Heavy Play, Rain Make Field Quagmire

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Byline: Patrick Stevens, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

BALTIMORE - The biggest crowd in the 33-year history of the NCAA tournament saw perhaps the worst field conditions for a title game.

The M&T Bank Stadium field absorbed four straight days of rain and four other games were played on it over the weekend. The grounds crew replaced the sod inside the crease and at the faceoff X before yesterday's game, but the area in front of both goal creases was torn up and bounce shots were rendered ineffective.

When Virginia jumped to an early 5-0 lead en route to a 9-7 defeat of Johns Hopkins, it relied primarily on shots from grassy areas more than 10 yards from the goal rather than the muck in front of the cage.

"It was a general idea that you're not going to get a good shot if you're stuck in the mud up top," said Virginia midfielder A.J. Shannon, who scored four goals. "It was pretty thick. But somehow, I never had any problem with my footing. On the outside it was great."

Still, the field didn't influence the flow of the game as much as expected. Though conditions were treacherous Hopkins defenseman Michael Peyser said "it was like a bog" players did not fall down in key situations.

"In some ways, it was the worst field I've ever been on but I didn't feel like it impacted play a lot," Virginia coach Dom Starsia said. "The kids were kind of slipping and sliding but it didn't impact play. I felt like both teams got to where they wanted."

Meanwhile, the paid attendance of 37,944 an improvement from Saturday's crowd of 37,823 for the semifinals shattered the old record for a title game, 26,229 for the 1995 final. It was also the first time since 1994 the championship game crowd was larger than the semifinals.

Defense preaches patience

While goalie Tillman Johnson stopped nearly everything that came his way, the rest of the Virginia defense limited Hopkins' scoring chances through its methodical play. …