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Postscript from Penn State vs. Johns Hopkins men's lacrosse

Even with a 14-9 victory over No. 4 seed Penn State in Thursday's Big Ten tournament semifinal at Byrd Stadium in College Park, No. 1 seed Johns Hopkins is probably still on the bubble regarding an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament.

A victory over No. 3 seed Ohio State (11-5) in Saturday's title game will guarantee a berth for the Blue Jays (8-6), which explains why freshman attackman Shack Stanwick is eager to ensure that the team's 13 seniors get a shot at the NCAA postseason.

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"Every game is special, especially right now," said Stanwick, who did his part with three goals and two assists against the Nittany Lions (5-9). "It's do-or-die time. We've got to go out there and give it everything we've got, and hopefully, we can keep winning."

Stanwick's older brother Wells is a member of that graduating class, but he said the Blue Jays (8-6) are keeping their sights trained on the present, not the future.

"The more we win, the more time we have together," said Wells Stanwick, who registered two goals and four assists. "I don't know if it's for us to say that it's do-or-die time. That's up to the [selection] committee when it comes down to it. Right now, each game is bigger because you never know when it is going to be your last game, especially for me since I'm a senior. We're just looking at one game at a time with a next-game mentality."

Coach Dave Pietramala echoed the elder Stanwick's sentiments.

"The bottom line is, this is a really good group of young men, and they really care about each other," he said. "At the end of the day, we're just playing for more time together. Going through what we've been through, the NCAAs are great and the Big Ten championship is great, and those are important to us. But right now, maybe the most important thing to us is more time together."

Circling back to "Three Things to Watch"

1) Penn State's offense vs. Johns Hopkins' defense. Unlike the regular-season meeting on April 11 that the Blue Jays won 11-10 in double overtime, the defense contained the three players who caused the most trouble. Sophomore attackman Nick Aponte (one goal and three assists on April 11) finished with just one assist, and senior midfielder Pat Manley (four goals) and sophomore attackman Mike Sutton (three goals) combined for zero goals on nine shots. Redshirt sophomore midfielder Matt Florence did register two goals and two assists after getting blanked in the first game, and junior attackman T.J. Sanders contributed two goals and one assist after putting up one goal and one assist in the regular-season contest, but Nittany Lions coach Jeff Tambroni credited Pietramala with crafting Johns Hopkins' defensive game plan.

"He does a great job of studying tendencies, and I thought they did a great job on Mike Sutton today and some of the guys that hurt them the first time around," Tambroni said. "I thought they did a nice job of adjusting. And I thought we were a little bit slower to adjust and took some shots maybe a little too quick under pressure instead of moving the ball one more, taking another step. I thought when we had our hands free and had room and space to shoot the ball, we did a really nice job with it. And when we didn't, the result was evident."

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2) Johns Hopkins' shooters vs. Penn State's Connor Darcey. Darcey, the Nittany Lions' goalkeeper, is just a redshirt sophomore, which means the Blue Jays will see more of him in the future. Darcey recorded a game-high 17 saves on Thursday night and has turned aside 30 combined shots in two meetings. Johns Hopkins finally figured Darcey out in the second half when the team scored eight goals, but Darcey's 11 stops in the opening half were a huge reason why the contest was tied at 6-6 at halftime.

"Kid's got 17 saves," Pietramala said. "He's played phenomenally against us in both games. I used the word thief the last time I described him. He steals goals from you. He's terrific. I thought he frustrated us a little bit in the second quarter. We didn't have much possession. And then we settled down in the fourth quarter."

3) Penn State's pressure vs. Johns Hopkins' ball security. Both sides finished with just nine turnovers, which is remarkably low for a lacrosse game. But five of the Nittany Lions' miscues occurred in that disastrous first quarter during which the Blue Jays scored the first five goals, and Tambroni said his team couldn't protect the ball in the opening period.

"We turned the ball over four times on the first four possessions of the [first] half, and that proved to probably be a bit more than we could handle," he said.

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