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The second ranked Johns Hopkins Blue Jays snapped a four game losing streak to Syracuse Saturday afternoon at Homewood Field, beating the Orange 11-7 after leading by a score of 10-4 in the third quarter.
Mike Poppleton won the opening face-off, giving Hopkins possession of the ball on offense with John Greeley at the top corner of the restraining line. Greeley swept to his right and faked a flip hand-off to fellow midfielder John Ranagan. As the two players nearly collided, the Syracuse defensemen failed an attempted switch which left Greeley running straight towards the goal with nothing in his way. He fired high and scored, giving Hopkins the lead just 35 seconds into the game. A packed Homewood Field crowd erupted under sunny skies on a beautiful March day, foreshadowing what would be a long, aggravating game for Syracuse.
Hopkins’ sophomore attackman Brandon Benn, a Canadian born player with fantastic stick skills in tight areas and a shot to match; had 4 goals and 1 assist on the day. Benn was the man who officially broke Syracuse’s spirit, rattling off three straight unanswered goals in the third quarter to extend the Hopkins lead to 10-4.
Freshman Wells Stanwick returned after missing the previous three games against Princeton, Manhattan and UMBC. Though just a freshman Stanwick plays an important role on the extra man unit as the point man at the top of the offense, contributing a goal and an assist Saturday versus the Orange. His presence was felt when he caught a ball with his left hand five yards off the top of the crease, turned to his left and finished in the upper left hand corner of the goal, putting the ball where the goalie and myself for that matter, least expected.
For better or worse I’m going to call John Ranagan and John Greeley the Bash Brothers. Both midfielders are over 6’2 and over 200 lbs. They are a tough match up for both long pole and short pole defenders, considering at their size they can both fluidly shoot on the run. Each posted 2 goals, 1 assist on the day. I’ll distinguish the two as best I can. Greeley is laterally a quicker player who can change directions very well for his size, also Greeley can place his shot with a little more accuracy. Ranagan is more of a straight line runner, faster than Greeley and can also dial up a higher number on the radar gun. Don’t forget the third midfielder that runs with the Bash Brothers, Rob Guida a 5’9 sophomore who quietly posted 2 goals and 2 assists Saturday.
Syracuse lost a lot of talent from last years team, its entire first midfield, highest scoring attackman, three starting long poles and its All-American goalie. It showed today as the offense struggled to penetrate a rock-solid, but not flashy Hopkins defense. The ‘Cuse attack lacks the explosiveness that we all remember from years past, yes, there are excellent shooters in Timmy Desko and rising star sophomore Derek Maltz. What’s missing is the dodging from the attackmen which creates slides and allows the Orange’s quick sticks to find open shooters. It’s not to say that Hopkins transfer Tommy Palasek is an inept dodger, but he does not possess the quickness or the size to handle the quarterback position by himself.
Junior JoJo Marasco who wears the infamous “22″ jersey for the Orange, was moved to midfield this season with the departure of the entire 2011 starting midfield. His ability to lose his defender and his vision on the run are sorely missed on the Syracuse attack. Don’t be surprised if coach John Desko has Marasco back with the attack unit in the near future.
A frustrating day for the Syracuse defense, a unit captained by senior and four year starter Brian Megill. As I mentioned earlier, the loss of two starting close defenders, their best long pole midfielder and their goalie, leaves Megill to lead an inexperienced group against one of the deepest offenses that DI lacrosse has to offer in Hopkins. Sophomore goalkeeper Matt Lerman did not seem up to the task, missing several stick side shots. It looked to me like Lerman had his confidence shaken early with Greeley’s goal less than a minute into the game and he never recovered.
Departures and slow starts aside, we are still talking about Syracuse here. A program that can pretty much have any recruit they want out of high school, not to mention their feeder school, Onondaga Community College which gave them the likes of Jeremy Thompson and Sid Jamieson over the past couple seasons to name a few.
So let’s give credit where it’s due, to the Johns Hopkins defense. Tucker Durkin and Chris Lightner did a great job of keeping Syracuse off the crease, pressing their attackmen out when they had the ball and clogging up the middle in front of goal to discourage any passing lanes. Goalie Pierce Bassett had a relatively easy day, as it seemed like half of Syracuse’s shots went directly to his stick. But he made the saves that were needed to keep his team in front the entire game. Add in the play of long-stick midfielder Jack Reilly on the Orange’s big midfielders Kevin Drew and Bobby Eilers, and you start to get a feel for exactly how the Blue Jays kept such a notoriously high powered offense to just seven goals.
Moving forward Syracuse has to find a way to get a dodging spark from behind the goal, Maltz and Desko thrive when they are getting their hands free for 8-10 yard shots. Those opportunities are hard to come by without someone drawing their defenders away. The athletic senior midfielders Drew and Eilers have to become scoring threats. Marasco can not be a one man show on the midfield.
Some bright spots shone through from younger Orange players on Saturday. Freshman midfielder Henry Schoonmaker, from Oregon of all places, had a nice slicing run through the Hopkins defense, scoring and taking a hit but proving that the moment wasn’t too big for him. Junior Pete Coleman, a reserve attackman saw decent time with the extra man unit, putting himself on the score sheet with an assist to Desko in the fourth quarter. Sophomore Billy Ward was deployed into the ‘Cuse offense in the second quarter as Desko was toying with the lineup to find production. Ward came on as a fourth attackman, my guess is to give the Orange another dodger, and he fed Eilers to cut it to a 5-3 ballgame.
The Blue Jays have a very deep team this year, it’s scary to imagine how good they will be next year considering that the core of the squad are all Juniors. Bassett, Durkin, Lightner, Greeley, Ranagan, Poppleton, Lee Coppersmith, John Kaestner and Zach Palmer are all Juniors who start or see considerable time for Hopkins. Not to mention that Benn, Guida, Reilly and Greg Edmonds are all sophomores who contribute. And Wells Stanwick is a freshman. Add a typical Hopkins recruiting class to that mix — and wow. Yea, good luck to the rest of Division I next year.
For now the Jays have to rebound quickly as they travel to face the #1 team in the country next Saturday, the defending champion Virginia Cavaliers in Charlottesville. A match up between the top two teams in the country, both come into the game undefeated.
You can catch that game March 24, 2 p.m. on ESPNU