February 17, 2012

Hopkins Doubles Up Towson; Boland Injured

by Gary Lambrecht | LaxMagazine.com

BALTIMORE - For the first 30 minutes of Friday night’s men’s lacrosse season opener at Homewood Field, second-ranked Johns Hopkins encountered a feisty Towson University team out to set the right tone under its first-year coach.

Then, reality set in, as the Blue Jays asserted their huge advantages in talent and experience, starting with sixth-year senior attackman Chris Boland and junior attackman Zach Palmer. When it was over, Hopkins had torched the unranked Tigers with a lopsided run in the middle of the game, before cruising to a 12-6 rout before 2,320.

Zach Palmer had a six-point night (3g, 3a) as Johns Hopkins overcame a slow start to beat Towson 12-6 on Friday night.

© John Strohsacker/LaxPhotos.com

The Blue Jays (1-0) handed 12th-year coach Dave Pietramala his 150th career victory by continuing their mastery of Towson (1-1). The Tigers suffered their first defeat under coach Shawn Nadelen – a 2001 Hopkins graduate who was a team captain under Pietramala that year – and lost to the Blue Jays for the 37th time in 40 meetings.

Under Pietramala, Hopkins remains unbeaten against Baltimore rivals Towson, Loyola and UMBC with a combined record of 31-0.

“It was obvious in the first five minutes that we were the team that hadn’t played a game, and [the Tigers] were the team that had. We were a little uncomfortable,” Pietramala said. “It’s nice to get that first one.”

On a night when Boland bullied the Tigers with a game-high four goals and Palmer was at times dazzling with three goals and three assists, the Blue Jays out-classed Towson, which started well. The Tigers took a 3-2, second-quarter lead by controlling faceoff play, running some effective motion offense and slowing down Hopkins, which committed four, first-quarter turnovers.

But the Blue Jays turned up their intensity, started generating turnovers off of some hard rides, and their shooters began to zero in on Towson junior goalie Andrew Wascavage, who beat out injured incumbent and fifth-year senior Travis Love (shoulder) in the preseason.

Once Boland took a feed from Palmer and buried an eight-yard shot to tie the score at 3-3 with 11:28 left in the first half, Hopkins was off and sprinting on a 9-0 run that put Towson in an 11-3 hole two minutes into the fourth quarter. The Tigers went just over 31 minutes without scoring a goal, as Hopkins out-shot them, 36-13, after the first quarter.

The only downer for the Blue Jays – besides junior midfielder John Ranagan going scoreless on a game-high eight shots – was watching Boland walk gingerly off the field following his fourth and final score that gave Hopkins a commanding, 7-3 lead with 9:27 left in the third quarter.

On the play, Boland tumbled hard onto his left side to avoid contact as he released his shot at the top of the crease. It appeared the Hopkins staff was working on Boland’s shoulder or collar bone area on the sideline. He did not return.

“Chris is a little banged up. I don’t know where he is [in terms of health] right now,” Pietramala said. “Zach and Chris have developed some nice chemistry.”

“We were gripping our sticks too tight early. As soon as we got a couple [shots] to go in, we started building some confidence,” Palmer said. “Our offense is mainly midfield dodging that gives the attack a chance to see through what they’re doing. It’s fun to play with the attack I’m playing with. We felt we would be fine going into the second half. We were.”

Sophomore attackman Brandon Benn added two goals for Hopkins. Junior midfielder Lee Coppersmith also had two goals. Freshman midfielder Robby Zoppo led Towson with two goals.

Nadelen was left to ponder how the game might have played out differently, had the Tigers taken better advantage of some early chances. Towson won 11 of 14 faceoffs through the first three quarters, as Hopkins rested faceoff man Mike Poppleton after he suffered a concussion in last week’s preseason scrimmage against Cornell.

But the Tigers wasted their opportunities by failing on eight of 25 clears, committing 21 turnovers and unraveling a bit in a scoreless third quarter.

“I thought [early] we were getting decent possessions at the offensive end and I thought we were in good position defensively,” Nadelen said. “Our mistakes – not burying shots we should make, miscommunicating on defense – took a toll on us.”

“[The Blue Jays] are really good shooters. They do a good job of shooting off of screens,” said Wascavage, who managed 11 saves during a 42-shot onslaught by Hopkins. “Two or three [shots] hit me in the face that I never saw coming.”

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