Not all tight spots equal

Hopkins: Star defenseman and captain Rob Doerr stays cool when the on-field pressure mounts, but a boxed-in feeling leaves him positively cold.

April 15, 1999|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,SUN STAFF

Johns Hopkins defenseman Rob Doerr dogs the nation's best attackmen, foiling them with substance rather than style. He also has firm command over his team, being one of the most decorated leaders in Homewood history.

Yet Doerr admits to having been afraid. Oh, don't get the wrong impression. Doerr refuses to back down from any on-field challenge, but going in for a magnetic resonance imaging on his wrist is another matter.

Nervous about the confining procedure, he nearly damaged the expensive MRI machinery a little over a month ago, kicking it during one attempt and requiring three Valium to settle down.

"I'm extremely claustrophobic," said Doerr, a 5-foot-11, 185-pound senior out of Yorktown Heights, N.Y., who is putting off an operation to repair cartilage in his left wrist until the end of the season.

"I just wanted to stick my hand in there, but that's not how it works. I have control over what's happening on the field, but I have no control when I'm in a machine. Me and tight spaces, we don't go together."

But assign Doerr to the most dangerous offensive weapon on the field with little backup and he feels quite at home.

The leading candidate for Defenseman of the Year, he is a virtual lock to become only the 14th Blue Jays defender to repeat as a first-team All-American. And the same admiration comes in-house, where he is just the third player to be named a two-time captain in the 116-year legacy of Hopkins lacrosse.

"He's probably the most talented player out on the field,"said Blue Jays goalkeeper and longtime friend Brian Carcaterra. "He's a tough, fierce competitor."

To appreciate Doerr, zone in on how he manipulates attackmen.

He'll take his first stab with no intent of ripping the ball away. Check.

Anticipating where the attackman will move his stick next, Doerr cleverly delivers the second blow with a purpose, stripping the ball away. Check mate.

"This has always been my thing: don't let them dictate what you're going to do," said Doerr, whose brother-in-law is former Hopkins defensive standout Bill Dwan.

"Then they're playing their game. I try to dictate what they're going to do. I try to move my stick in ways they haven't seen it. So I'm making them react to throw them out of their game."

Besides dominating with strategy, Doerr uses all his physical skills that have made him a complete defenseman.

In one-on-one situations, he pins attackmen in front of him with positioning and leverage. When the ball is loose, Doerr shows the type of pursuit that has helped him average over four ground balls per game the past two seasons.

And once he has control of the ball, an opponent better be prepared to change direction.

Doerr pushes the ball for quick clears and easy scoring chances, which have resulted in more Blue Jays' goals than turnovers. In fact, he outscored Loyola's first-team All-America midfielder, Mark Frye, in their head-to-head matchup last year, becoming the first defender in 25 games to shut out Frye.

"He's probably one of the best kids in the country in getting the ball off the ground and to the offensive end of the field," Hopkins coach John Haus said. "He creates so many transition opportunities and breaks. And he's so strong with the ball that it's tough to get the ball out of his stick."

Always in control. Doerr wouldn't want it any other way.

Look at 1998, when the Blue Jays had just one returning long-stick starter in Doerr and were starting their first season under defensive coordinator Brian Voelker.

Doerr just raised his game to become the game's best one-on-one defender, rescuing Hopkins from a jam by bringing together a unit that has held opponents to under 11 goals in 13 of its past 20 games.

The Rivalry

No. 3 Johns Hopkins (6-1) at No. 7 Maryland (7-2)

When: Tomorrow, 8 p.m.

Where: Byrd Stadium, College Park

Series: Hopkins leads, 58-35-1

Pub Date: 4/15/99

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