By Nelson Coffin

As the 2003 season debuts amidst the aftermath of one of the nastiest winters in recent memory, the shoe, or snowshoe, is on the proverbial "other foot" for many coaches. Those at frigid outposts such as Syracuse in central New York or Vermont's Middlebury College - men's Division I and Division III national champions, respectively - must be getting a big chuckle as their blizzard-bound brethren from usually benign climates struggle with the bounty of white stuff deposited by a cranky Mother Nature over the President's Day weekend.

From Baltimore to Boston, the snowfall was measured in feet, not inches, creating immeasurable chaos for programs that are used to having fields galore by this time of the year while their northern cronies are practicing at indoor facilities at the oddest of hours. We wonder whether the weather has leveled the playing field to put everyone on even footing as the title chase begins, by putting almost all squads at the same disadvantage. Or, do the northerners gain even more of an edge in an effort to keep their titles?

the faithful

Regardless of which region was harmed most, the fact remains that the magnitude of the snowfall was, at best, an obstacle that had to be dealt with if scrimmages and/or practices were to be held. Ask New York Tech Coach Jack Kaley, whose team traveled to North Carolina recently to work in games against St. Andrews and Wingate (both wins) before returning to a white-blanketed Big Apple. Smaller storms prior to the President's Day blockbuster had already made life miserable for the Division II runners-up. Post-blizzard practices were as much about shovels as they were about sticks. "We don't have an indoor facility," said Kaley, whose next scheduled game is against Merrimack on March 11. "So we use a parking lot." The telltale effects were evident in the southern swing. "We were lucky to win," Kaley admitted. "We hadn't been outside much and it showed. What it really shows up in is in rides and clears. And our offensive and defensive spacing needs work. That's the hardest thing to work on."

Pre-game activity Saturday at Loyola in Baltimore

Speaking of work, the Bears (14-1 in 2002), had more than their share back on campus. In a message left on the voice mail at the lacrosse office several days after the storm, the former East Meadow (Long Island) boss advised his players to "dress appropriately" for a group shovel party designed to clear the field. The Bears were counseled to be prepared for at least a two-hour session of manual labor, removing snow via buckets.

E-Lacrosse Photographer Bill Jones bundles up

Several hundred miles south and one division removed, the Maryland Terrapins faced a similar predicament. Although Coach Dave Cottle's club has a small weather-protected plastic "bubble," it still needed more room for practice. After all, the Terps were slated to open the '03 campaign February 22 against Georgetown in the first-ever regular-season meeting between the neighboring institutions (and, yes, Maryland is now an institution).

The Heralded Terps v. Hoyas Opener!

No surprise that the game was postponed. Days after the snow ended, hours of pounding rains joined melting snow creating so much water that it got under the artificial turf producing an amusing but dangerous waterbed-like wave underneath. Maryland had hired a construction crew to remove some of the snow just to get to the turf. That effort was supplemented by Terp players brandishing shovels. "Everybody's in the same boat," said Cottle, 9-4 in his first season in College Park last spring. "I really think it hurts all of us. But the northern schools are better served in bad weather. They know how to deal with it."

Towson University on gameday

Towson had to deal with elements, as well, in their home opener on February 23 against Rutgers. With huge mounds of snow ringing the field and a wind howling out of the west at 30 miles per hour, it was a very chilly curtain-raiser for Towson Coach Tony Seaman's Tigers. The 10-9 Rutgers triumph made the temperature drop even lower for the Tiger faithful. A week earlier, Seaman gathered his troops at 7 a.m. for a foray to Philly for a scrimmage with Coach Brian Voelker's Penn Quakers. While the blizzard raged, Seaman considered his options and thought better of taking what was sure to be a perilous drive up I-95. "We got everybody together," said Seaman, a Cortland State slum who knows from snow. "But we called it off. We weren't going to make that trip."

Photos by John Strohsacker and E-Lax Staff

Carc's sporting REBELWEAR Uniforms!

February 24, 2003