Owen Blye and Zach Palmer might not have much sympathy for each other, but this season, they can empathize with one another.
That's because the attackmen are laboring through underwhelming senior campaigns for Maryland and Johns Hopkins, respectively, and have been overshadowed by their teammates. But as Palmer leads the No. 15 Blue Jays (6-4) into Saturday's annual game with Blye and the No. 4 Terps (8-1) at Byrd Stadium in College Park, the duo can mutually agree that they are willing to sacrifice individual glory for team success.
"I've had some ups and downs this year with injuries and trying to fit into the offense," Blye conceded. "But overall, I try not to look at individual statistics. They can be misleading sometimes, and the team is playing really well. So that's all I'm concerned with."
Added Palmer: "I've played on teams where we had a lot of star power. So I'm used to not worrying about the numbers. I'd rather get a win than anything else."
Blye and Palmer are still effective components of their respective teams' offenses. Palmer, a native of Oshawa, Ontario, ranks second on Johns Hopkins in both assists (12) and points (24) this season. Blye, a native of Chester Springs, Pa., is tied for fourth on Maryland in goals (13) and is fourth in assists (seven) and points.
Palmer is projected to finish the regular season with 16 goals and 16 assists, and Blye is on pace for 18 goals and 10 assists. Both projections would be the lowest totals in their careers since they were freshmen.
Aside from their physical differences (Blye is listed at 6 feet 3 and 185 pounds, while Palmer is 5-7 and 173 pounds), ESPN analyst Mark Dixon said there are notable distinctions in their games.
"Blye, you thought he was going to be more of an on-ball attackman when he got to College Park and especially this season, but we've seen at times [Terps coach] John Tillman bump [senior] Kevin Cooper down to the attack and carry the ball behind the goal a lot," the former Johns Hopkins midfielder said. "One is Canadian, one is from Pennsylvania. So I think they're vastly different in their games. Palmer's a whole lot flashier. Blye is a bit more efficient."
Blye and Palmer got off to inauspicious beginnings this year. Blye's preseason was limited by a bad back, and he acknowledged that the injury impeded his ability to start quickly.
"The last two years, I've had injuries at the very beginning of preseason that kept me out for the entire preseason, and oftentimes, that's tough to come back from when everybody else is in shape and has had a few month of practice under their belts, whereas I was coming back in right at the beginning of the season," he said. "I've struggled with that a little bit for the past two years, but that's just something that's a part of sports. If you get injured, you just have to deal with it. I don't think it's an excuse or anything, but that has been a challenge for me."
Blye excels at dodging from behind the cage, but he has had to share those responsibilities with Cooper (Archbishop Spalding), the team's leading scorer with 17 goals and 14 assists. Sophomore Jay Carlson (St. Paul's) also has drawn some of the spotlight with 16 goals, which is second on the Terps.
Tillman said one of Blye's strengths is his ability to run the offense without expecting to score.
"He just wants the team to win," Tillman said. "I think he also feels a sense of responsibility as an older guy and a very experienced guy to make sure that everybody else is in the right spot and that we're doing the things that we need to do. He definitely is not afraid to get after guys and have a sense of urgency when there needs to be some down there. That's something I can appreciate, and when things need to get settled down, he has no problem trying to make sure that we dial it down, let's take a deep breath, let's make sure we're getting in what we need to get in. I really value Owen and what he brings to our program on so many levels beyond just putting the ball in the back of the net."
Palmer, meanwhile, underwent sports hernia surgery in late December. When he returned late in the preseason, the role of primary initiator had been turned over to sophomore Wells Stanwick (Boys' Latin), who leads the offense with 22 goals and 16 assists. Ordinarily, that might offend a competitor such as Palmer, but he said he hasn't entirely surrendered that duty to his younger teammates.
"I think I've turned a little bit more of a shooter with Wells as the primary dodger, but I can still dodge," he said. "I'm the senior on the attack. So I kind of have to do that leadership role."
Palmer's primary adversary has been consistency. He had three goals and one assist in an 11-10 overtime loss to No. 3 North Carolina on March 30 but managed just one goal total in games against No. 7 Syracuse, then-No. 13 Virginia and then-No. 19 Albany.
"I think what's happened to Zach is, there's just been some inconsistency," Johns Hopkins coach Dave Pietramala said. "There's that level of consistency that we've got to find. The hope is, we can just keep continuing to work and that we can find it in the next couple of days."
Perhaps 2013 has not shaped up to what Blye and Palmer had envisioned, but both players pointed out that they still have time. .
"I think everything happens for a reason," Blye said. "I couldn't be happier with the way the team has played so far, and we're looking forward to the last stretch and getting into the playoffs and seeing how that goes."