Johns Hopkins has dominated its Charles Street rival, winning 47 of the 50 games and the last 13 meetings. Loyola’s last victory in this series was 1999, and the Greyhounds haven’t won at Homewood Field since 1998.
No. 7 Loyola (10-3) emphatically rebounded from a 13-12 overtime loss to then-No. 1 Denver on April 13 with a 19-11 shellacking of Hobart a week ago. Senior attackman and 2012 Tewaaraton Award finalist Mike Sawyer may be getting hot at the right time, recording four goals and two assists in each of his last two games.
The Blue Jays (8-4) have won back-to-back games after dropping a 10-9 decision to then-No. 19 Albany on April 5. The status of senior attackman Zach Palmer is unclear, but if he cannot play, senior John Kaestner filled in with a career outing in Saturday’s 15-4 rout of Navy with career highs in goals (three) and assists (three).
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Here are a few factors that could influence the outcome at Homewood Field in Baltimore Saturday.
1) Loyola’s returning identity. The Greyhounds captured the university’s first Division I national title last year thanks to contributions from an explosive offense and a stingy defense. Oftentimes, the team took advantage of plays on defense to turn into instant offense. Loyola appears to be returning to that identity with the defensive midfield recording six goals and one assist in a 13-7 victory over Fairfield on April 6 and four goals and two assists last Saturday. Johns Hopkins coach Dave Pietramala also noticed the Greyhounds’ rediscovered pedigree. “I thought they very much played like themselves against Hobart,” he said. “They were up and down, they attacked in transition, they created a lot of easy goals whether it was off of faceoffs or whether it was on extra man or whether it was off of quick-hit plays. I think they got four goals from their defensive midfield. So I think they’re a very talented team.”
2) Johns Hopkins’ man-up offense. The Blue Jays boast one of Division I’s most prolific man-up offenses, ranking eighth in the nation after converting 44.6 percent of their chances. Freshman midfielder Ryan Brown and junior attackman Brandon Benn have paced the unit with eight and six man-up goals, respectively. The Greyhounds are no shrinking violets on man-down defense, ranking third after allowing opponents to score just 16.7 percent of the time on extra-man opportunities, but coach Charley Toomey would rather avoid seeing too much of that matchup. “[T]hose guys go into every game and they’re very confident as to what they’re going to see,” he said of his unit. “If it’s something that they haven’t seen, it’s a veteran enough group that they can communicate. So it should be fun to watch. The one thing I know with Hopkins is, if you miss a slide and they skip you, they’ve got terrific shooters that can really get you from the outside. So we have to make sure that we’ve got great approaches, and we need to have a good day in the goal. When you’re man down, you need to make saves from 12 to 13 [yards]. So hopefully, that’s something that will occur on Saturday.”
3) Midfield play. Johns Hopkins has started senior Lee Coppersmith, junior Rob Guida and Brown in the midfield in each of its last two games, and each player scored a goal against Navy. All three midfielders can dodge and create offense, and ESPN analyst Paul Carcaterra said how they fare against Loyola’s Rope unit of senior long-stick midfielder Scott Ratliff, senior short-stick defensive midfielder Josh Hawkins and junior short-stick defensive midfielder Pat Laconi will be critical. “I think Hopkins has to have success dodging against that Loyola midfield,” the former Syracuse All-American midfielder said. “Hopkins’ offense, especially on the attack, is built on great finishers who don’t really create the offense on their own. So there has to be some initiation and penetration from guys like Rob Guida, [senior midfielder] John Ranagan and [Lee] Coppersmith. They have to break the defense down and allow those crafty attackmen like [sophomore Wells] Stanwick to get a little more space and Benn inside. If Hopkins has success dodging from the midfield, they’ll be in the mix for sure.”