Johns Hopkins commands a 68-40-1 advantage in this contentious series and has won the past four games in College Park. But Maryland has won the last two meetings and three of the last four.
The No. 15 Blue Jays (6-4) are struggling, having lost their last two games and three of their last four. Sophomore attackman Well Stanwick (22 goals and 16 assists) will demand a certain amount of attention, but he could use some help from a first midfield that totaled six goals and one assists in last four contests.
The No. 4 Terps (8-1) have won two games in a row after suffering its first loss of the season on March 23 when No. 3 North Carolina emerged with a 10-8 victory. Senior John Haus needs just two points to become the first full-time midfielder to rack up 100 points in a career since Bill McGlone achieved that feat in 2006.
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Here are a few factors that could play a role in the outcome at Byrd Stadium in College Park on Saturday.
1) How to defend Maryland’s diversified offense? In Johns Hopkins’ 10-9 loss to No. 14 Albany on April 5, the defense knew that it had to concentrate on the Thompson trio of sophomore Lyle and juniors Miles and Ty. That focus will be a bit more widespread because all six of the Terps’ offensive starters have recorded at least 17 points this spring. Senior attackman Kevin Cooper leads Maryland in goals (17) and assists (14), but sophomore attackman Jay Carlson is second with 16 goals, and Haus and redshirt junior midfielder Mike Chanenchuk are tied for second on the team in assists with nine. “The challenge this week is different,” Blue Jays coach Dave Pietramala acknowledged. “It’s because the focal point of this offense is not just one, two or three guys. It’s a six-man unit. It’s a unit that I think is very good. It’s very balanced. They can play in front of the goal and behind the goal. I think they have a a group of guys that are assuming their roles not just willy-nilly, but willingly. They know their roles and they’re assuming them because that’s what they have to do for the success of their team. That being the case, now you go from having to defend three guys to having to defend six guys, and that can be more of a challenge.”
2) How to thwart Johns Hopkins’ Mike Poppleton? The Blue Jays entered the week ranked seventh in Division I in offense (12.6 goals per game), and some of that unit’s credit should go to faceoff specialist Mike Poppleton. The senior ranks second in the country in faceoff percentage (67.6 on 127-of-188) and 10th in ground balls per game (7.2). Poppleton’s success has jump-started Johns Hopkins’ offense, which means that Terps sophomore Charlie Raffa (58.5 on 96-of-164) will have to scrap for every draw. Coach John Tillman said he may also employ senior Curtis Holmes (64.5 on 20-of-31) to help wear down Poppleton. “We go into every game preparing both guys to play,” Tillman said. “Right now, I think Charlie’s just a little bit ahead of Curtis, but we have no hesitation of putting [Curtis] in. Poppleton has been outstanding this year and his numbers reflect that. He’s been as good as anybody. So if the game is a little high scoring or if the weather is a little bit warmer, I think that probably would be in our best interest to think about using two guys.”
3) Which midfield produces? ESPN analyst and former Johns Hopkins midfielder Mark Dixon said Maryland’s first midfield of seniors John Haus and Jake Bernhardt and redshirt junior Mike Chanenchuk is arguably the best in the country. The Blue Jays’ starting trio of seniors John Ranagan and John Greeley and freshman Holden Cattoni has struggled, but Dixon pointed out that this annual showdown has a way of bringing out the best in the participants. “I think both teams need midfield production,” Dixon said. “What midfield is going to play better in this game? What midfield is going to create more opportunities for their tea in this game? You have two very good goalies, but the offenses are going to have to make them make saves.”