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Virginia Lacrosse Preview: Johns Hopkins

Hoos hope to retain the Doyle Smith Cup against a struggling Hopkins squad.

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Who: No.20 Johns Hopkins Blue Jays
When: Saturday, March 21, 6:00
Where: Homewood Field, Baltimore, MD
How to Watch: ESPNU

The No.7 Virginia Men's Lacrosse team hits the road today, hoping to bounce back from their failed comeback attempt against Notre Dame last weekend. This week, the Hoos take on Hopkins in Baltimore on ESPNU to defend the Doyle Smith Cup and get themselves one game closer to the post season.

Last season, Virginia edged Hopkins in OT in Charlottesville behind three goals from Greg Coholan. Hopkins got their revenge and ended Virginia's season with a first round loss in the NCAA tournament.

Johns Hopkins enters the game with a 3-4 record on the season, coming off a loss to No.1 ranked Syracuse. The Blue Jays are led on attack by Ryan Brown who has a blistering 23 goals and seven assists through seven games this season. Brown, a junior midfielder-turned-attackman is a strong finisher and tough to guard.

Then come the Stanwicks. Yes, that Stanwick family. Hopkins now boasts the last two male Stanwicks playing college ball, Wells and Shackleford (Shack). Wells plays a role very similar to Steele's at Virginia, dishing out 15 assists so far this season and scoring nine goals to boot. Little brother Shack has 12 goals and nine assists.

Coach Starsia has been employing a lot of zone defense again this season, but with the precision passing of Wells, that could benefit the quick cutters of Hopkins. I wouldn't be surprised to see Davi Sacco put his attention on Brown, and the Virginia defensive midfielder combination of Jack Falk, Will McNamara, and Carlson Milikin can handle pressure from the Hopkins midfield.

UVa. goalie Matt Barrett has been spectacular this season, averaging over 13 saves per game and a 54% save percentage.

In the midfield, Hopkins runs Connor Reed (3 goals, 2 assists), Joel Tinney (8, 3), and Holden Cattoni (5, 1) at the first line, but expect to see a lot of John Crawley (6, 5) and Patrick Fraser (8, 2) as well. The Blue Jays average 11.86 goals per game, good for 18th in the NCAA.

At the faceoff X, Hopkins wins 53%, led by Drew Kennedy who has gone 52-94 (55%) on the season. Virginia's faceoff unit has been struggling, but won the battle last week against Notre Dame. As a unit UVa. wins just 41%, led by Jason Murphy who is winning 46% of his attempts. Possession will be crucial as both these teams can score.

On the defensive end, Hopkins gives up over 10 goals per game, and their goalie, Eric Schneider, has just 57 saves through seven games and a 45% save percentage. The defense is led by long stick midfielders Michael Pellegrino (15 ground balls, 6 caused turnovers) and John Kelly (19 gbs, 4 CT).

Virginia's attack struggled to get started last week against Notre Dame as they adjusted to life without James Pannell, who is out the remainder of the season with a knee injury. The Hoos have six players in double digits in goal scoring, led by Greg Coholan, who was added this week to the Tewaaraton watch list. Coholan has 18 goals and five assists, second in overall points on the team to second year Ryan Lukacovic who has a very balanced 12 goals and 13 assists. Fellow attackman Owen Van Arsdale has 13 goals, and midfielders Ryan Tucker and Zed Williams have 12 and 11, respectively.

There is a definite advantage in the clearing game for Virginia, who has been solid on the ride and only allow their opponents successful clears 86% of the time. Hopkins, conversely, struggles on the clear, converting just 87% of their attempts.

Some experts have already deemed this game a "must win" for Virginia, but that seems a little dramatic this early with five wins already under their belt. That said, Hopkins/UVa. is always a battle, and Virginia needs every win to ensure they have the winning record to qualify for the post season.

The game airs at 6pm on ESPNU.