Friendly rivals Matt Neufeldt, Joel Tinney set for Maryland-Hopkins showdown

Matt Neufeldt and Joel Tinney are so close that they will wear each other's clothes. But it's not entirely out of altruism.

Since they met as sophomores at Culver Military Academy in Culver, Ind., the pair have a running bet on the NHL video game that the winner can select one item of clothing from the loser's closet and wear it until the loser reclaims it via the video game.


The bet has continued as Tinney went to play lacrosse at Johns Hopkins and Neufeldt did the same at Maryland. In fact, Neufeldt showed up for an interview on Tuesday wearing Tinney's "Culver Lacrosse" T-shirt.

"I've been able to collect a lot of his items over the years just from our friendship together," said Neufeldt, a freshman long-stick midfielder who showed a reporter a label on the inside of the shirt printed with Tinney's name. "Hopefully, I'll be able to continue that streak. I'm looking forward to it."

Tinney, a freshman midfielder, didn't waste any time firing back. "All that is, is my mom mixing up the laundry," he said. "No way he would pick a shirt he already had for the bet. I can promise Neuf would compete, but could never close out the bets in crunch time."

The self-described best friends can add another chapter to their rivalry when the Blue Jays (6-6 overall and 3-1 in the Big Ten) visit Byrd Stadium in College Park on Saturday at 8 p.m. for the latest installment of their series with the No. 3 Terps (12-1, 4-0).

Tinney, a starter who ranks fourth on Johns Hopkins in goals (17) and fourth in points (25), could be marked by Neufeldt, Maryland's top long-pole who leads the team in ground balls (40) and caused turnovers (13). It's a matchup both players are eagerly awaiting.

"It's definitely a possibility," Tinney said. "I would love to see me and him go at it. It would be great for him, and it would be great for me to test myself against one of Maryland's top defenders."

"He's pretty agile to where he can get back to his left hand, which he most likely wants to do," Neufeldt said. "It's hard to match his athleticism, but if you can keep feet with him and use that 6 feet of stick to keep up with him, you'll be in pretty good shape."

Lining up against a close friend as adversaries may be commonplace, but it's never easy, said ESPN analyst Mark Dixon. The former Johns Hopkins midfielder can recall a few contentious situations with former Virginia defenseman Craig Ronald and former Maryland defenseman Dan Radebaugh, with whom he played alongside at Loyola Blakefield.

"You might not hang out immediately after a game, but eventually, you chat and hang out over the summer and have a good time," Dixon said. "But you really don't talk about the games. You're not going to sit there and ask, 'Hey, why did you slash me?' And he's not going to say to me, 'Why did you butt-end me?' It's part of the game. It's kind of unwritten and unspoken because at the end of the game — especially when you were teammates in high school — you know what type of person you're competing against."

The friendship between the 5-foot-11, 160-pound Neufeldt and the 5-10, 175-pound Tinney is rooted in their differences. Tinney got a kick out of his friend's laid-back nature at a military-style school, while Neufeldt was intrigued by his friend's competitive streak.

Due to their positions, Neufeldt and Tinney were frequently pitted against each other during practices at Culver, said Eagles coach Jon Posner.

"It was, 'Joel, if you beat Matt in practice, you're going to be able to beat any long-stick we ever play against,'" Posner recalled. "And it was vice versa for Matt. 'Hey, Matt, if you shut down Joel, you're not going to have a problem against anybody.' That was every day in practice for three years. So I can't wait to see it on the field just because they kind of know each other's weaknesses and strengths. It'll be interesting to see what we saw in practice for three years in an actual game."

Tinney said both players are very familiar with the other's game.

"He covered me every day at practice for the better part of two or three years," he said. "I kind of know what he's going to do, and he knows what I like to do. It's no secret what we want to do."


Neufeldt agreed, but also said he has no intention of being lulled into a false sense of security.

"I like to believe that I have a pretty good understanding of what he does, but he's also Tinney," Neufeldt said. "He's never complacent. He's always got something up his sleeve."

During Thanksgiving and other holiday breaks, Tinney was a frequent guest at the Neufeldt family's home in Naperville, Ill., which is about 125 miles from Culver. Last summer, Neufeldt lived with the Tinney family in Innerkip, Ontario, Canada to hone his skills in box lacrosse.

"We lived right down the hall from each other for three years at Culver," Tinney said. "He came to live with me last summer when he came to play box lacrosse. So we spent almost every day together for the better part of seven or eight months."

Said Neufeldt: "We were always together at Culver. A lot of bonds, a lot of similarities, too. We're very competitive toward each other, and we've really just helped each other grow together."

Both players said they have kept an eye on each other's progress this spring and usually text each other every week. The texts have been especially pointed this week with Saturday's game on the horizon.

Neufeldt and Tinney said they will greet and hug each other after the contest. But they acknowledged that their enthusiasm will depend on the outcome.

"If we win, I'm probably going to tackle him, mess around with him a little bit, wash his face a little," Neufeldt said. "If we lose, I'll probably slowly make my way over, maybe not even talk to him. I'm sure he'll have something to say if they win."

Said Tinney: "There will be bad feelings if they end up getting the win and he takes the ball away from me. There will definitely be some hard feelings there, but I'm sure we'll be fine after the game. It will give us a chance to catch up."