The role of replacing Sid Ewell, a starting defenseman for the Towson men’s team whose eligibility ran out after last spring, went to Koby Smith, who was the program’s top long-stick midfielder as a freshman. But the position switch was not startling for the Lutherville resident and Loyola Blakefield graduate.
“I played a lot of close defense back in high school,” the sophomore said after Saturday’s 17-8 upset of then-No. 7 Johns Hopkins that lifted the Tigers to No. 7 in the latest Inside Lacrosse media poll. “So playing LSM here was kind of my first time ever playing LSM last year. Playing close this year is just a lot more comfortable for me, honestly, and with the new clearing rules, I get to stay on the field and make an effort to do more in transition.”
Smith finished last season ranked second on the Tigers (1-0) in ground balls with 37 and third in caused turnovers with 13. He also scored twice, but coach Shawn Nadelen pointed out that Smith missed much of the preseason preparation after transferring from Navy.
Smith has already matched his goal output from a year ago with two against the Blue Jays and added two ground balls and one caused turnover. Nadelen said Smith is determined to develop into a top defenseman.
“He’s that kid that at times you’ve got to try to calm down, but it’s awesome that you don’t have to poke the bear too much,” Nadelen said. “He’s going to go out there and compete and get after guys. You’ve got to get him at times to play a little bit more controlled within himself and within the team, but he’s a guy that can add a spark. He’s one of those guys that you love because if you get on him, he’s going to respond. If he makes a mistake, he knows it, but if you let him hear about it, he’ll take it, and he’s going to respond with a really positive play. He’ll kind of look at you like, ‘Hey, I’ve got this. I know what you’re talking about.’”
McNulty’s debut for Johns Hopkins women
Redshirt senior midfielder Ellie McNulty made a favorable impression in her first game since transferring from Princeton to Johns Hopkins, registering four goals, one assist and six draw controls in Sunday’s 17-9 rout at Drexel. Coach Janine Tucker said a conversation with McNulty in late May convinced her to accept the Arnold resident and Broadneck graduate as the program’s first graduate student transfer.
“She could have just moved on with her life,” Tucker said. “She could have graduated from Princeton and gone onto medical school or taken a gap year. But this is a kid who just absolutely loves to play lacrosse. She just loves the sport, and she was not ready to give it up. She wanted to squeak out as much joy as she could from playing one more year, and that’s what I see from her every day.”
Tucker said McNulty, who ranked fourth in Princeton history in draw controls with 115, fortifies a position that includes sophomore Shelby Harrison, a St. Mary’s graduate who had 91 draws last spring for the Blue Jays (1-0).
“We’re very fortunate that we have Shelby Harrison, who as a freshman last year did quite well for us at the draw,” Tucker said. “But Ellie comes in and has a completely center draw technique, and she now adds this incredible skill. She had six draw controls against Drexel, and possession is everything. She just lends us more height at the draws, more technique, and a level of composure.”
Higgins out, Benus in for Loyola Maryland men
When No. 2 Loyola Maryland (1-0) visits No. 17 Johns Hopkins (0-1) on Saturday, it will not have the services of junior short-stick defensive midfielder Matt Higgins, who left in the second quarter of Saturday’s 17-9 demolition of then-No. 6 Virginia with an unspecified injury.
“You never want to lose somebody’s that significant,” coach Charley Toomey conceded. “It changes us, but luckily, we did have two-and-a-half quarters to manage a game against a quality opponent, and guys got minutes and performed well. Now at least we have a week to prepare and get those guys ready.”
The good news is that sophomore short-stick defensive midfielder Matthew Benus, who sat out Saturday’s win because of an injury, is poised to return Saturday.
“We’re happy because he was on the depth chart as a short-stick, but he’s still got to go out and get meaningful minutes, and so we’ll see,” Toomey said. “But we like what we see every day in practice, and we’ve got a lot of faith in him, and we’re excited that he’s back on the depth chart.”
Maryland men looking to finish
No. 3 Maryland improved to 2-0 after Saturday’s 10-9 win against Richmond, but had to overcome a 0-for-8 shooting performance from the offense in the fourth quarter.
The Terps have committed 30 combined turnovers in victories over Bucknell and the Spiders, but coach John Tillman acknowledged that he is looking for a stronger effort from the offense in the final stages.
“You’ve got to finish and can some of those opportunities that you had,” he said. “I think you credit Richmond for some good defense. I think you look maybe at some of our shot selection, and obviously, that’s something that we’ve got to continue to improve on. We’ve been really looking at the film and trying to figure out how do we grow from that and how do we learn and become better because we can’t finish the game the way that we finished it and expect to be successful going down the road.”
Darby to start again for Johns Hopkins men
Sophomore Ryan Darby will make his second consecutive start at goalkeeper, Johns Hopkins coach Dave Pietramala announced.
Darby made a game-high 15 saves in the loss to Towson, but also surrendered 17 goals. But Pietramala said the troubles on defense were not limited to the unit’s goalie play.
“When things get hard, you fall back on your training, you fall back on your fundamentals, and we didn’t do that in either end, and I think Ryan was indicative of that,” he said. “He started to guess a little bit and question himself a little bit, and then it snowballed. I think it’s easy for everyone to want to point to the kid in the goal, but the young man in the goal was not the issue. It was a team loss, and every one of us – including the coaches – can improve the job they did compared to Saturday.”