Hopkins vs. Virginia a study in contrasts Cavs' offense, Jays' defense in showdown at Homewood

March 22, 1997|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,CONTRIBUTING WRITER

Remember, it's only a regular-season game.

That's what the coaches have stressed. That's what the players have told one another.

But when No. 2 Virginia brings the nation's highest-scoring attack to Homewood Field for a showdown with No. 4 Johns Hopkins and its top-notch defense today, it will be anything but just another game.

The game highlights a full lacrosse day in the area, with North Carolina at Maryland, Brown at Loyola, Syracuse at Towson State and Delaware at Navy.

At Hopkins, the agenda includes pride, revenge and tournament ramifications. And everything should be decided by the collision between the Cavaliers' attack unit of Michael Watson, Doug Knight and Drew McKnight and the Blue Jays' close defensive corps of Brian Kuczma, John Gagliardi and Aaron Van Horn.

"They are definitely the best defensive trio that there is today," Watson said. "They're the biggest challenge of the year for us."

The same could be said for Hopkins.

"Defense is our strength; their strength is offense," Gagliardi said. "We need to step up to the challenge."

At times, Virginia hasn't looked as fluid on offense as in previous years. The Cavaliers still are adjusting to the graduation of their top ball-handler, Tim Whiteley.

Nonetheless, Virginia still maintains the best credentials in the game.

The Cavaliers return the Player of the Year in Knight and the Attackman of the Year in Watson, both of whom play alongside McKnight, one of most promising freshmen in the country. Virginia also averages 18 goals a game, which is one better than when it led the nation the previous two years.

To slow down the Cavaliers, Hopkins will try to keep the ball away from Watson and Knight, who have combined for 26 goals and 28 assists. So Kuczma, a leading candidate for Defenseman of the Year, probably will match up against Watson, and Van Horn will cover Knight.

That means Gagliardi, one of the best take-away defensemen, will try to shake up the Cavaliers' attack by drawing the inexperienced McKnight.

"I would much rather play our strength against their strength than the other way around," Hopkins coach Tony Seaman said. "Our defense against their offense. I prefer that."

Then there are the side stories.

Watson, a St. Paul's product, wants to erase his most embarrassing memory during his Virginia career, a 22-13 loss at Hopkins before his hometown friends in 1995.

"I remember playing at Homewood as a sophomore and they blew us out," said Watson, who had one of his worst games that day with one goal and one assist. "I walked off that field humiliated."

The loser of today's game will have an uncharacteristic three defeats before the first month of the season is over, as each team has dropped one-goal games to top-ranked Princeton and No. 3 Syracuse.

Pub Date: 3/22/97

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