Maryland at Johns Hopkins: Three things to watch

Johns Hopkins owns a sizable 69-40-1 lead in their men's lacrosse series, but Maryland has won three of the last five meetings. The Blue Jays, who are 4-2 at Homewood Field this season, are trying to avoid three home losses in a season for the first time since 1996, while the Terps have won two of their last three visits to Homewood.

No. 5 Maryland (9-1) is one of two teams in Division I with just one loss. (No. 1 Loyola is the other.) Ten days will have passed between the Terps’ 19-6 rout of Robert Morris on April 2 and this contest. Senior goalkeeper Niko Amato is 2-2 against Johns Hopkins with a 7.38 goals-against average and a .559 save percentage.

No. 9 Johns Hopkins (6-3) ended a three-game slide with a 13-8 victory over No. 19 Albany on April 4. With just five games left in the regular season, the Blue Jays could use a victory over Maryland or No. 1 Loyola to make an impression with the selection committee for the NCAA tournament. Senior midfielder Rob Guida has posted two goals and three assists in four games against Maryland.

Here are a few factors that could play a role in the outcome at Homewood Field in Baltimore on Saturday at 2 p.m.

1) Johns Hopkins must be patient on defense. The Blue Jays have had to employ their man-down defense just 19 times, which is a Division I low. That discipline may get tested against a Maryland offense that is multifaceted and methodical. Five Terps have scored 10 goals each, and while senior midfielder Mike Chanenchuk leads the way with 25, the offense relies on many players to contribute. Just as importantly, Johns Hopkins coach Dave Pietramala said Maryland will play deliberately, which can tempt an opposing defense into chasing and being too aggressive. That can lead to penalties.

“They’re a team that doesn’t take the first available shot,” he said. “They’re very patient. They’ll grind you down. They want to force you to defend longer possessions, and they want to force you to defend the whole possession, and that’s a challenge. The lengthier a possession goes, the more chance there is for a defensive miscue or breakdown.”

2) Maryland must avoid penalties. The Terps are in the bottom third of the nation in man-up defense as opponents have converted 44.0 percent (11-of-25) of their chances. That doesn’t bode well against a Blue Jays squad that ranks third in the country in man-up offense at 55.2 percent (16-of-29). Maryland coach John Tillman said the team can’t afford to commit unnecessary infractions.

“We have to play physical, we have to play aggressive, but we have to play disciplined,” he said. “We have talked about that. We talk about that every week, but when a team comes in and is playing as well as they’re playing with the extra man, you certainly don’t want to have silly fouls or be undisciplined and give them additional opportunities. It just doesn’t make any sense. So having a heightened sense of that is important so that we’re not giving them extra opportunities.”

3) Johns Hopkins must ride, but not overdo it. The Blue Jays’ ride helped Albany commit a season-worst 24 turnovers eight days ago. Johns Hopkins will try to pressure the Terps into some costly giveaways, but not many opponents have been successful with that strategy. Maryland ranks first in Division I in clearing percentage at 93.7 percent (149-of-159). Pietramala said the Terps’ success begins with their defensive players. 

“When your goaltender is catching the ball, it’s a little easier to get the ball up and out, and I think Amato does a very good job of that,” he said. “They’ve got defensemen with good sticks. They’re good off the floor. They can get the ball up and down the field pretty well, and they’ve got good short-sticks. So they’ve done a very good job of clearing the ball and taking their time and not rushing things when things are not there.”

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