Wednesday’s supposed snowstorm wiped out UMBC’s scheduled contest with No. 1 Maryland, but the Retrievers (1-3) are still trying to snap a two-game losing streak. UMBC has scored less than 10 goals in each of its three losses. Meanwhile, No. 10 Johns Hopkins got back into the win column with a 19-9 demolition of Mount St. Mary’s on Tuesday night. The biggest mystery for the Blue Jays (4-1) is whether they will start senior Pierce Bassett or redshirt sophomore Eric Schneider in the cage. Here are a few factors that could influence the outcome at Homewood Field on Friday evening.
1) Sweat the “little” details. At 6-foot-4 and 210 pounds and 6-2 and 195 pounds, respectively, senior attackmen Scott Jones and Matt Gregoire are imposing figures on the UMBC offense. Perhaps not surprisingly, Jones leads the team in goals with seven and Gregoire is tied for second with five. But Johns Hopkins coach Dave Pietramala said the risk in paying too much attention to Jones and Gregoire on the inside is not paying enough to the Retrievers’ outside shooters. “They put a lot of pressure on you to be concerned about those guys on the inside,” Pietramala said. “It’s like having to defend a big man in basketball. People get so concerned about the big guy that things open up on the perimeter. And they’ve got some kids like [senior midfielder Scott] Hopmann and [junior midfielder Zach] Linkous that can really shoot the ball very well. So that’s an area where I think they do a very good job.”
2) Cover the face(offs). The Blue Jays boast the nation’s top faceoff specialist in senior Mike Poppleton, who has 75.3 percent (70-of-93) of his draws this season. UMBC isn’t exactly a wallflower in that department as junior Phil Poe is winning faceoffs at a 53.9 success rate (48-of-89). Poe’s ability to counteract Poppleton could go a long way to determining how many possessions the Retrievers offense will have against the Johns Hopkins defense. “Possession gives your team not only a chance to score goals, but it allows your defense to rest,” coach Don Zimmerman said. “Lacrosse is a game where it’s make-it, take-it. If you get a goal, you can come right back, win the next faceoff, and keep the pressure on your opponent. So it’s critical in every game.”
3) Make hay with the midfield. The Blue Jays got a combined nine goals and five assists from their starting attack of sophomore Wells Stanwick, junior Brandon Benn and senior John Kaestner (playing for senior Zach Palmer, who served a one-game suspension for violating an unspecified team policy). The four goals and five assists posted by the starting midfield of seniors John Ranagan and John Greeley and junior Rex Sanders might pale in comparison, but Pietramala lauded the trio’s work. “They had a lot of quality possessions,” he said. “You’ve just got to be careful not to judge guys by how many goals did they score. In this game, our attack scored a lot of goals, but part of that was because the midfielder did their job. I thought they made the simple play. I thought that was very important.”