Brian Piccola has an eye for the open cutter, a willingness t take charge and what the nation's best defenseman admiringly calls "a nasty attitude."
Terry Riordan towers over most defensemen and is on course to become the top goal-getter in the history of the most storied program in college lacrosse.
Teaming up on attack, Piccola and Riordan helped Johns Hopkins (10-3) gain the No. 4 spot in the final rankings and a first-round bye in the NCAA tournament.
The Blue Jays are at Homewood Field on Saturday (2 p.m.) against fifth-seeded Virginia in a quarterfinal; the winner advances to the Final Four at College Park's Byrd Stadium on May 29.
"I have twins, and if you turn your head in one direction to see what one of them is doing, you won't be able to catch the other one," Virginia coach Dom Starsia said. "That's what you get with Piccola and Riordan. The two of them present all kinds of problems."
For the second straight year, Riordan is the Blue Jays' top goal-getter. A 6-foot-4, 205-pound sophomore, he has 42 goals and 18 assists. A 5-8, 180-pound junior, Piccola is at 33 and 20, but he's got a better points-per-game average, since he missed three games with a cracked rib, including an April 4 loss at No. 1 North Carolina.
"Piccola is a go-to-the-goal guy and at 6-4, no matter where he stands, Riordan's always close to the cage," Hopkins coach Tony Seaman said. "They're completely different in style of play, but they're similar in that they're not afraid to finish.
"You have to take the extra step, be willing to take punishment, to be a big-time finisher. You can have the niftiest guy in the world but if he thinks about getting hit. . . . that thought hasn't entered their minds yet."
Princeton's David Morrow, the co-winner of the USILA Defenseman of the Year award last year, on Piccola: "He's one of the toughest guys I play against. The guy has this nasty attitude, one that separates him from the other attackmen. He is physical, and loves going to the goal. I love playing against guys like him, because he is relentless. He has no fear."
Piccola's combativeness cost him two years ago, when he broke his hand in an off-field fight and his freshman season was limited to two games.
"I'm not afraid of anyone on the field," Piccola said. "A lot of times I'm talking garbage on the field, and getting it right back."
"He [Piccola] likes to be in control, and we need that," Riordan said. "He's the creator, I'm the finisher. I just try to get open, and he puts it in my stick. It's to the point now where it seems like we read each other's mind."
They grew up five miles from each other on Long Island, and they've been honing the partnership since a teaming in a summer league in 1991. A year earlier, Piccola's Oceanside (N.Y.) High team swept three games from Baldwin High and Riordan, then a junior. Both were two-sport athletes in high school: Riordan was quarterback on the football team and Piccola was a sweeper in soccer.
With Piccola's help, Riordan is well on his way to breaking the Hopkins record for goals in a season. He has 79; Franz Wittelsberger scored 151 from 1973-76. Michael O'Neill holds the record for career points, 237 from 1975-78.
Piccola and Riordan received All-American honorable mention last year. Records and honors are fine, but they need a national championship to be mentioned with the great attack combinations in Hopkins history. It's a list that includes Bill Morrill and Mickey Webster in 1957-59, Jack Thomas and Wittelsberger in 1973-74 and Brian Wood and Craig Bubier from 1984-87.