Portions previously appearing on WTOP.COM

Memorial Day Weekend will be a convenient one for many in the Maryland Athletic Department as well as Sports Information Office.  Division I holds its Mens and Womens Final Fours in the same city (albeit at different venues), giving Terrapin boosters a chance to “bundle” their National Championship hopes.  Both teams enter the weekend as #1 seeds and prohibitive favorites.  Can the school pull off the first lacrosse double-dip since Princeton in 1994?


For the Maryland women (22-0), the Final Four that was once a goal to reach is now a standard to be met by Cathy Reese’s program.  Eight straight trips to the National Semifinals.  That means not only has every player on this team been on a Final Four squad, but everyone they’ve played with during their careers has also suited up during the National Semifinals.  “You’re a little six-year old playing lacrosse, this is what you dream of,” explains sophomore attacker Megan Whittle,”I’ve always wanted to be wearing a Maryland uniform playing in the Final Four…on the biggest stage.”  Whittle’s 69 goals entering the Final Four paced the team and helped them reach this stage (she has the most goals per game of any player still in the tournament).

For a team that’s won two straight National Championships and began 2016 ranked #1, this was a team that still needed to find itself.  Coach Cathy Reese says, “we returned five starters off of last years group, so we had a lot of work to do.  I think our chemistry is really unique this year.  We’re playing with a lot of confidence and great energy.”  The Terps lead the nation in scoring with 15.38 goals per game.  In addition to Whittle, senior Zoe Stukenberg and Taylor Cummings provide the necessary firepower.

When you reach the Final Four eight straight years, the last weekend in May not only becomes competition for the current team but an annual pilgrimage for Reese’s former players.  Stukenberg has had a chance to witness two previous “reunion weekends”, saying “almost everyone who has played in those Fours will be there cheering us on Friday. I think that’s one of the most special parts about being a Terp during championship weekend.  They’re all over the country, and everyone makes an effort to come and support us.”  Instead of the fans in the stands though or even the opponent, Cathy Reese looks inward, “for us, our focus is all about Maryland…what do we need to do to be prepared for anything that we see.  This is what you work for…the chance to get out there and compete in this venue.”

After beating Syracuse 19-9 in the National Semifinals Friday night, the the Terps tangle with 3rd seeded North Carolina (19-2) in Sunday’s Championship game.  UNC beat Penn State 12-11 in the early semifinal to earn its berth in the title game.  Maryland won the regular season matchup 8-7 on February 27th in Chapel Hill.  Sunday’s showdown starts at noon.








The Maryland men (16-2) may be facing Brown (16-2), but the Terps are also confronting a 40+ year title drought as well as facing down the ghosts of last year’s Championship Game loss to Denver.  Senior Matt Dunn remembers that day all too well:  “I don’t think it’s something we want to make too much of a deal out of…but I feel it’s definitely a source of motivation knowing we worked hard last year and didn’t get to achieve our goal–but now have another chance to.”  This season they’re leaving nothing to chance, entering the Final Four on a 15-game winning streak.  How hot has this team been?  Their closest margin of victory in the Big Ten and NCAA Tournaments has been 6 goals.

This is the fifth time in six years since coming to College Park that coach John Tillman has the Terps this far;  as opposed to previous editions that were seeded 6th and 7th before reaching the final weekend this has been his first team seeded #1.  Tillman acknowleges, “We don’t have that known faceoff commodity (this year)…and we’ve had more of our ups and downs there.  I think we’re a little more a deeper team…which we hope we may be able to turn into an advantage.”  Five players have 20 or more goals, led by Matt Rambo’s 39 (the junior ranks second on the team with 24 assists).  Senior Bryan Cole is the team’s top distributor with 27 assists this spring.

But make no mistake, Saturday’s showdown will come down to how Maryland defends Brown’s offense.  A lot will be on the shoulders of senior goalie Kyle Bernlohr, who says “the style they play is pretty free-flowing…they’re a transition-heavy team.  They’re loaded at every position…and can find the back of the net.”  The Bruins lead the nation in scoring with 16.44 goals per game and the Terps allow the fourth fewest goals in Division I (while their man-down unit ranks 3rd).  They likely won’t have the nations #1 assist man in Dylan Molloy, who injured his right foot in their NCAA First Round game against Johns Hopkins and didn’t play last weekend against Navy.  Even without Molloy, Brown boasts two of the top ten scorers in the nation in Kylor Bellistri and Henry Blynn.  Bellistri & Blynn.  Sounds like a law firm I don’t want to be on the other side of a big case against.


The other semifinal features Loyola of Maryland (14-3) against North Carolina (10-6) in the upset-riddled half of the bracket;  the Greyhounds were the #7 seed and the Tar Heels had to shock Marquette and Notre Dame to reach Philadelphia.  While Loyola is just four years removed from winning it all in 2012 they’re also one season away from missing the tournament entirely. Coach Charlie Toomey’s team arrives in Philadelphia this weekend fresh off a 10-8 quarterfinal triumph over Towson. Pat Spencer has been the catalyst this year for an offense that ranks 24th in Division I; his 83 points (on 36 goals and 47 assists) are more than double anyone else on the roster. The Tar Heels are in search of their first National Championship in 25 years…and boast the 7th best offense in the nation with triggerman Steve Pontrello ranking 8th in goals per game. UNC is also dominant on special teams: 8th best in man-up and 7th best in man-down situations. Once again, a lot will be on the shoulders of Jacob Stover (2nd nationally in saves percentage and goals-against average). He was able to keep Towson at bay; can he and the nation’s 9th best defense contain the Tar Heels?


Saturday Faceoff Times:

Noon—Loyola-North Carolina



These are the series this team would have lost last year.  Two thirds of their way through a nine game divisional gauntlet, the 2016 Nationals remain in front of the NL East pack after taking two of three from the Mets and two of three from the Marlins.  The load doesn’t lighten up with three more games against the Mets and four against a St. Louis team still smarting from a sweep earlier this year against the Nats.

Dissecting the Division- the Nats lead the Mets by 1.5 games, the Phillies by 2, and Miami by 4.5 entering this week.  Atlanta decided that a 9-28 start was the perfect time to re-boot, and Fredi Gonzalez says goodbye two and a half years removed from a playoff appearance.  That and a dispersion of talent that would make Richard Gere’s character in Pretty Woman (before he fell for Julia Roberts) proud.  Since then, the Braves have won 3 of 6.  I’d joking say “Break up the Braves” but they still have the look of a once-good band that only has one remaining original member touring with them.

Division to Watch- just up I-95 the Preakness was run this past weekend at Pimlico.  But there’s another intriguing race involving Baltimore as the Orioles and Boston are tied for first in the AL East.  Fans of a certain age will recognize this Red Sox team…they lead the majors in runs scored but have a pitching staff filled with tires ready to blow at any moment.  We only need Bill Lee to come out of retirement to join the back end of the rotation to make it complete.

Last Week’s Heroes- remember in elementary school when a teacher would move two kids’ desks apart and their work would improve dramatically?  Manager Dusty Baker dropped Anthony Rendon from second to sixth in the order last week… and the third baseman responded by hitting .500 with 7 RBI.  The guy he was following in the order, Ben Revere, came out of his early season slumber by hitting .348 with 4 runs scored.  Hopefully Mr. Baker will keep Anthony and Ben’s desks apart during class but still let them sit together at lunch.

Last Week’s Humbled- Danny Espinosa (.158 with 9 strikeouts) remains a liability in the #8 spot.  With a lineup where the prime offensive positions (first base and left field) aren’t producing (27th and 26th in OPS respectively), you need every little bit from every spot at this time.  The shadow of Trea Turner in AAA Syracuse (.317 with 35 runs scored and 14 stolen bases) looms large.

Game to Watch- Saturday evening Gio Gonzalez pitches against St. Louis.  The lefthander is off to a 3-1 start with a 1.86 ERA…enjoying a career rebirth under new manager Dusty Baker.  The Cardinals counter with Adam Wainwright-who’s off to an atypical start in 2016 (4-3 but with an ERA of 5.92).  Can he shake his early-season struggles?

Game to Miss- Thursday Joe Ross (3-4, 2.70 ERA) pitches against the Cardinals’ Mike Leake (3-3, 4.07).  Unfortunately on a staff where one pitcher (Scherzer) is tying major league records, another is still unbeaten (Strasburg), a third has cool hair to match his hot start (Gio) and a fourth is sneaky good (Tanner Roark), Joe Ross is the Gummo Marx.  Plus, after nine straight games against division foes, it’s okay if you catch up on TURN and The Americans that you’ve DVRd, TiVoed or simply recorded on Betamax.

Previously appearing on WTOP.COM…

Do we actually refer to the NCAA Mens Division I Lacrosse Tournament as “May Madness” or “Mayhem”?  Four area schools head to Quarterfinal action this weekend in Providence, Rhode Island and Columbus, Ohio for the right to participate in Memorial Day Weekend’s Final Four at Philadelphia.  This weekend’s mix involves a team of destiny, an upstart facing huge odds, and defensive duel in a different battle of the beltway (albeit the one in Baltimore).  As we are deep into wedding season…instead of something old, new, borrowed & blue we get something Terps, something (Navy) Blue, something (Loyola) Greyhound and something new (Towson reaching its first quarterfinal since 2003).


Saturday in Providence–

NOON-#1 Maryland (15-2) takes on #8 Syracuse (12-4)– the Terps have won 14 straight and appear to be on track to capture the school’s first National Championship since 1975.  Led by junior attacker Matt Rambo (35 goals and 22 assists) and a defense that ranks sixth nationally (7.76 goals against), this is the best team in coach John Tillman’s tenure.  And the former Harvard mentor has had a knack of getting the best out of his teams in the tournament;  since coming to College Park, Tillman’s Terps are 4-0 in the quarterfinals (including a 6-5 upset of top-seeded Syracuse in 2011).  The Orange are a deceptive four-loss team…with three of their defeats coming in overtime.  Since switching goaltenders from Warren Hill to Evan Molloy Syracuse has won 7 of 8 (the lone loss coming in overtime at Cornell).  Penalties will be pivotal- as Maryland’s 3rd in the nation man-down defense will have its hands full with the Orange’s 5th rated man-up attack, but the Terps have more than a good chance to exploit a less than effective Syracuse man-down defense (61st nationally).


230pm- Navy (11-4) battles #5 Brown (15-2)– the Midshipmen are fresh off an upset of #4 Yale while the Bruins enjoy a little home-field advantage (the Ivy League school just happens to be located in Providence).  Chalk this up as a classic matchup of unstoppable force against immovable object.  Can the Midshipmen defense (#2 in the nation at 7.13 goals per game) contain the number one scoring team in the country (Bruins averaging over 16 goals per game)?  The Bruins boast three of the top eight goal-scorers in the nation in Dylan Molloy, Kylor Bellistri and Henry Blynn…while Molloy leads Division I Lacrosse in assists per game.  The Mids’ man-down defense also leaves a lot to be desired–rating 53rd out of 68 D-I schools.  Goalie John Connors, you will deserve your postgame rubdown after being peppered with shots all day.  Did we mention Connors’ counterpart Jack Kelly leads the nation in saves percentage?  Navy fans may have picked the wrong week to stop drinking coffee.


Sunday in Columbus–

230pm- #7 Loyola of Maryland (13-3) faces Towson (15-2)– the Battle of Baltimore area schools takes place roughly 400 miles away from the Charm City.  While the Greyhounds outscored Duke in the first round, the Tigers upset defending National Champ and #2 seed Denver thanks to a defense that allows the fewest goals in the country.  Their test this week is Loyola’s Pat Spencer;  the freshman ranks third in Division I in scoring with 33 goals and 46 assists.  Towson’s Tyler White is the only goalie to allow fewer than seven goals a game…and the redshirt-senior also ranks 11th in saves percentage.  Loyola freshman Jacob Stover would rank third in goals-against average and second in saves percentage if he had played enough minutes to qualify.  Stover will have one eye at all times on Towson sniper Joe Seider (35 goals and 135 shots lead the Tigers).

It’s only May, but it appears as though the best race in baseball involves the Nationals and their I-95 brethren (Atlanta can blame its slow start on being located on the I-75 and I-85 crossroads).  Two and a half games separate first from fourth place in the National League East.  And with the Nats facing the Mets six times and the Marlins three times over the next week and a half, there could be some flip-flopping over the rest of May.  For now, the Nationals lead the division while three other teams are nipping at their heels.

Last Week’s Heroes- Max Scherzer tied a Major League record with 20 strikeouts against Detroit…and while he coughed up a pair of home runs, Scherzer didn’t walk a hitter.  Ninety-six of his 119 pitches (over 80%) were strikes.  Ryan Zimmerman’s bat woke up with 3 HR.  Daniel Murphy hit .409 to stay in the stratosphere.

Last Week’s Humbled- when Ben Revere returned from his oblique injury, many were thankful that now the team finally had a “legitimate leadoff hitter”.  He hit 1-for-23 last week.  Joe Ross went 0-2 with a 6.17 ERA.

Game to Watch- Tuesday Max Scherzer pitches against Noah Syndergaard in his first outing since the 20-strikeout affair.  Question is, the last time he posted his best outing of the season (9 strikeouts over 7 scoreless innings against St. Louis)- he followed it up by allowing 4 homers and 7 runs against the Cubs.  It’ll also be interesting to see how Mets fans welcome back Daniel Murphy.

Game to Miss- Friday Tanner Roark pitches against Miami.  He’s 2-0 with a 0.84 ERA against the rest of the world, and 0-3 with an ERA of 8.40 against the Marlins this year.  Perhaps they’re not the best opponent for him.

The broom is a blunt instrument.  It doesn’t differentiate.  The broom takes odd turns…as we saw just one week ago when the Nationals followed up getting swept at home by Philadelphia before sweeping the Cardinals in St. Louis.  The dustpan turned its way towards the Nats this past weekend…as they finished their 10-game road trip with the thud of a four game slide at Wrigley Field.  After being alternately shut down and outscored, the club crawls home with the knowledge that at least they went 5-5 on this gauntlet.  And they have Ben Revere back in centerfield leading off.

Dissecting the Division- one byproduct of the sweep was the tightening of the NL East.  The NY Mets won two straight to close the weekend and now lead the Nats by one half game.  Nipping at the Nationals heels…surging Philadelphia and Miami.  The NL East is now the only division with four teams over .500…with Atlanta playing the NFC East role of the Phoenix Cardinals.

Last Week’s Heroes- Daniel Murphy hit .483 while scoring 8 runs and driving in 5.  He almost hit for the cycle in Kansas City.  Bryce Harper was walked 13 times (6 times Sunday) and still added to his home run total despite not seeing many pitches in the same zip code as the plate.  Tanner Roark didn’t post a win, but allowed just 3 earned runs over 13.1 innings while striking out 11 and walking 4.  Yusmerio Petit led the bullpen with 5.2 innings…and did not allow a run.

Last Week’s Humbled- Max Scherzer after posting his best outing of the season allowed 4 homers and 7 runs at Wrigley Field Friday.  Jayson Werth and Michael A. Taylor both hit under .200 again last week…while Ryan Zimmerman stranded 14 runners Sunday in Chicago.

Game to Watch- Wednesday they’re giving away a Bryce Harper bobblehead.  The Nats are also hosting Detroit and former teammate Jordan Zimmermann, who’s off to a 5-1 start with an ERA of 1.10.  If Max Scherzer continues his off again, on again performance rotation he’ll be in top form against his former club.

Game to Miss- Saturday the Nats play a day-night doubleheader with Miami.  While I’ll be focused on how Tanner Roark pitches in the matinee…I won’t be checked in for the nightcap that reportedly will feature fresh-from-the-minors A.J. Cole.  A Washington Saturday in May?  There are weddings to crash with my pal Chaz…

Not all 3-3 weeks are created equally.  Losing three straight to a Philadelphia team that was under .500 can easily be countered by taking three in a row at St. Louis.  What Phillie series?  What was more impressive about last week was that the Phils went on to sweep its weekend series with Cleveland.  They also were able to broom the Cardinals minus the muscle of Bryce Harper–walks aside, the team’s most productive player went hitless over the weekend.  Clint Robinson, Danny Espinosa and Chris Heisey all went yard in Sunday’s victory.  So much for being overly concerned after consecutive shutouts at home.

Dissecting the Division- at 17-7 the Nats currently lead the Mets by 1.5 games and the Phillies by 2.5 games.  It’s only May…but three of the top four records in the NL are in the East.  The three teams’ pitching staffs rank 1-2-3 in the NL in strikeouts and boast three of the top five ERA’s in the senior circuit.  At this point the Mets offense is the most consistent (7th in hitting and runs scored) while the Phillies lag behind the other two (14th in hitting and runs scored).  The Nats rank 10th in the NL in runs scored and are 13th in hitting.  Perhaps the I-95 corridor will be the home to the best race in baseball this year.

Last Week’s Heroes- how do you single out one pitcher in a rotation that posts a 1.00 ERA it’s last run-through?  Max Scherzer after a rough April (4.35 ERA, 5 HR, 12 BB over 5 starts) struck out nine over seven scoreless frames Sunday while not issuing a walk for the first time all season.  He also finished sixth on the team in hits (3).

Last Week’s Humbled- Ryan Zimmerman was one of those who trailed Scherzer in hits last week.  The first baseman’s 2 for 17 performance is underscored when Bryce Harper gets intentionally walked multiple times a game.  He’s hitting .188 with runners in scoring position this year…and at a position like first base you need better offensive numbers.

Game to Watch- Friday matinees are a Wrigley Field fixture.  Max Scherzer fresh off his best outing of the season duels with John Lackey (who’s off to a 3-1 start as well).  This year’s preseason favorites against the team picked to win it all last year.  Did I mention Cubs manager Joe Maddon bears a striking resemblance to the late Barry Goldwater?  It’s just a nice way to get the weekend underway.

Game to Miss- Saturday’s another story.  The 4:05 tilt not only takes place the same day (faceoff time TBA) as Capitals-Penguins Game 5, the latter portion of the game is in direct conflict with the Kentucky Derby.  No matter how much better Gio Gonzalez is this year (25 strikeouts to 7 walks, .196 opponents batting average) I’ll be wearing my madras jacket. 

Previously appearing on WTOP.COM…


I’ll say one thing about Scot McCloughan;  the Redskins General Manager has actually helped turn draft day into something to look forward to in this area.  One of the major reasons behind the Redskins run of eight last place finishes from 2004-2014 was its inability to stockpile talent through the draft…thanks to trading many of their picks before doing “creative things” like selecting three receivers in the second round when the crying need was for offensive line depth.  You could say this approach began when Bruce Allen took over in 2010 and brought in coach Mike Shanahan;  the team had ten selections in the top 105 picks from 2005-09 (last four years of Vinny Cerrato’s regime) while boasting 17 such selections in the last five years.

Why the top 105?  Because while it’s nice to talk about all of your picks…once you get past the top 100…the likelihood said player sticks with your team decreases dramatically.  For every Alfred Morris (major hit at 173), there’s a Dennis Morris (174) who doesn’t play a regular season down in the league.  I originally used 100 as the trip-line, but under the Allen administration there have been a slew of picks 102-106 that make more sense when grouped in the top 100.  At that point everybody’s board varies so much these were kids that the Skins’ brain trust had as top 100 guys.

Successful drafts can be somewhat subjective;  in theory bad teams will see more of their picks make the roster that year because, well…they’re a bad team.  Also, a new GM’s players are more likely to make the team just like a new coach’s draftees will get more of a chance to stick than a previous coach or personnel guy’s people.  That’s why the headline “the top seven 2015 draftees made the roster” deserves an “exactly”…just like “the top five players picked in Jay Gruden’s first draft made the team” merits the necessary shrug.

Since 2010 there have been three drafting combinations:  Bruce Allen/Mike Shanahan from 2010-13, Allen/Jay Gruden in 2014 and Scot McGloughan/Gruden last year.  How did each fare?  Time for the avidly awaited year-by-year rundown…a lot less depressing than the Cerrato stumbles.


2010-  six picks with two in the top 105.  Trent Williams and Perry Riley became starters with Williams reaching four Pro Bowls.  But from their other picks, only Terrence Austin would play more than 3 games in the NFL.  And this was a last place team.  Still, it’s tough to expect much from a seventh round selection and the Skins had three that year.  Funfact:  the Skins were rumored to be trading up with St. Louis so they could get the #1 overall pick and quarterback Ryan Reynolds Sam Bradford but held at #4 to select a lineman.  Why anyone would send multiple picks to the Rams for a QB when roster depth was a major concern remains beyond me.

2011-  twelve selections with four in the top 105.  And only four seventh rounders!  Seventh rounders are the ultimate scratch ticket–it’s nice when one gets you $20 but stockpiling them is no way to secure a solid retirement.  Ryan Kerrigan (5 seasons a starter with one Pro Bowl), Jarvis Jenkins (3 years a starter before his departure) and Maurice Hurt (9 games started before injuries derailed a nice story) lead the class, while non-starters like Roy Helu, Evan Royster, Leonard Hankerson and DeJon Gomes each contributed during their time in Ashburn.  Funfact:  Maurice Hurt’s given name is “Sparrow Maurice Hurt, Jr.”…in case you were curious.

2012- nine selections with three in the top 105.  It’s tough to look at this draft and not get sucked into a seven-hour conversation about Robert Griffin III:  from what went wrong to the proper price for a franchise QB to which Subway sandwich is the best (my money remains on the Italian BMT with pepper jack cheese, chipotle dressing, lettuce, banana peppers and olives).  Away from the glare of the comet that began with a bang before ending with 16 inactives, the Skins got talent early and often this year.  Kirk Cousins is the quarterback of the future (or until the Skins refuse to give him a long-term deal and he walks) and Josh LeRibeus made 11 starts last season.  Keenan Robinson and Tom Compton were also starters during stretches of their time in burgundy and gold.  Funfact: Sun Chips Garden Salsa is the the proper pairing for the BMT.

2013- seven selections with two in the top 105.  The first rounder went to the Rams and just like Vinny Cerrato made the 2008 second his “receiver round”, this one will go down as the “defensive back draft” for Allen & Shanahan.  Problem was-David Amerson, Phillip Thomas and Bacarri Rambo had even less time with the Skins than the infamous triumvirate of Devin Thomas, Fred Davis and Malcolm Kelly.  A pair of offensive players who each have had their injury issues remain on the roster:  Jordan Reed is a game-changing matchup nightmare beyond everybody’s expectations while Chris Thompson is a decent change of pace runningback.  Funfact:  the Draft stretching to 3 days…with the first round on Thursday really makes life tough when your team has dealt their top selection.

2014- eight selections with four in the top 105.  The first Jay Gruden draft brought an infusion of offensive line help (Morgan Moses and Spencer Long) as well as eventual defensive starters (Trent Murphy and Bashaud Breeland) with a fifth rounder (Ryan Grant) who’s played in every game over the last two years.  Is there a star in this bunch?  Not likely.  But you need a 53-man roster filled with glue-guys and special teamers.  This class appears to be a solid part of the foundation.  Funfact:  drafting kicker Zach Hocker in the seventh round with Kai Forbath still on the roster gave training camp the ultimate competition between “Saved by the Bell” and “Karate Kid” fans.  NO MERCY!

2015- ten selections with four in the top 105.  Scot McCloughan’s first draft (although he only had four months to prepare with a roster he was getting to know on the fly) yielded one starter in first rounder Brandon Scherff while delivering impact players in Preston Smith (8 sacks as a rookie), Matt Jones (if he stops fumbling this is the running game’s meal ticket) and Jamison Crowder (59 catches and a special teams presence).  It’s only one year, but the quality of last year’s draft already exceeds the 2011 & 2013 hauls from a roster-building standpoint.  The promising career of Kyshoen Jarrett (16 games played, one interception) may be hampered by nerve damage in his shoulder…while Arie Kouandji and Martell Spaight just seem like the kind of guys who stick on a roster for a year or two, maybe play special teams and then the next April you’re wondering where they went.  Funfact:  for the first time since Bruce Allen came on board, the number of seventh round picks did not exceed the first rounders.


Verdicts for those scoring at home:  a decidedly mixed bag.  You could say that 2010 brought minimal depth, but if you’re going to get Williams and Riley’s longterm impact you’re more than okay with the late round misses.  Many of the 2011 draftees turned out to be the middle of the roster guys who depart with a coaching change…and one can’t dismiss the player on the field and in the locker room Kerrigan has become.  The enigma that is 2012 could turn from boom to bust to boom if Cousins builds on his breakout season…while 2013’s failure may be somewhat salvaged if Reed remains healthy and productive.  The jury remains out on the last two years, but the positives far outweigh the negatives.  When Bruce Allen took over this team in 2009, they were easily the most mismanaged in the NFC East.  Since then, Draft Day have been more encouraging than infuriating.  



Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,485 other followers