A LOOK AT HOPKINS-NAVY

Do not be deceived by the record the Blue Jays (5-4) bring into the game. Their losses were to No. 2 Albany, No. 3 Duke, No. 4 Virginia and No. 10 North Carolina by a combined eight goals. The Albany game was a bit of a surprise. The other three are not.

Virginia was leading Hopkins 11-3 in the fourth quarter last year (the game finished 12-6 as I recall). Going from that debacle to beating a team in the span of one year is a lot of improving to make. Rarely does a team get that back all in one year.

Duke was always going to bring its ‘A' game to Homewood, especially after it became increasingly likely that the charges against their former players were going to be dropped.

And Johns Hopkins had beaten North Carolina 13 straight times; that's an awful long time. By way of comparison, Virginia is thrilled to have won five of its past seven against UNC.

Eventually, the 13 in a row was going to come back and bite Hopkins. The surprise isn't that it happened, it's that it took so long.

That said, Navy can win this game, no question. Looney and Dingman are two big-time offensive players.

I imagine that Dingman especially will have something to prove. He somehow was left off the 17 finalists for the Teewaaraton trophy announced earlier this week. Maybe it was a backlash because he had a disappointing 2006, and a lot of people thought he would dominate.

He also went 0 for 12 against Hopkins last year. I watched that game on tape this week and if he gets those same shots this year, he will score four goals (at least).

The question is whom does Hopkins use to defend him? It must be awful tempting to use Zerrlaut. After all, Zerrlaut defended him last year and he is an excellent defender, especially with his positioning and strength.

But Zerrlaut's mobility is in question after his off-season knee surgery; Dingman's mobility, meantime, is better than ever, and probably the main reason he is having a much better year than last year.

Hopkins might look at Evans against Dingman. Evans is a good combination of speed and strength—probably the best combination defender Hopkins has. But he isn't very tall and he plays in a crouch, so Dingman likely would be able to see over him to zip passes around the field if that's the matchup (or shoot over him).

Navy will have problems defending Hopkins, too, so it becomes very crucial for Wallace to win faceoffs and give the Midshipmen the first crack with the ball. Dow bumped up to defend Rabil last year, but I'm not positive they will do it again. Barger is having a phenomenal year—clearing, getting GBs, he even is 3 for 3 shooting. I'd give him first crack at Rabil.

Hopkins is a very matchup driven team, so the shortsticks will be under pressure. Here, the Midshipmen should be fine. Leone and Lennon are not scared of the rough stuff and can use their bodies on slides to keep Hopkins off-balance.

Teague should get Huntley because of the lefty-lefty and also because the CW on Huntley is that he does not like facing physical defenders. But Huntley is a tough kid, no doubt, and he may try to take Teague goal line extended and beat him with his speed. Finnegan needs to be ready here and play his angles well.

Boyle, who really makes Hopkins go, likely will be guarded by DiNola. That is a crucial matchup. Both have good speed and Boyle has great vision. DiNola has not been great the past couple weeks and I expect he will play well Saturday.

In the end, which team will hold its nerve in the fourth quarter? Quint Kessenich (whose older brother played lacrosse at Navy) said that Hopkins goalie Jesse Schwartzman has a higher save percentage in the first half than the second (I think its 64 percent to 51 percent). If Navy can reverse those numbers, it might force Hopkins to use freshman Mike Gvodzen. They certainly appeared ready to make the switch against Umd last week but Schwartzman talked them out of it.

Finnegan, meantime, will be under pressure if it's a tight game late (and I expect it will be). Buckle up, because I am expecting an excellent game.


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