastic Maryland fans eager to see the title go to their home team, who despite thirty-four tournament appearances have not won the championship since 1975. But when Virginia midfielder Colin Briggs scored his fifth goal of the game with just under two minutes remaining in the final quarter, the Terps fan behind me clapped slowly and said to his companions, “Great play. He’s a great player.” And as the last few seconds ticked off the clock and UVA stormed the field in a sea of orange and white, Terps and Cavaliers fans alike rose in appreciation.
Baltimore loves lacrosse because it belongs to us, and we’re good at it. It’s a devotion and an understanding that extends beyond the sport itself to an attitude, a look, and for some people essentially a way of life. It’s that part of it that is difficult to explain – my older sister doesn’t play lacrosse and cannot understand how my younger sister and I can pick other lacrosse players out of a group of people with such frightening accuracy, and we can’t really either. During my first year of collegiate play in Massachusetts, I realized that it’s not just a lacrosse culture that I understand, but a Baltimore lacrosse culture. In recent years lacrosse has enjoyed significantly increased popularity all over the nation and in some other countries as well. But no matter where it is played, lacrosse belongs to Baltimore, the city that built it, that knows it, and that loves it no matter who wins.
Marta Randall is a Baltimore Fishbowl summer intern. She graduated from Hereford High and plays lacrosse for a New England liberal arts college.