Three questions with ESPN men’s lacrosse analyst Don Zimmerman

ESPN’s coverage of the 2018 men’s college lacrosse season began Saturday with former Johns Hopkins and UMBC coach Don Zimmerman and former Blue Jays goalkeeper Quint Kessenich calling No. 8 Johns Hopkins’ 14-6 victory over No. 19 Towson. Zimmerman, who will help cover the Blue Jays’ game against No. 12 North Carolina on Feb. 23 and their game against UMBC on March 13, gave his perspective on Saturday’s game and No. 10 Virginia’s big win.

What were you impressed with what you saw from Johns Hopkins on Saturday?

I thought that the big question mark there was defense, and I was impressed with both their individual and team defense. I thought that they were solid. They played together. They played more guys, which I think gave them fresher legs throughout the game, and I think it really helped [senior goalkeeper] Brock Turnbaugh settle in and have a very, very good game in his first outing, and I know that was important not only to him but to Coach [Dave] Pietramala and certainly the team in general. So I was impressed with their defense. I also liked the way Hopkins ran between the lines. I thought they had a bunch of break opportunities, and boy, as I said on the telecast, when you allow Hopkins to operate with their hands free and with a man-advantage, whether it be man-up or in the open field in transition, they are deadly. So I was impressed with their overall team defense. I was impressed with their transition. I thought their faceoff guys, their faceoff man and their wings did a nice job against [Towson junior] Alex Woodall, who I consider to be one of the top guys in the country this year. So I think overall, it was a good team performance, and now they’re moving forward to the next one.

I think everyone expected Towson to have some growing pains on offense. But from what you saw Saturday, is it fair to say they might need some more work than we anticipated?

You find out a lot from that first game, and I think in Towson’s case, the big question mark was, yeah, ‘what’s our offense going to be? Who’s going to be playing and what’s our identity and what style fits our personnel?’ You can go through practice and scrimmages and think that you have that, but you never really know until you get out there and play that first game when it really counts. And that’s a tough assignment, to go over to Hopkins and play Hopkins at Homewood Field. Obviously they struggled, but what I was impressed [by] with Towson was they kept plugging away and they didn’t throw in the towel. They kept plugging away, they handled adversity well, and I think they got better as the game went on. So I’m sure the coaches yesterday looked at a lot of film and discussed personnel. Now, today is the start to a new week and they just continue to tinker and experiment and try different personnel, maybe try different formations. And they’ll get it. Those kids are good players. They’re young, a lot of new faces, and Towson has got a good coaching staff, and I’m sure that they’ll figure things out. It could take a week, two weeks, a month, but if they keep plugging away and working hard, I’m sure they’ll figure that out.

One of the big games over the weekend was Loyola Maryland at Virginia – 13-12 in double overtime for Virginia. How important was that win for Virginia?

I think every win is important. The opening game is the first game of the season, and you want to win, but you realize as a coach that hey, it’s a long season and we’re not going to be perfect, we’re going to make mistakes. As long as you limit the mental mistakes and try to eliminate the mistakes — and if you make mistakes, it’s a hustling mistakes — that’s got to be expected. I think for Virginia, I watched most of the game and Loyola was ahead. And then all of a sudden, I had to turn it off to get ready to come down to Hopkins, and I heard the final score and it was somewhat surprising. So give Virginia credit. They came back, and from what I understand, Loyola then came back and tied it, but Virginia got it done in overtime. So that’s a real nice win for the Wahoos.

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