February 6, 2011

Hopkins-Penn State Scrimmage Report

by Corey McLaughlin | Lacrosse Magazine Online Staff

Penn State senior midfielder Matt Shankoff gets wrestled to the ground by two Johns Hopkins defenders during Saturday's preseason scrimmage at Holuba Hall.

© Chloe E. Elmer

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- Johns Hopkins men's lacrosse coach Dave Pietramala and Penn State's Jeff Tambroni chatted like old friends at a backyard BBQ after the Blue Jays scrimmaged the Nittany Lions Saturday at Holuba Hall, Penn State's indoor facility. The former coaching staffers at Cornell stood next to one another, talking about what stood out to them from the Jays' 7-4 win.

It was a scrimmage, yes, but both teams seemed to treat the indoor meeting in chilly State College, Pa., like a regular season game. Penn State was eager to get its first taste of spring competition under its new coach. Meanwhile, Johns Hopkins is trying to erase the memories of its 7-8 record in 2010, the school's first losing season since 1971, and that 18-5 loss to Duke in the first round of last year's NCAA tournament.

"For us, this is a great first test because it gives a sense of what we're going to see when the season starts," Pietramala said. "And what I mean by that is Jeff's rebuilding this thing and changing the culture here. We knew they'd come out flying and they'd be approaching it emotionally and intensity-wise like a game. We've struggled with that in scrimmages, so for us it was a great thing to be able to go against a team we knew would come out flying, knock you down and hustle. I think we matched that."

Said Tambroni: "In talking with Coach Petro, he really put a lot of emphasis on his team competing and playing hard, especially after what happened to their team last year. In terms of where we need to go, I thought it gave our coaching staff a good assessment. We've tried quite a bit in practice to talk about the energy it takes to sustain through 60 minutes to play against a team like this if you want to be successful. I don't think we've always done it in practice, but this is a good lesson to learn what you need to do at all times to be a little more successful."

Johns Hopkins led 3-0 at the end of the first quarter, 4-2 at halftime, and 7-3 early in the fourth before the starters were pulled. Chris Boland and Tim Donovan each had two goals for the Blue Jays. Nick Dolik led Penn State with two goals and Matt Mackrides had two assists.

Here are some notes, observations and quotes from the scrimmage. (Johns Hopkins players swapped jerseys and did not wear jersey numbers listed on the roster, making it tough to follow the Jays. Players were identified by their correct numbers on their shorts.)

These five are keepers

All five goalies that played, played well. This isn't easy inside Holuba Hall. The walls are white and the color is nearly identical to the lacrosse ball, making it hard sometimes to pick up shots. But all five goalies that saw time -- three for Hopkins, two for Penn State -- had solid performances.

Pierce Bassett started for Hopkins and looked poised, making six saves in a quarter-plus, though he wasn't hugely tested (see Penn State's shooting numbers below). Steven Burke relieved Bassett in the second quarter and freshman Eric Schneider played the second half, making unofficially four saves, a couple really good ones. Pietramala was impressed with the goalies.

Penn State freshman Austin Kaut started and unofficially made 12 saves in three and a half quarters. He took several shots off his Size 13 feet. "That happens a lot in practice," said Tambroni, who is excited about his goalie. John Nichols was next in and made three saves late in the fourth quarter.

Penn State's shooting woes

Penn State's shooting wasn't all that great. The Lions took 21 shots in the first half and scored two goals. Asked to assess the game afterward, junior attackman Matt Mackrides, the Lions' top offensive threat, didn't know the stats but had a sense they weren't good.

"As far as X's and O's, how we did shooting and stuff, that will come in film," Mackrides said. "I'm sure we can improve on a lot. We have to improve on a lot."

"I don't think we shared the ball as much as we've seen us share the ball in practice," Tambroni said. "We have to do a better job of playing team offense and doing a better job of shooting."

Durkin impresses Pietramala

Tucker Durkin had a nice day against Mackrides. Pietramala was generally pleased with his defense -- "I think our number was little lower than theirs," he said in reference to goals allowed in the final score -- and the coach specifically noted that sophomore defenseman Durkin did a good job on Mackrides.

Mackrides scored no goals but did have two nice assists around the cage. Given that "we have a ton of respect for Mackrides," Durkin played well, Pietramala said.

Goalie Kaut headlines Penn State's impact freshmen

PSU will have impact freshmen. It starts with Kaut, the goalie. He's gained the nickname "Sour" from teammates, as in "Sauerkraut," which has to be a good sign.

"Austin Kaut played incredible," said defenseman and co-captain Matt Bernier. "That was really awesome to see him step up and be able to get in a zone and not let too much in that cage."

There were other freshman contributors, too. "[Defenseman] Steven Bogert, [attackman] Shane Sturgis and [attackman] Steve Aitkin, a lot of those guys played and were in position to make plays against one of the nation's best teams," Tambroni said. "We were pleased with the way they handled this, but not surprised."

News and notes

A score was not kept on the scoreboard, only time and period, but Johns Hopkins knew where it stood as it celebrated afterward. "A good start!" someone yelled from the bunch as the players went to the sideline ... Matt Dolente (Hopkins) and Danny Henneghan (Penn State) took the majority of faceoffs and the overall team battle was about even ... Penn State's Jack Forster, who has been hampered by knee injuries the last two years and tore a meniscus last May, remains sidelined for at least "a few more weeks," Tambroni said. Forster had another surgery over the winter.

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