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Preston: Johns Hopkins' Cole Williams too much to handle in 13-10 win over Ohio State

After Ohio State pulled within two goals with less than three minutes to go, sophomore attackman Cole Williams ran by midfielder Jack Jasinski and defenseman Matt Borges to score with 26 seconds remaining to secure a 13-10 victory for No. 5 Johns Hopkins.

The Blue Jays (8-2, 2-0 Big Ten) probably would have won the game anyway, but it eased some of the tension among the announced crowd of 2,043 at Homewood Field on Saturday afternoon.

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Williams (Loyola Blakefield) is providing a lot of comfort on the Johns Hopkins campus these days. Blue Jays head coach Davie Pietramala — despite a seven-game winning streak against the strongest schedule in the country — still considers his team a work in progress, but there isn't that much concern about the offense.

The defense is questionable and Johns Hopkins has struggled with faceoffs the past two games, but Williams has become a major piece of the offense. He scored four goals against the Buckeyes (5-6, 0-2) and has 25 goals and eight assists this season.

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"During the past two games, we had struggled on offense," Williams said. "We were getting to the right spots, but not putting shots on cage. We just had to bury them."

If you didn't notice Williams, he wore No. 14, stands 6 feet 5 and weighs 210 pounds. Ohio State had identified him, but stopping Williams was another problem.

"He is big kid with decent speed," Buckeyes senior defenseman Erik Evans said. "He is strong and aggressive off the dodge. He is the kind you send two to on certain spots on the field. He is the kind of guy who is going to cause problems."

It wasn't that way a year ago when Williams was a freshman. He scored six goals and four assists and played in all 15 Blue Jays games, but clearly the confidence was missing.

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However, during the offseason he spent more time in the weight room and even more on the practice field. According to Williams, he had to work on shooting with defensemen occupying his hands or draped all over his body. He came back during the fall about 10 to 15 pounds heavier.

"The way I dodge, guys are going to be on my hands or be in the shooting lanes," Williams said. "I'm a Baltimore guy, so during the summer I could get my shooting in around Homewood, shooting with guys that I knew who went to other colleges."

The thicker body frame has helped, not just individually but for the entire offense. Williams can muscle up with most defenders and his long body lets him hide and protect his stick. Teams are focusing on him now more than a year ago, which is causing a lot of problems.

Mired in one of their worst starts in the program's 50-year history, the Retrievers came up with probably their most unlikely victory.

"The sky is the limit," Pietramala said of Williams. "I don't like to talk about individuals a lot because this is a team game. But clearly you are seeing a different player than a year ago. He is stronger, more physical off the dodge."

But the biggest improvement is confidence.

"When you are 6-5 and 200 pounds, people assume you're confident," Pietramala said. "That's something I didn't realize he struggled with until I chatted with him a year ago. There were moments when we wished he would have pulled the trigger, should have pulled the trigger, and he didn't. This year there isn't any hesitation.

"Confidence comes from demonstrated ability. It doesn't come from a coach telling that player he is doing a great job. He has shown the ability to do it and that has given him confidence."

Because he is drawing so much attention from opponents, other Blue Jays have improved as well. Senior attackman Shack Stanwick (Boys' Latin) doesn't have to worry so much about scoring now. He has always been a big assist guy and added three more Saturday to give him 24 this season.

Another young attackman, Kyle Marr, had two goals Saturday and has 21 goals and 19 assists this season. As the season goes on, the Blue Jays will get better on offense.

And by next season, Williams will be even better and stronger.

"I hope he goes home for the summer and finds another 10 to 15 pounds," Pietramala said. "I think it is there, a lot of untapped potential. He is a bear to go against in practice and he makes it easier on other guys. Teams have to be concerned about sliding to us. A year ago, they weren't. Now they have to."

mike.preston@baltsun.com

twitter.com/MikePrestonSun

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