The starting attack for the Johns Hopkins men's lacrosse team got the message loud and clear.
Eight days after coach Dave Pietramala thought that unit could have done more in the squad's season-opening win against Siena, it combined for eight goals and four assists in the No. 5 Blue Jays' 12-6 victory over host Towson before an announced 1,687 Saturday night at Johnny Unitas Stadium.
Junior Brandon Benn led all scorers with four goals, and senior Zach Palmer and sophomore Wells Stanwick each added two goals and two assists as Johns Hopkins improved to 2-0. Stanwick acknowledged that the trio drew inspiration from Pietramala's pleas to press the issue against opposing defenses.
"We were definitely motivated," said the Baltimore native and Boys' Latin graduate, whose four points were a career high. "When your coach calls out saying that you guys got to step up and that the [Siena] defense took it to us last week, it kind of gets into the back of your head that you need to step up for the team. So we got into it all week in practice that we got to make a play."
Added Benn: "We knew that as a group, Coach was asking us to do something that we didn't really do against Siena and we understood that we had to step up this week and do it. I think this week in practice, we were trying to take more control at the attack and take control of our offense, and I think we did a good job of that tonight."
That trio — which totaled five goals and two assists in the 15-6 rout of Siena — was especially effective in the first half against Towson. The starters scored the Blue Jays' first five goals as they took a 6-3 lead at halftime.
The Tigers were was blanked 3-0 in the first quarter but scored three of the second quarter's first four goals to shave the deficit to one after junior midfielder Thomas DeNapoli beat senior goalkeeper Pierce Bassett on a curl around the left post with 9:32 left in the period.
But the Tigers could not get another one past Bassett (12 saves) for the next 26 minutes, 59 seconds. They finally broke the drought 2:27 into the fourth quarter when senior midfielder Greg Cuccinello converted a pass from junior midfielder Rob Zoppo.
During that stretch, the Blue Jays scored four unanswered goals — including three in the third quarter — to create enough distance from Towson.
Cuccinello and sophomore attackman Cory Dobyns each scored two goals, and senior goalie Andrew Wascavage turned away a game-high 13 shots. It wasn't enough to prevent the Tigers from falling to 0-2 for the third time in the last four years, but it was a welcome sight for coach Shawn Nadelen, who openly questioned his team's attitude in the days after a season-opening 9-7 loss to High Point.
"I'm proud of our guys' effort," Nadelen said. "That definitely was the Towson team I was used to seeing out there on the field as far as the energy, flying around, competing, really, really battling. I'm really proud of our guys. Our execution wasn't fully there at both ends of the field, which is why the score is what it was. We've got to be able to dial it in at both ends."