Mike Preston: Johns Hopkins men’s lacrosse crushes Bryant in NCAA Tournament opener, but the true test awaits | COMMENTARY

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Johns Hopkins men’s lacrosse’s win against Bryant Sunday afternoon was basically a formality, but a quarterfinal showdown versus Notre Dame next Sunday will be a better barometer.

Unseeded Bryant (12-5) is one of those low-level Division I teams that gets into the NCAA Tournament every year before disappearing as fast as you can say Houdini.


The sixth-seeded Blue Jays scored nine straight goals in the second quarter to take control of the game and easily defeat Bryant, 22-8, in an opening-round game before a crowd of nearly 1,500 at Homewood Field.

Poof. Goodbye, Bulldogs.

Johns Hopkins midfielder Johnathan Peshko celebrates after scoring a goal Sunday against Bryant in an NCAA Tournament opener at Homewood Field.

If there was any thought of a possible comeback after Johns Hopkins led 12-3 at halftime, it was over when Blue Jays midfielder Brendan Grimes drilled a shot from about 15 feet out for another goal 67 seconds into the third quarter.

Now, it’s off to Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis where Johns Hopkins (12-5) will play third-seeded Notre Dame (11-2) in a quarterfinal game. The Fighting Irish defeated Utah, 20-7, Saturday in their tournament opener.

Notre Dame will be the true test. It’s not just about a win or a loss but will serve as a statement if Johns Hopkins, a program whose name is synonymous with the sport, can win and get back into the top echelon of college lacrosse.

The Blue Jays completely outclassed Bryant on Sunday. It wasn’t a matter of if Johns Hopkins would win, but by how much. The Blue Jays have made significant improvement under third-year coach Peter Milliman. They got into the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2019, and they have their timing down as far as ball movement, a major staple of the coach’s ball-control offense.

But Notre Dame is not Bryant. The Fighting Irish won’t turn the ball over eight times in the first 15 minutes. They won’t need a GPS to find backdoor cutters or slips off picks.

Notre Dame might be the most complete team in the tournament. They have two of the best attackmen in the country in Pat and Chris Kavanagh, who have combined for 63 goals and 63 assists in 13 games. Besides the Kavanagh brothers, they have one of the nation’s top midfielders in Eric Dobson (27 goals, eight assists) and the country’s best goalkeeper in Liam Entermann, who has a .569 save percentage.

The Fighting Irish also added two transfers in the offseason, midfielder Brian Tevlin (10 goals, four assists) and defenseman Chris Fake, both of whom helped Yale win the 2018 championship.

Unlike Johns Hopkins and Bryant, Notre Dame has some of the sport’s top players at several positions. The Blue Jays might be able to lure top-level talent like them in the future, but right now, they have their own approach and chemistry.


Of the Blue Jays’ 22 goals on Sunday, 16 were assisted. Junior attackman Russell Melendez (Archbishop Spalding) led the Blue Jays with five goals and four assists, and freshman midfielder Brooks English had three goals. Senior attackman Jacob Angelus had five assists and two goals.

Bryant goalkeeper Teagan Alexander, left, and defenders react after a Johns Hopkins player scores a goal during Sunday's NCAA Tournament first-round game at Homewood Field.

“Patience and spacing,” Melendez said when speaking about the key to Hopkins’ offense. “When you have good spacing and are playing with high energy, you can do some damage.”

Johns Hopkins’ defense has been solid in the second half of the season but it’s getting better. Scott Smith is their best one-on-one defender and long-stick midfielder-defenseman Alex Mazzone is exceptional on ground balls. Beaudan Szuluk is a senior captain and senior goalie Tim Marcille, who had seven saves in the 45 minutes he played Sunday, has delivered some key stops as the Blue Jays have won eight of their past 10 games.

Notre Dame, though, runs some of the best half-field offensive sets in college lacrosse.

“We are determined, and we have focused a lot on accountability,” Marcille said. “It’s been a team effort that got us here and a team effort that put us in Annapolis.”

The Blue Jays need to keep the game low scoring and they have to win most of the faceoffs. Their deliberate style is a good matchup against Notre Dame, especially if Johns Hopkins can get a lead early.


For lacrosse fans, though, this game will tell if the Blue Jays have closed the gap between them and the top teams in college lacrosse. They’ve made some progress, but we’re going to find out just how much next Sunday.

NCAA Tournament quarterfinals

Johns Hopkins vs. Notre Dame

At Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium

Next Sunday, TBA