There’s no disputing that Johns Hopkins’ Kyle Wharton has one of the fastest and hardest shots in the country – as evidenced when he tore the net with a blast in a 13-6 victory over Towson on April 28.
But Wharton is what is known in lacrosse circles as a stand-and-shoot finisher, and opponents disarmed the 6-foot-2, 205-pound attackman by assigning a short-stick midfielder to stay in his hands and prevent him from winding up and getting off a shot.
So in the offseason, the senior took it upon himself to become more a dodger and work on his off-ball movement so that he can free himself up for a scoring opportunity.
“It was frustrating,” Wharton acknowledged of the defensive ploys he faced last spring. “But after talking to the coaches all through the summer and through the fall, we’ve definitely improved in that aspect.”
The Blue Jays, who could potentially start three sophomores and a freshman on offense Saturday against Towson, need a more diverse Wharton. Last season, the team went 2-6 when Wharton scored either one goal or less.
In the offseason, Wharton took the initiative and worked on carrying the ball and forcing the action. With fifth-year senior attackman Chris Boland sidelined as he recovered from knee surgery, Wharton continued to refine his skills in fall scrimmages.
“For us, we needed Kyle to expand his role and expand his impact on this team,” coach Dave Pietramala said. “TraditionaIly, everybody looks at Kyle as a catch-and-shoot guy, a scorer from the outside. And teams will crowd him, teams won’t let him get his shots. They will game-plan against that. From the end of season and on through the summer and through the fall, we discussed quite frankly with him that he had to expand his role and his game. One of the good things about not having Chris Boland in the fall was, like it or not, that forced Kyle to do that. When he’s playing with a couple of freshmen or a sophomore, it was obvious that he needed to stand up and do more.”
Wharton said he is beginning to feel more confident with his added responsibilities.
“Working on that with [sophomore attackman] Zach [Palmer], it was kind of a two-man game between me and him, and I really think that I’ve improved in that aspect,” Wharton said. “That was something that I wasn’t really asked to do in the first three years, and then now that I have, I think I’ve definitely improved a bunch.”