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The 15: 2016 Sports Highlights

January 15, 2016

The year 2015 produced mixed results for the local sports scene. The Orioles and Ravens both missed out on the postseason. On the college side, however, the Maryland women's lacrosse team repeated as national champions, and the Terps men's basketball squad made the NCAA tournament for the first time in five years. This year promises to give local-area supporters its share of memorable moments as well. With that in mind, here's a look at 15 sporting events -- listed by date -- Baltimore sports fans won't want to miss in 2016. 

1. March 4-7: Colonial Athletic Association Men's Basketball Tournament

Since moving from Richmond, Va., to Baltimore's Royal Farms Arena in 2013-14, the CAA men's basketball tournament has provided a lot of excitement and thrills. Last season, third-seeded Northeastern upset top-seeded William & Mary, 72-61, during the championship game to capture its lone conference crown in program history. The previous year, top-seeded Delaware held off the third-seeded Tribe, 75-74, during a back-and-forth affair to reach the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1999 and fifth time overall.

2. March 12: Maryland Women's Lacrosse vs. Syracuse

Terps Maryland Women's Lacrosse 2015
Photo Credit: Mitch Stringer/PressBox

During Maryland's current string of three consecutive national championship game appearances, the team has received one its most formidable challenges from the Orange in the NCAA tournament. Each time, though, the Terps found a way to prevail during those three nail-biting contests, making this year's regular-season meeting at Syracuse one of the most anticipated in recent memory. Dating back to 2010-11, seven of the last nine meetings -- including the postseason -- between these two former Atlantic Coast Conference opponents have been decided by three or fewer goals.

3. March 18: McDonogh Girls' Lacrosse vs. Ponte Vedra (Fla.)

Will McDonogh's season opener finally be the game the reigning seven-time Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland A Conference champions national-record 133-game winning streak ends? Head coach Chris Robinson's bunch will be tested on a neutral field at High Point University on St. Patrick's Day by a Ponte Vedra team coming off three consecutive 19-win campaigns. Last season, however, the Eagles remained cool in big moments, punctuating their sixth straight undefeated campaign with a pair of one-goal victories.

4. April 4: Orioles Opening Day vs. Minnesota Twins

Issue 207: Orioles Fans Camden Yards

For the third time in five seasons, the Minnesota Twins will come to town for the Orioles' first home series. During its last two home openers against the Twins, Baltimore got out of the gates quickly with a 4-2 win in 2012 and a 9-5 victory the following year.  

5. April 28-30: NFL Draft

Ravens fans making the trek to Chicago's Auditorium Theatre for the draft hope it's the beginning of a fresh start after a disappointing 5-11 season that started with Super Bowl expectations. Baltimore holds the No. 6 overall pick, its highest selection since tabbing one-time Pro Bowl running back Jamal Lewis No. 5 in 2000. The team can only hope its second draft in the Windy City turns out better than its first after last year's first-round selection, Breshad Perriman, suffered a season-ending knee injury during training camp. 

6. April 30: Maryland Men's Lacrosse vs. Johns Hopkins

If the past is any indication, local fans should be in store for another epic showdown when the Blue Jays and Terps face off in the regular-season finale at Homewood Field. These two storied programs, which first met in 1895, joined the Big Ten in 2015 and shared the conference's initial regular-season crown with identical 4-1 league records. Hopkins got the better of Maryland during the regular season with a thrilling 15-12 overtime victory, but the Terps earned a hard-fought 12-11 win in the rematch to advance to the national title game.

7. May 21: 141st Preakness Stakes

Preakness 2015: American Pharoh
Photo Credit: Maryland Jockey Club

After American Pharoah's showing at Pimlico Race Course last year, whichever horse comes into the Preakness as the Kentucky Derby winner will certainly have a lot to live up to. On the way to becoming just the 12th horse to win the Triple Crown -- and first since 1978 -- American Pharoah put on a show for the record crowd of 131,680 fans. The colt led the race from start to finish, winning the Triple Crown's second jewel by seven lengths.

8. May 26-29: Big East Conference Baseball Tournament

In addition to serving as the home of the short-season Aberdeen IronBirds, Leidos Field at Ripken Stadium has hosted various youth and collegiate tournaments in its 14-year history. Now, the venue can add the Big East Conference baseball tournament to that list when the league's top teams descend upon Aberdeen, Md., to determine a champion. The four-team, double-elimination tournament is being held at its third different stadium in as many years after taking place at Bright House Field in Clearwater, Fla., from 2008-13.

9. Aug. 5-21: Olympics

This year's Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, the Games' first South American host city, could feature some prominent Baltimore athletes who have thrived on sports' biggest stage. Michael Phelps is training for a coveted spot on his fifth consecutive U.S. swimming team in an effort to add to his all-time record of 22 Olympic medals, including 18 golds. Carmelo Anthony, a graduate of the now-defunct Towson Catholic, also stands a good chance of returning to the men's basketball team to compete for a third straight gold.

10. September: Ravens Home Opener

Ravens 2013: M&T Bank Stadium
Photo Credit: Sabina Moran/PressBox

Last season, the NFL schedule makers did the Ravens no favors by sending the team on the road for its first two games. It was the first time since 2010 Baltimore did not play its home opener until Week Three and first time since 2005 the team opened the season 0-2. Given that trend, there's a strong possibility Ravens fans won't have to wait as long this time around to christen another year at M&T Bank Stadium.  

11. Sept. 3: Maryland vs. Howard Football At Maryland Stadium

Maryland will usher in a new era when it welcomes local Football Championship Subdivision foe Howard to College Park, Md., in the season opener. DJ Durkin will make his much-anticipated debut as the Terps' head football coach nine months and one day after taking over the program. Also, it's the first game Maryland will play following the university Board of Regents' vote to change the name of the 66-year-old home of the Terps from Byrd Stadium to Maryland Stadium.

Issue 212: Maryland Terps football banners at Byrd Stadium
Photo Credit: Ed Sheahin/PressBox

12. Sept. 30-Oct. 2: Orioles Wrap Up Regular Season

The Orioles will wrap up the 2016 regular season against the New York Yankees. It is the third time in the last five seasons the Birds will play the year's last regular-season series against New York, having done so in 2012 and 2015. In last season's finale, Baltimore pummeled the Yankees, 9-4, to put the finishing touches on its fourth straight season with a .500 or better record.   

13. Oct. 15: Baltimore Running Festival

The Baltimore Marathon might not be as prominent as the Boston, New York or Chicago marathons yet, but it has grown exponentially since its inaugural year in 2001. During that time, the event has gone from 4,829 runners to more than 25,000 from all 50 states and 20 foreign countries. Additionally, the race supports more than a dozen charities that are selected by the Baltimore Office for Promotion and the Arts in the Mayor's Office.

14. Nov. 24: Calvert Hall vs. Loyola Blakefield Turkey Bowl Game

Baltimore's annual Thanksgiving high school football game between Calvert Hall and Loyola Blakefield has been a staple in the area for nearly the last 100 years. The contest between the two Maryland Interstate Athletic Association A Conference foes is the third-oldest local rivalry behind the 127 years of City-Poly and 100 years of Gilman-McDonogh. While the Dons lead the all-time series, 49-39-8, the Cardinals have won six of the past seven meetings to tighten the gap.  

15. Dec. 10: Navy vs. Army Football At M&T Bank Stadium

Navy Football 2014: Army-Navy Game (Anthem)
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Navy Athletics

One of college football's greatest rivalries returns to Baltimore next season, when the 117th edition of the Army-Navy game takes place at M&T Bank Stadium. The last time the two teams met in Charm City, in 2014, the Midshipmen eked out a 17-10 victory to run their then-series-record winning streak to 13. This upcoming clash will mark just the seventh time the Midshipmen and Black Knights have tangled in Baltimore, with the pair splitting the previous six meetings.

Issue 217: January 2016