Princeton vs. Johns Hopkins men's lacrosse 4
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The Recent Syracuse – Johns Hopkins Game Was NOT Boring

A lot of people have told me how boring they thought the recent Cuse-Hop was.  To those people I say, what game were YOU watching?

If you want discussion on the Wharton crease dive/alleged push, go no further than 412Lax.

Syracuse beat Johns Hopkins at the Carrier Dome this past weekend 5-4 in OT.  I didn’t get a chance to watch the game live until Sunday night (because I was speaking at the Wesleyan Lacrosse Alumni Dinner after their big 9-8 OT win over Middlebury), but at my Sunday Ulax League on Sunday, all anyone could talk about was how boring it was.  The 5-4 score was the point most people used in their argument and after hearing all that talk, I went into the game a little biased.

The game certainly had the potential to be boring, after all, Hopkins was playing.  But this one wasn’t.  Not even in the slightest.  A lot of teams sit back against Hop and let them run their wide circle, set-up, control-the-game offense.  That is incredibly boring.  But Cuse came out and pressured them.  All over the field.  They played the Hop guys well outside the box, both because they knew the had the athletes to run with the Hop players, but also because Cuse knew Ranagan and Greeley can not be allowed to build up a head of steam when dodging.  Ranagan shook Amidon early and put one top shelf when Cuse was trying to get a substitution in, during what was one of the few instances where Cuse didn’t put on a lot of pressure.  Both 9 and 31 had good chances throughout the game in these recurring substitution windows.

Both goalies and both defenses played extremely well.  Syracuse did a good job of putting the ball on the ground and forcing Hopkins into less than ideal shots.  Hopkins did a fantastic job of picking off passes and being physical inside.  The play of both goalies can’t be overlooked either.  Without Galloway and Bassett in net, this could have been a much higher scoring game.

Syracuse has nothing to fix, although I am sure they will strive to improve.  They have a dynamic offense, will continue to work feeds in to cutters as their shooters spread out defenses and they have a great D and special teams.  They have proven that they can run and gun or slow down a bit and scrap.  They don’t always control the game, but even then they are still favorites to win.  Hopkins came in with a good game plan, and Syracuse just answered with talent and great team D.

Johns Hopkins does have some work to do, but after seeing this effort, I’m not as down on the Blue Jays as I was earlier in the year.  This game showed that Hopkins can play the same offense they use now under pressure.  So instead of running it 30 yards out from the goal like they usually do, they should start running it a lot tighter.  This keeps defensive teams on their heels and also shows holes in the other teams’ D earlier in the game, which will allow Hop to score more later on.

The other thing I’d like to see Hop do is use their middies a little differently.  They have a couple of guys who are studs.  No question about it.  And I’d like to see them get better chances to score.  The way to do this, is by getting them on the field faster and not just using them as O mids.  Ranagan and Greeley can run all day, so let them play a little D.  The Hop O isn’t SO dynamic that these guys couldn’t stand to play a little D as well.  Let’s be serious here.  They have the skills and the physical attributes, so use them more.

The real reason I want to see the better Hop middies on the field more is because guys like Ranagan and Greeley are pretty much unstoppable in 4 on 4 situations, which often arise during substitutions.  It would be very un-Hopkins-like to push the ball instead of settle into a yellow situation, but it would also be against character to pass up great match up opportunities.  The Blue Jays have already seen that their offense is not getting it done with their current iteration.  To not change it at all now, almost guarantees a lost season.  The fact that Hop went up 3-1 and then slowed things down tells us they are still stuck in their “let’s just minimize risk” mentality.

Princeton vs. Johns Hopkins men's lacrosse 4
Goalie play, also big.

However, some of Hopkins’ best chances came during substitutions, when Cuse was trying to get their specialists back on to the field.  I can only hope that JHU recognizes this when they watch the film.  If Hopkins can use two-way middies to create more of those opportunities for themselves and less for their opposition, I think they will be a much more dangerous team.  Cuse got away from their transition game a little bit and didn’t use their 2-way middies as much as they have in the past.  And this game was tighter than most anyone expected.

Hmmm… Hopkins got good chances in transition periods… and Cuse played more of a specialist game… and the game was really close even though everyone knows Cuse is a better team… yeah, I’m definitely still on to something.