(Photo Courtesy of Maryland Athletics)
I sat down to write this week’s column at the conclusion of the Delaware-Johns Hopkins game on Sunday. And the one thought that I just couldn’t shake was how far apart the two most historic programs in the Old Line State seem to be right now, especially coming out of this weekend.
Both Johns Hopkins and Maryland are coming off historic weekends. The difference is, one is historically bad and the other is historically good.
Nobody said that the Blue Jays would be world beaters in year two of the Peter Milliman era, and nobody said that change would happen overnight at Homewood. And anyone who expected that was lying to themselves. But after nearly beating Maryland in the Big Ten title game last season, it was reasonable to expect much better than this from Johns Hopkins.
In short, this weekend was surely painful for Johns Hopkins and the Blue Jay faithful. An 11-10 loss against Navy on Friday night marked the Blue Jays’ first loss at Homewood to the Midshipmen since 1969. That is 53 years ago and two years before lacrosse became an NCAA sport. Then, on Sunday, the Blue Jays traveled to Newark to take on the Delaware Blue Hens. Once again, that game ended with a close loss, 12-10, for the Blue Jays with historical significance. It was only the second time in program history Johns Hopkins had lost to Delaware. The first instance? 1955 in a 1-0 game.
Sitting at 4-5 on the season and coming off two negatively historical losses, things aren’t looking good for the Blue Jays at the moment. And with their Big Ten opener against Michigan this coming Saturday, one has to ask not when, but if, they can turn it around? The lack of assertiveness within Michigan’s offense these past two weeks tells me that the Blue Jays defense may be able to gain an upper hand on Saturday if that trend continues. But if it doesn’t, consider this: the Wolverines beat Delaware 18-8 a few weeks ago.
When blue bloods like Johns Hopkins are good, the sport as a whole is good. Let’s see if the Blue Jays can turn a corner in Big Ten play.
About 40 minutes south, John Tillman and the Maryland Terrapins are riding as high as they have in the past few seasons. In Washington, D.C. in front of a 10,000-plus crowd, the Terrapins took it to the defending national champion Virginia, 23-12, to avenge that title game from a year ago as well as that NCAA Quarterfinal that left Maryland out of Championship Weekend back in 2019. Their 23 goals marks the most put up on Virginia by the Terps since 1976.
Maryland looks as they have all season, like the best team in college lacrosse. And Virginia, as crazy as it might sound, might have played them as good as anyone will during the regular season. The Terrapins are indeed a juggernaut, and in my opinion, Saturday made them even more dangerous because they showed that in addition to having a stellar offense highlighted by players like Logan Wisnauskas and a defense anchored by Logan McNaney and headlined by Brett Makar and company, Luke Wierman can be the faceoff man they need him to be this season.
Wierman was beaten by Petey LaSalla in the national championship last season. But this time around, it was the West Chester, Pa. native that had the upper hand as he went 66% (24-for-36). And while he has a 67% winning percentage on the season and has been having a lot more success after being sub-50% a year ago, doing it against LaSalla legitimized his improvement even more.
Maryland is 7-0 and opens up Big Ten play on the road against Penn State. If they continue to play they way they are, it’s hard to see how anyone can beat them.
Peaking at The Right Time?
What is the one similarity between Denver, Loyola, and Lehigh? Well, for one, they both were top-20 teams to start the season. Secondly, bad starts saw each of them drop out at some point over the past month or so. Lastly, they are all three seeming to find their footing.
A wrote a little bit about Loyola last week, but that was more in the context of Kevin Lindley becoming a dodging threat in the Greyhounds 12-10 win over Duke. Now, a week later, what has this team done? Well, they entered back into the Top-20 after that win over the Blue Devils and will likely remain and possibly move up after taking down Bucknell 13-9 on Saturday to earn their third consecutive win and second in the Patriot League. And in that win, they outscored the Bison 8-2 in the second half to comeback from down 8-5 and win.
Lehigh and Denver each earned their biggest wins of this season this past weekend, and in part thanks to great play at the faceoff dot.
For the Mountain Hawks, they have won their last three games and took down Army West Point, 11-10, on Saturday for their best win of the year. Mike Sisselberger went 17-for-25 (68%) to provide that Lehigh offense, which has been much improved since Cole Kirt’s return, the possession advantage.
Denver went into the Horseshoe in Columbus and took down the Ohio State Buckeyes to skim a two-game losing streak in the but. After a slow start, Alec Stathakis went on to win 13-of-21 in the final three quarters and ended the day with an overall 51% success rate (14-for-27). He also scored once as well, which ended a big three-goal run in the third quarter for the Pioneers.
With the Greyhounds and Mountain Hawks already in conference play and continuing to show improvement each week, it’s clear that they have turned the corner. Now, with Denver facing Towson this week and Georgetown next week, we’ll see if that is indeed the case as well with the Pioneers.
Defense is Still Richmond’s Identity
Coming into the season, the biggest question facing the Richmond Spiders was who is going to replace Jack Rusbuldt in cage? The answer: Devin Crave. The second-biggest question was what exactly the defense as a whole would look like with so many losses. The answer: still really freaking good.
Facing Duke and Georgetown consecutive weeks did prove to be a challenge for the Spiders, as was their opener against North Carolina. But outside those three ACC teams, the only concerning showing for this unit has been in the first half against Towson. But, again, they held them to six goals in the final three quarters before winning in triple overtime.
On Sunday, the Spiders took down the UMBC Retrievers 14-9 in a game in which they won 7-3 in the second half alone. It marks the opponent, along with Marist and St. Bonaventure, that the Spiders have held to single-digits.
Devin Craven is anchoring that unit with a 58% save percentage and 79 saves. Out in front, Jake Saunders (17GB/13CT), Griffin Kology (7GB/9CT), and Ray Baran (15GB/6CT) make one heck of a close unit. LSM Braden McClure (10GB/9CT) headlines that rope unit along with SSDMs Grant Shayne (8GB/4CT) and Joe Gooley (14GB/4CT).
Who’s Left on Reverse Survivor Island
Nobody who hadn’t won this season came out victorious over the weekend.
Four teams are still left without a win: Hampton, Holy Cross, NJIT, and UMass Lowell.
Tanner’s Top 20
While I don’t have a vote, here is what my top 20 would look like after this week.
- Boston U.
- Ohio State
- Notre Dame
- North Carolina
- Army West Point
Others Considered: Brown, Michigan, High Point, Saint Joseph’s,Dartmouth