Johns Hopkins at UMBC lacrosse: Three things to watch

Johns Hopkins has won all 11 games in this series, including both played in Catonsville. UMBC has lost each of the past four meetings by six goals or more.

The No. 3 Blue Jays have been impressive through the first four weeks of the season and are 4-0 for the second time in three years, a run capped by last Saturday’s 15-9 victory over then-No. 6 Princeton. No opponent has broken the 10-goal mark against the defense this season, and Johns Hopkins is 13-1 when limiting opponents to fewer than 10 goals over the past two seasons. Senior goalkeeper Eric Schneider is tied for seventh in Division I in saves per game (13.3).

The Retrievers (2-1) opened the season with a 14-3 loss to No. 1 Maryland, but have since defeated Monmouth and Richmond and are seeking their first 3-1 start since 2009. Their starting attack of senior Matt Gregoire (South River), sophomore Nate Lewnes (St. Mary's) and freshman Max Maxwell has combined for 55.6 and 46.7 percent of the offense’s goals and assists, respectively.

Here are a few factors that could play a role in the outcome at Retrievers Stadium in Catonsville at 1 p.m. Saturday.

1) Focus, but not on one player. The Blue Jays’ rejuvenated offense is built on seemingly constant motion, off-ball movement — and Wells Stanwick (Boys' Latin). The junior attackman leads the team in assists (15) and points (21) and naturally garners a lot of attention from opposing defenses. But UMBC coach Don Zimmerman said concentrating solely on Stanwick and forgetting about teammates like sophomore attackman Ryan Brown (12 goals and seven assists), senior attackman Brandon Benn (9, 2) and senior midfielder Rob Guida (5, 3) would be a mistake. “I think this Hopkins offense is really a nice unit where they spread the wealth, and everybody is capable of producing,” Zimmerman said. “So you can’t focus on just one player. Wells Stanwick is a terrific attackman and a terrific quarterback for that offense, but he’s just one piece of the puzzle. So every man needs to be able to step up and not only play their man, but we have to play good team defense.”

2) 'W' at the X. Johns Hopkins junior Drew Kennedy ranks ninth in Division I in faceoffs, winning 63.5 percent (54 of 85) overall. And he ranks sixth in ground balls per game (9.3). Kennedy quickly has proved himself is a worthy successor to Mike Poppleton and Matt Dolente, but he faces arguably his greatest test of the season when he tangles with the Retrievers’ Phil Poe. The senior ranks 11th in faceoffs after winning 62.7 percent (37 of 59) of his draws and is tied for 19th in ground balls (7.3 per game). Blue Jays coach Dave Pietramala said Poe’s reputation precedes him. “They’re terrific at the faceoff X,” Pietramala said. “The kid Poe is, I believe, at 65 percent or close to it. So when you look at that, he’s a formidable opponent. But we’re no stranger to him. He’s been successful over the years that he’s been there.”

3) One chance. Johns Hopkins thrives on pouncing on loose balls; it's tied for 20th in the nation in ground balls per game (31.0). That can lead to second-chance opportunities for the offense. Zimmerman knows that if UMBC harbors any hope of pulling off the upset, players will have to attack every 50-50 chance. “We have to clear the ball,” he said. “We have to get ground balls the first time, not give up rebounds. When we have a chance to secure possession of the ball, we have to do that, and we can’t just turn the ball over. Turnovers are always something you guard against, but especially against a good team, turnovers can really lead to easy goals and momentum. They’ve already shown this year that they can go on some pretty impressive runs, and that’s something we have to try to avoid.”

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