With Johns Hopkins women’s lacrosse team losing most of the draws and trailing by a goal at halftime against Loyola on Wednesday night, Blue Jays coach Janine Tucker knew she had to make a change, so she sent freshman Erica Matz to handle the draws.
Matz turned the game around.
Her ability to win possession sparked a five-goal Johns Hopkins run and the No. 14 Blue Jays went on to take their first-ever win over the No. 9 Greyhounds, 11-8.
“In the recruiting process, Erica really stood out on the draw,” Tucker said. “She has a very unique style and one of her fortes in high school was she would just pop it to herself … so we took a chance with Erica. One of our assistant coaches, Kelly Kasper, took her under the stadium and banged out a couple of draws and came back to me and said, ‘She’s ready.’ We stuck her out there and she was just the spark we needed. She won four herself and in a game like that, those four possessions meant everything.”
Matz, a Bryn Mawr graduate, said her teammates were so supportive that she wasn’t too nervous taking over the draw in such a big game. With Matz, the Blue Jays won nine of 11 in the second half.
“I was obviously very excited to go in and I tried to do whatever I could to come up with the ball, because possession was key,” Matz said. “I just have a unique style on the draw that not many other people do. I was able to either draw it to myself or draw it into space and run onto it. When I didn’t get it, my teammates were there to come up with it. It was exciting because you saw the momentum change.”
At 5 feet 7, Matz is not exceptionally tall, but Tucker said her stance and her hand speed enable her to beat most opponents off the draw.
“Where they put the ball these days (between the backs of the two crosses on the draw), that’s really a big piece of it – being able to get under it quicker than the other kids,” Tucker said. “The way she positions herself, she gets herself really close to her stick, so she uses a lot of leverage from her body.”
In their first three wins, the Blue Jays dominated the draw, and Matz saw little action. Before Wednesday night, she had won only one draw control. After Wednesday, she's up to five.
Tucker now sees a key role for Matz, because as with the faceoff in the men’s game, the women’s draw is becoming a specialized position for some teams. Matz was only on the field for the draws, but with her ability to change the game, she could be back there in the next game – March 9 at home against defending national champion and American Lacrosse Conference foe Northwestern.
“This will be interesting,” Tucker said, “because with Northwestern, they have a smiliar kid at the draw to the Loyola kid and so that could be a great role for Erica as well.”
Is Matz ready to do battle with Northwestern’s Alyssa Leonard who has won 37 draws in the first four games and has helped the Wildcats win 69 of 93 this season?
“Of course,” she said.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun