No. 2 Johns Hopkins (6-0) owns a 26-22 lead in this series, but the Blue Jays haven’t beaten Syracuse in their last five meetings, a stretch dating back to 2007. The No. 7 Orange (3-1) are coming off a 9-8 win against St. John’s that was tied late in the fourth quarter. Johns Hopkins is seeking its first 7-0 start since 2005 when that squad went 16-0 and captured the national championship. Here are a few factors that could influence the outcome at Homewood Field in Baltimore on Saturday.
1) Run or rein it in? Syracuse is well-renowned for pouncing on opportunities in transition and unsettled situations – which usually puts opponents on the defensive. But Blue Jays coach Dave Pietramala insisted that his players won’t be shy about joining in a fast-paced tempo if it emerges. “I think the tempo of this game will be faster,” he said. “There’s a lot of emotion involved, there’s a lot of intensity. So I think there will be moments when it’s crazy, where’s it’s just up and down after a turnover or a save or a bad shot. And then I think there will be moments where both teams do a good job of getting settled into their half-field defenses, and the other team has got to get their personnel on and play half-field offense.”
2) Lerman or Lamonlinara? The Orange have been relying on redshirt sophomore goalie Matthew Lerman, who has posted a 9.33 goals-against average and a .543 save percentage in four starts. But sophomore Dominic Lamolinara, a transfer from Maryland, has registered a 9.71 goals-against average and a .500 save percentage and has played just 30 minutes fewer than Lerman. Coach John Desko acknowledged that using a two-goalkeeper rotation is unusual for him. “I think it’s because of the battle going on there,” he said. “Matt comes back to us as a backup from a year ago. So we’re most familiar with him. Dom was a very good high school goalie, and we only had him in the fall, but he got better and better with every week that he was here. … We’ve stayed with the two of them because of how they’ve been playing in practice, and until someone really separates himself from the other, it’s the way it is now.”
3) Man-to-man or zone? Johns Hopkins has a history of playing tough man-to-man defense. But in a 14-10 victory March 4, No. 1 Virginia employed a zone defense that shut out Syracuse for the first 11:41 of the third quarter and allowed just four goals in the second half. Could the Blue Jays take a page out of the Cavaliers’ playbook? “We have one,” Pietramala said of a zone defense. “Do you use it? Different teams do things for different reasons. If you watched Virginia, when they got up, they zoned more. That’s a good tactic when you get up. What you’re doing is you’re now shortening the game and you’re giving them fewer possessions, which is fewer opportunities to score goals. You’re seeing more and more of it because the team that just won the national championship did it, and people are saying, ‘Well if they can do it, we can do it.’ We’ve had zone in since the first week of practice. Will we zone Syracuse? That will be determined by the game.”