Q&A with ESPN's Quint Kessenich
ESPN analyst and former Johns Hopkins All-American goalie Quint Kessenich covered top-ranked Syracuse’s 12-10 win against No. 2 Virginia on Friday night, watched No. 8 Princeton’s 8-3 demolition of No. 9 Johns Hopkins in person on Saturday afternoon, and will be part of the sports network’s coverage of the Konica Minolta Face-Off Classic at M&T Bank Stadium on Saturday. Kessenich offered his perspective on the gap between Syracuse and the rest of the Division I, Saturday’s upsets, and the most impressive individual performance.
Question: You watched Syracuse’s win against Virginia in person. Is it fair to say those two teams have separated themselves from the rest of the pack?
Answer: I think the gap is between everybody and Syracuse. With Maryland’s loss to Duke, I think it’s fair to say that Syracuse is a step ahead. Virginia would be No. 2 and then I’ve got Notre Dame and Hofstra at [Nos.] 3 and 4. So it is fair to say that visually, it looks like Syracuse is No. 1. Virginia’s got to clean up some defensive issues. I put Virginia in the pack. Virginia played to 9-9 against Drexel late in their game. Virginia played an overtime game at Stony Brook. They have not shown to be dominant.
Q: What impressed you about the Orange?
A: Overall balance of their roster. Great defense and goaltending. A really strong faceoff and ground ball play. And then senior leadership. Having spent about a day-and-half around that program, I really got the sense that these seniors are absolutely committed.
Q: There whispers about nepotism when Syracuse coach John Desko put his son Tim on the team. Now that Tim scored a game- and career-high five goals in the win against the Cavaliers and leads the offense with 10 goals in three games, do you think he has proven his father’s decision was the correct one?
A: He’s gotten so much better. Last year, he only had 12 goals. The other day, he had five. He’s really improved. I think the kids on the team really like him a lot. He’s a no-nonsense, hard worker, and he’s shown that he belongs. It’s pretty obvious that he’s well-respected there.
Q: What was the biggest surprise of the weekend?
A: Princeton’s domination of Hopkins surprised me. I watched the game in person, and then I think Army beating Cornell and Duke beating Maryland were the three things that surprised me most.
Q: What did you notice in No. 9 Johns Hopkins’ 8-3 loss to No. 8 Princeton?
A: I was standing there along the fence. I was about 10 yards from the action, and it was apparent that Princeton was quicker to loose balls and tougher, and they were making all the plays. Hopkins looked a step slow in so many different situations. And they made bad decisions and took poor shots, and Princeton’s pretty good. Princeton played a very focused game for 60 minutes. It was 3-0 early in the game and right away, you knew it was going to be a long day because with [Tigers] junior goalkeeper Tyler] Fiorito in the goal, this was not a great start.
Q: So it was a case where Princeton was more aggressive than the Blue Jays?
A: For some reason, with all those contested, 50-50 ground balls, there were more black-and-orange jerseys around the ball, and they seemed to know where the ball was going while Hopkins was a step behind. It’s weird. I don’t that it’s speed. I just think they’re not a good ground ball team. They just don’t have good intuition, and when they get the ball in their sticks, they tend to lose it. There were four or five times where Hopkins had the ball in their sticks for a second and then it got checked out or they lost it or they panicked and threw it away. They don’t have great ground ball players, and right now, they’re losing the possession battle at a rate that they can’t overcome.
Q: What were your thoughts on No. 13 Army’s 11-9 upset of No. 6 Cornell?
A: It was a re-match of last year’s quarterfinals, a game where everything went Cornell’s way. This year, Army had a slow start where they lost to UMass, and now all of a sudden, Army’s legit. Army has great players. Preseason, I had Army as a top-10 team, and to me, they’re back in the top 10 this week. I’ve got them at No. 8 because their loss to UMass all of a sudden looks pretty good. And their loss to Syracuse looks pretty good, too.
Q: No. 3 Maryland had a 2-0 lead on No. 19 Duke before the Blue Devils escaped with a 9-8 decision in overtime. Did the Terps get too overconfident or was Duke more determined to erase last week’s 7-3 loss to unranked Penn?
A: I think it was a little of both. I think it was fool’s gold for Maryland to look at their win over Georgetown and think that was anything special. Georgetown was tremendously sloppy on defense. If you watched that tape – and I told this to [Terps coach] John Tillman – I thought Maryland’s defense didn’t look as buttoned up as it should’ve. And Coach Tillman said he was worried about this Duke game for the emotional challenge. Maryland was patting itself on the back, while Duke’s season was on the brink after losing to Penn. It was kind of the emotional paradox between the two teams created a very competitive game. If you had asked me how that game would’ve played out, I would’ve said that Duke would’ve gotten the early lead, and Maryland would’ve called timeout, settled down, and won.
Q: What individual impressed you with his performance this weekend?
A: To me, Desko’s five goals were pretty special. [Senior midfielder] Shamel Bratton, in defeat for Virginia, played a really fantastic individual game. [Senior attackman] Jamie Lincoln of Hofstra put up five [goals]. And then Tyler Fiorito.