Cavaliers Face Johns Hopkins Once Again in NCAAs
CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA—Most sports fans like high-scoring back-and-forth contests that aren’t decided until the very end. Witness Virginia’s first game against Johns Hopkins earlier this season when the Cavaliers bolted out to a big lead, relinquished it, and then posted a 16-15 victory late.
As these two teams prepare for their quarterfinal match-up Sunday in Annapolis, the stakes are much higher than during the regular season with a berth in the national semifinals on the line. While neither team is looking that far ahead, it’s unlikely this game will match the earlier one for scoring.
“My guess is that the way these games usually play out is the second time around against these good teams the games are played a little closer to the vest,” said Virginia head coach Dom Starsia. “I think Hopkins will work harder to try to control the tempo of the game if they can.”
In the first meeting this season Virginia won 17 of 21 faceoffs in the first half and gobbled up nearly three times as many ground balls as the Blue Jays (17-6) on the way to building a 12-6 lead late in the first half.
The roles switched in the third quarter as the homestanding Blue Jays dominated faceoffs and ground balls to roar back and take a one-goal lead into the fourth quarter.
“If you want to play 16-15 then both teams have to cooperate,” Starsia said. “Hopkins cooperated the last time because they were behind, so they were sort of reluctant participants the last time around.”
Given the stakes, Starsia believes such a high scoring affair is unlikely despite the fact that Johns Hopkins has some tremendous offensive weapons.
“I think we forced their hand a little bit the last time offensively and I see a team now that is a little more comfortable in their skin especially offensively,” he said. “(Midfielder) Brian Christopher has made some awfully big plays for them. They sort of know who they are right now offensively and where they’re going to go to create offense. The question is going to be whether or not we’re going to be good enough to stop them.”
Christopher hit the game-winning shot in overtime last week against Brown to propel the Blue Jays into the quarterfinals. He and attackman Chris Boland have each scored 28 goals, second on the team; Boland notched six goals in the first game against the Cavaliers. Attackman Kyle Wharton leads the way with 33 goals.
During their seven-game winning streak the 10-4 Blue Jays have reached double digits every time.
Unlike the Blue Jays, the Cavaliers did not have to sweat out last week’s first round game against Villanova. They jumped to a 9-0 bulge after one quarter and gained a convincing 18-6 win that enabled them to regain some confidence after a tough three-week stretch to end the regular season.
“It really is a simple game when you’re playing your best lacrosse; that’s what’s most important,” said senior attackman Danny Glading. “We got our confidence back (last week) by playing hard. The preparation we put into these games is going to carry the day for us so that’s really what we’re focusing on right now.”
Much of the preparation has been to replicate the things they did well in the first game.
“In a game like this I think we have a chance to win the ground ball game decisively, the combination of faceoffs and winning balls,” Starsia said. “If we can do that then we have a chance to dictate the tempo a little bit. They hurt us away from the ball the last time that we played so we need to be sharp on defense. If we can win the ground ball battle, possess the ball and win that time of possession game, then I think we have a chance to create good opportunities. I feel like we’re playing pretty well offensively right now and that will increase our chances to score.”
Knowing that they have done all those things this season gives the Cavaliers reason for optimism, but it’s no guarantee it will happen again.
“It’s a little bit of a mental advantage but at the end of the day you still have to go out and play the game,” said midfielder Max Pomper. “That’s what’s so great about sports. We’re looking forward to going out there and seeing what they have and putting our best foot forward.”