Virginia Cavaliers Host Johns Hopkins Blue Jays: 2014 NCAA Lacrosse Tournament Preview

Geoff Burke-US PRESSWIRE

Virginia opens the 2014 NCAA lacrosse tournament at home against rival Johns Hopkins today at 1pm.

Today, Virginia comes back from their one year post-season hiatus to take the field against their Baltimore-based rival, Johns Hopkins. The Blue Jay-Wahoo rematch is the only first round matchup that was played during the regular season.

The Hoos grabbed the No.8 seed in the tournament in last Sunday's selection show, but drawing the tough Blue Jays sobered the moment slightly.

Back on March 22nd at Klöckner Stadium, Virginia squeaked by Hopkins on a Greg Coholan overtime winner, 11-10. Coholan led the Hoos with three goals, while Mark Cockerton, James Pannell, and first year Ryan Lukacovic all notched two goals apiece. Over 4700 fans were in attendance for what proved to be yet another thriller in the Hopkins-Virginia rivalry.

Brandon Benn and Ryan Brown each tallied hat tricks, and Wells Stanwick was held to one goal and an assist. Face off man Drew Kennedy won 16 of 25 on the day, and Hopkins was 4-6 in their extra man set.

First year goalie Matt Barrett had a phenomenal day between the pipes with 16 saves on 33 shots faced. On defense, fourth year captain Scott McWilliams led the way with five ground balls, four caused turnovers, a goal, and an assist for one of the most well rounded performances of the season.

Virginia outshot Hopkins 40-33 and won the ground ball battle 45-37. Both teams turned the ball over frequently (18 for Hopkins, 14 for Virginia), and failed a handful of clears.

After the loss, Hopkins dropped the next one to Carolina, 13-9, then rattled off five straight wins before falling to Loyola (Md.) in their final regular season game.

The Hoos, on the other hand, split their last six games 3-3, but played one of their most complete games of the season in a 13-11 victory over North Carolina in the ACC Showcase Saturday game, two weeks ago (they were off for a bye for exams)

On the season, Hopkins is 10-4 and comes into the tournament as an unseeded team. The team is averaging 12 goals per game and only give up 8.29. The Blue Jays take advantage on 54% of their extra man opportunities, and convert just under 30% of their shot attempts.

Coach Petro's team turns the ball over almost as much as their opponents (192 to 202), but their play from the faceoff X (58% win percentage) gives them extra pivotal possessions. Eric Schneider saves over 56% of shots faced between the pipes, but their poor clear percentage (83%) negates a small portion of that performance by giving the ball right back to the other team.

Wells Stanwick (it still hurts...why Wells, whyyy?) leads the Blue Jays in points with 57 via 17 goals and 40 assists. Brown and Benn lead the team in goals with 38 and 35 respectively. Impressively, the Blue Jays' top four scorers (Stanwick, Brown, Benn, and Holden Cattoni) all shoot at a clip over 30%.

On the defensive end, Mike Pellegrino leads Hopkins with 13 caused turnovers, and junior defenseman John Kelly has the most ground balls (35) for a player not named face-off guru Drew Kennedy.

Now for Virginia...

The Hoos average just under 13 goals per game, but give up just under 11. As a team, the Cavaliers shoot 33%, and notch an assist on a blistering 61.8% of their goals (120 of 194 goals). Virginia also converts 54% of their extra man opportunities, but are only winning 47% from the faceoff X.

Virginia's defense does a fantastic job causing turnovers with 142 over their 15 games (9.46 per game). Their opponents have only caused 76 turnovers. The Hoos are clearing the ball at 85% this season, significantly lower than previous seasons.

Fourth year Mark Cockerton leads the way for the Cavaliers with 45 goals and 15 assists for a season point total of 60, and James Pannell has had a great second year with 39 goals and seven assists. Virginia has eight players who have broken double-digits in the scoring column, and three of those eight are shooting over 40% for the season (Ryan Tucker, Coholan, and Lukacovic).

Tucker has been a great story this season, improving his outside shot from last year where he struggled with accuracy. His 45% shooting accuracy leads the starters (minus McWilliams who is 3-3 on the season with shots and goals...seriously, get that defenseman the ball), and Tucker's 23 goals and six assists are good for fourth on the team in points.

Faceoffs have been an issue for the team as a whole, but Mick Parks leads the way with a 51% win percentage. Virginia's other liability this season has been goaltending, but Barrett has been coming into his own in the crease over the last few games. Other than an abysmal, three-save game in the loss to Duke, Matt has averaged 11.5 saves per game over the last four contests.

In order to win today's game, Virginia will need to split faceoffs with Kennedy, and Barrett will have to have another double digit day. The defense will need to limit inside shots on Barrett, and get help on the second (and sometimes third) slides as Hopkins moves the ball around well.

Cockerton will draw a quick double, so other scoring threats will have to step up early to force the Hopkins D to pay more attention to the other players on attack. Tucker and Rob Emery need to contribute to the cause in the midfield, and I have a feeling that we are about to see Zed Williams have a break out day.

If you are in Charlottesville, get to Klöckner at 1pm to cheer for the Hoos. If you are not, get to a TV and turn on ESPN2 to watch Virginia in front of a national audience. Hopefully it goes like 2009...

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