Johns Hopkins exposes Syracuse's defensive flaws

Johns Hopkins handled a struggling Syracuse squad last weekend, but the Blue Jays will face a tougher task against Virginia, writes Quint Kessenich.

Updated: March 22, 2007, 11:04 PM ET
By Quint Kessenich | ESPN.com

What is going on at Syracuse? What's happening to the legend of No. 22? When was the last time Syracuse basketball and lacrosse were not invited to the NCAA Tournament? Syracuse lax has well-documented off-the-field issues and a defense that is clearly struggling with assignments. Any time you have an inefficient defense, your goalie will suffer, and right now things couldn't be worse between the pipes for the Orange.

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ESPNU has the lacrosse scene covered. Check out Virginia-Johns Hopkins on Saturday at 1 p.m. ET and Ohio State-UMBC on Sunday at 9 p.m. ET.

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The Carrier Dome was once the toughest play to play in college lacrosse, but that's not the case right now. Last year Hobart beat 'Cuse under the bubble and already in 2007 the Orange have lost to Army and Hopkins on the hill.

Meanwhile, Johns Hopkins offensive coordinator Bob Benson has got to be happy with what he's seeing. The Blue Jays broke out well off of Jesse Schwartzman saves and ran. I counted 11 of the 17 goals as unsettled/transition-type goals against Syracuse last week.

Perhaps more important, the Jays utilized a defensive game plan that got the matchups correct and applied meaningful pressure to the ball. Coach Dave Pietramala's shift to a zone scheme later in the game was a positive move in that he challenged a Syracuse team that was clearly floundering to get back in the game with low-percentage shots. Excellent strategy.

Face-offs, particularly procedure calls, are still a problem for Hopkins. The face-off men are jumping the whistle three times per game. That could be a huge issue on Saturday when Virginia and Adam Fassnacht roll into town (ESPNU, 1 p.m. ET).

Speaking of which, stopping Ben Rubeor and the Virginia attack is paramount. Virginia in 2006 was a midfield-oriented offense with Kyle Dixon being the catalyst. Now Rubeor and Danny Glading run the show from the attack.

Defensively, Virginia loves to chase and check. They have exceptional team speed and shorten decision time for ballcarriers. Can Hopkins get into a comfort zone and actually run its offense? If it does, the Cavaliers defenders are vulnerable off-ball.

Last year, Hopkins struggled in the middle third of the field clearing the ball. Substitution efficiency and ball-handling confidence are the answers when Virginia swarms.

Rise of the Fast Break

Check out highlights from UMBC-Maryland

Who says transition is dead? On Saturday at Byrd Stadium, Maryland had one of the sickest goals I've seen in a while. Freshman goalie Brian Phipps made a sensational save from in tight, then outletted to the midline to Ray Megill. Megill spilt two UMBC riders with a nifty face-dodge and carried into the Retriever half of the field. Thirty-five yards from the goal Megill threw a frozen rope to Max Ritz who was cherry-picking behind UMBC's defense. Ritz scored. The entire 80-yard play took less than 6 seconds. Great action!

Post-Goal Celebrations
The new random stick checks have created some interesting post-goal celebrations. Watch closely every goal-scoring celebration the rest of the season. After watching a recent televised game, I noticed the goal-scorer in the midst of celebrating with a teammate will tap his pocket from the back or press the back of the stick on his chest. This new phenomenon is pretty much everywhere, but certain teams are worse than others. By rule it's OK because the referee hasn't asked the player to see his stick yet. It is a foul to tamper with or touch the stick once it's been requested by an official. The players think they're sly, but I think it's ugly and goes against the spirit of the game.

Loyola is Ready to Roll
Loyola is ready to make a serious run. They sit at 3-2 after an 0-2 start and have a challenging schedule ahead. I'm very impressed with Greyhound goalie Alex Peaty. He fills up the net well and has quick hands and feet.

After a slow start, the Hounds' offense is moving the ball well. When they play unselfishly, it's enjoyable to watch and they have more than one offensive option. Shane Koppens, Dan Bauers, Ryan Rabidou, Patrick Kennedy and Andrew Spack can shoot it. Cory Coffman has been doing a terrific job of drawing the double off his dodges and getting the ball out of his stick. And transfer Dan Kallaugher has won 63 percent of his face-offs.

Quint Kessenich played goalie for Johns Hopkins in 1990 and is a lacrosse analyst for ESPNU. E-mail him at quint@insidelacrosse.com. ESPN.com is working with Inside Lacrosse to provide you with news and analysis. Click here for more coverage.

Quint Kessenich covers college and professional lacrosse for ESPN.