Johns Hopkins at Navy: Three things to watch
Saturday’s annual showdown between No. 15 Johns Hopkins and Navy at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis at 12 p.m. will have even greater implications on the postseason picture as both teams are struggling to bolster their resume for the NCAA selection committee. Oh, and there’s the little matter of a 36-game winning streak that the Blue Jays own over the Midshipmen.
1. One key to a Johns Hopkins win: Minutes after the Blue Jays’ 10-9 loss to No. 5 Maryland in the second game of the Smartlink Day of Rivals doubleheader at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore last Saturday, coach Dave Pietramala said the team played with the type of passion and commitment that he had not seen all season. It wasn’t a perfect display, but Johns Hopkins got contributions from their seniors (five goals and two assists), freshmen (three goals and two assists) and second midfield (one goal and one assist). If the team harbors any hope of finishing out the remainder of the season with three straight victories and an invitation to the NCAA Tournament, the Blue Jays will need production from a variety of sources to alleviate some of the pressure placed on senior attackman Steven Boyle and senior midfielder Michael Kimmel.
2. One key to a Navy win: This is not your typical Midshipmen defense. A unit that has historically been one of the stingiest among Division I schools, the defense has surrendered an average of 8.5 goals per game. That’s not bad, but a closer inspection reveals that Navy is allowing 10.7 goals per game in its seven losses. Sophomore goalkeeper R.J. Wickham ranks second in the country in save percentage (.620) and 10th in goals-against average (8.42), but he’s been doing too much. Maybe the return of senior long-stick midfielder Jaren Woeppel from a hamstring injury that has sidelined him for the past two contests will help, but the defense must put up a solid performance to give the team a foundation to build upon.
3. One key match-up: Since combining for five goals and six assists in a 13-12 overtime setback to No. 9 Georgetown, the Midshipmen’s starting attack of senior Brendan Connors, junior Andy Warner and sophomore Ryan O’Leary has totaled one goal and three assists in the last two contests, both of which were losses. That unit must fuel Navy’s offense and open up the back end so that midfielders Patrick Moran, Joe Lennon and Nikk Davis can operate from the top of the box. The attack will be challenged by Johns Hopkins’ close defense of seniors Sam DeVore and Matt Drenan and freshman Tucker Durkin. Their range and stickwork could be a huge obstacle for the Midshipmen.