The ACC Dominates College Lacrosse in 2010

By Patrick Stevens

Both the men's and women's lacrosse championships returned to Baltimore on Memorial Day weekend. And both titles landed in places that reflected the sport's center of power in recent seasons.

The Maryland women collected a title first, the Duke men the next day. Both championships were a substantial reflection of the strength of the ACC has a lacrosse conference.

Toss in the Tewaaraton Awards (lacrosse's equivalent of the Heisman Trophy) earned by Duke attackman Ned Crotty and Maryland midfielder Caitlyn McFadden late last week, and the conference collected the sport's top individual accolades to complement the obvious team accomplishments.

"I just think the strength of the conference is in the broad approaches of the schools," said Duke men's coach John Danowski, who completed the ACC's first sweep of both titles since 1999. "These are great schools and they all have great and unique communities. Every one of the campuses is outstanding. It's not surprising these things are happening."

Although the Blue Devils' championship -- the first in program history -- placed an ACC team at the top of the men's game for the first time since 2006, this is arguably the strongest stretch for the four-team league in its history.

All four schools -- Maryland, North Carolina and Virginia also sponsor the sport -- have reached the NCAA quarterfinals in consecutive seasons. Duke and Virginia are the only schools with at least three straight final four appearances. And each program has earned a postseason invitation every season since 2007.

This year, though, was particularly strong. Duke was the lowest seeded ACC team in the NCAA tournament at No. 5, and the league was a combined 46-2 against nonconference competition. The only setbacks were against Notre Dame -- Duke in mid-February, and Maryland in the NCAA quarterfinals. With everyone but Duke returning much of its core in 2011, the league will again be powerful next spring.

"This is a conference that this year was dominant," ESPN analyst Quint Kessenich said. "I think they'll be strong next year, maybe as strong. It's probably unlikely they can have the same [nonconference] record. There's terrific coaches, excellent support in terms of recruiting. They are the model of for the BCS division programs right now."

The same goes for the women's side, where Boston College and Virginia Tech also sponsor the sport to form a six-team league.

While the Hokies are rebuilding, the rest of the conference was nearly as difficult to upend outside the league as their men's counterparts. Maryland, North Carolina, Virginia and Duke were among the top seven seeds in the NCAA tournament, while Boston College (12-6) made a push for the postseason as well.

The top five teams were a combined 68-7 in nonconference games, with national power Northwestern accounting for four of the losses.

Of course, the ACC dealt the Wildcats their only two losses. North Carolina pulled an upset in the regular season before falling in the NCAA semifinals. Two days later, though, Maryland rallied from an early hole to secure a 13-11 victory and its 10th national title -- but first since 2001.

"It's great. Somebody on Sunday asked something about being No. 1 and I thought 'Oh my God, I've only been here 10 minutes,'" Maryland coach Cathy Reese said. "You sit there and it was a such a great game, such a hard-fought game on both sides, and I'm just so proud of the way our players kept their composure and responded. Being down 6-0 to a very, very powerful five-time defending champion Northwestern could have been quite intimidating at that point. But these guys found a way to fight back and I think it shows a lot about this team."

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