Navy at Johns Hopkins: Three things to watch

Johns Hopkins has taken command of this rivalry, compiling a 59-26-1 record. But Navy has recently displayed a knack for registering a stunner, winning two of the last three meetings – including last year’s 8-2 surprise at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis.

The No. 19 Blue Jays (7-4) are feeling much better about themselves after upending then-No. 4 Maryland, 7-4, last Saturday. Junior attackman Brandon Benn, who paced the offense in goals last season with 30, is doing the same this spring, scoring a team-high 23.

The Midshipmen (3-9) are reeling, having lost six consecutive games. One of the few bright spots for the team has been the play of junior long-stick midfielder Pat Kiernan, who needs to collect just five ground balls to become the first player since Mikelis Visgauss (2008) to scoop up 70 in a single season.

Here are a few factors that could influence the outcome at Homewood Field in Baltimore Saturday.

1) Navy’s attack. After limiting Maryland’s highly-touted midfield to a combined three goals and one assist, the Johns Hopkins defense must shift its attention to the Midshipmen’s starting attack of juniors Sam Jones and Tucker Hull and freshman T.J. Hanzsche. Jones leads the offense in both goals (21) and assists (12), Hull ranks second in goals (13) and assists (7), and Hanzsche (nine goals and one assist) has scored a point in each of the nine games he has played. Blue Jays coach Dave Pietramala said the trio presents an imposing challenge. “I think the thing that stands out about those guys is they’re not just good at one thing,” he said. “They’re pretty formidable in a number of different areas. So you can’t just say, ‘We’re going to take this away from Hull, and that’s all he can do.’ He can do other things. They’re a very versatile group.”

2) Johns Hopkins’ pick game. The Blue Jays have been paced by sophomore attackman Wells Stanwick, who leads the offense in goals (22) and assists (16). Stanwick, who was held scoreless by the Terps for the first time this season, enjoys creating from behind the cage and is especially masterful at running his defender off picks set up by teammates and then either taking the ball to the net or dishing off to an open shooter. The onus will be on Navy’s defensemen to make sure they don’t get caught up in those screens, coach Rick Sowell said. “Either you switch or you get through,” he said. “You try to keep whoever is playing him on him. So it will be one of those two. Maybe both of them from time to time.”

3) Shot clock. One of the key factors in the Midshipmen’s upset of Johns Hopkins last spring was their ability to jump out to a 3-0 advantage in the first quarter. Once Navy had the lead, the offense was able to hold onto the ball for extended periods and simultaneously wear down the defense and prevent the Blue Jays offense from making a comeback. But with the installment of a 30-second shot clock after a stall warning has been issued, ESPN analyst Quint Kessenich said the Midshipmen will not be able to employ a similar strategy on Saturday. “I think the timer on and shot clock will play into Hopkins’ favor,” the former Johns Hopkins All-American goalkeeper said. “That was a game last year where Navy held onto the ball behind the goal, grinded it out with really long possessions, the Hopkins defense got tired, and Navy’s quick, little, rugrat attackmen were able to scoot by them and score goals. Navy outplayed them and beat them. But the rules have changed, and that’s going to hurt any chance of Navy to try to grind the clock.”

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