Hopkins to battle size with speed

November 17, 1994|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,Sun Staff Writer

Two years ago, Johns Hopkins soccer was symbolized by losing, bickering and coaching instability.

"There was a lot of uncertainty and turmoil on the team," said junior midfielder Jared Lawrence. "There was some tension between the players."

But all that changed when Matt Smith became head coach last season, and tomorrow the revitalized Blue Jays play in the NCAA Division III final four, taking on host Trenton State in a semifinal at 1:30 p.m.

"Coach came in and impressed on us that a .500 record wasn't the ultimate goal," said Lawrence. "He really instilled that in us. It's been amazing."

Hopkins has a 12-game winning streak, and even a slowdown of freshman striker Eric West hasn't halted the Blue Jays. Owner of both the school single-season goal and scoring records, West has been held to one goal in three NCAA games as opposing defenses have keyed on him.

Lawrence, a Randallstown High graduate, has scored the other four postseason goals by "happening to be in the right place," he said. "I've knocked in deflections after corner kicks or gotten the rebounds."

The Blue Jays' offense is designed for West, the lone forward in an unusual alignment. "We try to get him isolated one-on-one for a quick break," said Lawrence. "The opposition is definitely on him closer, so there is a lot of pressure on him."

Quickness and speed are essential in the offensive scheme and the midfielders have responded. They have latitude because freshman sweeper Peter Kahn and goalkeeper Craig Greenwald have been able to stop opponents.

"We kind of come at you in waves," said Smith.

Trenton State, on the other hand, has size on its side.

"They're very, very big, with a lot of guys 6-3 to 6-5, and play a lot of man-to-man defense, which is uncommon," Smith said. "Plus, Trenton is an athletic factory.

"But our players do a good job of not getting emotional and getting sucked into all that reaction. We'll be OK if we don't lose our focus on the game itself.

"We want to play physical soccer, but we feel we can help you up after a tackle. That's not their philosophy. But I'm confident we won't be intimidated."

Hopkins knocked off Elizabethtown and Muhlenberg -- both Top 10 teams -- in the first two rounds. Then, in last week's quarterfinals, Hopkins looked like a team of destiny. After scoring off a wild corner kick in the first minute against Tufts, it hung on for a 1-0 victory.

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