3-pronged attack surprise at Hopkins Coach not expecting so much, so soon


Matt Panetta and Mike Morrissey took more than diplomas when they left Johns Hopkins last June. They took 42 goals from the lacrosse attack.

Coach Tony Seaman wasn't sure what to expect from the attack when fall practice started. He had senior Jeff Wills, the leading returning scorer, and sophomore Brian Piccola, who missed seven games in his freshman season with a broken hand.

And he had that big kid arriving from Baldwin, N.Y. In a year or two, Seaman said, he thought Terry Riordan, 6 feet 5, might be a useful college attackman.

"They're amazing, these three kids," Seaman said as Hopkins awaited its NCAA tournament first- round game today against Notre Dame. "With Jeff's leadership, it's a great mix."

A year ago, the starting attack of Panetta, Morrissey and Wills scored 65 goals. This season, Wills, Piccola and Riordan have 78, with the tournament still to go. Riordan is the team leader with 30, followed by Wills and Piccola, each with 24.

"In my wildest dreams, I never expected this from Terry," Seaman said. "When you're 6-5, you're going to be good, but I didn't expect this so soon.

"In the fall, we thought, 'Wow, he's talented.' Here was this 18-year-old under pressure from college defensemen for the first time, but not much bothered him. His size helps, but he has the mentality, too."

Wills, though, makes the offense go. The former Loyola High player regularly draws opponents' best defensemen -- Maryland's Brian Burlace, North Carolina's Alex Martin, Princeton's David Morrow, Towson State's Carl Beernink, Virginia's George Glyphis. "That's an All-America team right there," Seaman said.

It was against Navy two weeks ago that Wills truly blossomed as a leader. The Blue Jays were coming off a loss to Maryland in which they kept throwing the ball away, angering to Seaman.

"He told me during the week that he wanted me to lead, to settle the offense," Wills said. "We only had the ball 25 percent of the time against Maryland. He said we need to value and respect the ball. We all got the idea, moved the ball around and became more comfortable."

Seaman, noting Wills was the "first to become enlightened," could count six goals stemming from fast breaks in the 22-12 victory over Navy.

In the years to come, Wills said, he will look back on this season with fondness, especially on the role Piccola and Riordan played.

"They took the pressure off me," Wills said. "We've come a long way this season, but I wish I had a few more years to play with them."

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