Hopkins visits Va. with goals in mind

Jays hope to rev up offense, show depth

March 25, 2000|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,SUN STAFF

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. -- Virginia lacrosse coach Dom Starsia is never comfortable when Johns Hopkins comes to town, and today's date with the visiting, No. 6-ranked Blue Jays at Klockner Stadium is no exception.

The Blue Jays, one week removed from a 13-12 loss at top-ranked Syracuse and about to finish another tough March schedule, are determined to avoid a 1-3 start.

Hopkins must rectify some glaring problems. It needs to improve its shooting percentage. It needs to show more depth, starting with a dormant second midfield unit that has scored only one goal in three games. It needs All-America goalie Brian Carcaterra to produce a stellar effort in a huge game.

Starsia realizes the Blue Jays want to feel like a Final Four contender. He pictures an opponent desperate for a victory and possessing the weapons to make it happen -- starting with All-Americans like attackman Dan Denihan and midfielders A. J. Haugen and Conor Denihan.

"Hopkins is a dangerous animal," said Starsia, whose No. 2 Cavaliers opened with an overtime loss to Syracuse before reeling off three straight wins, beginning with a 15-8 rout of Princeton.

"I had a miserable week between Syracuse and Princeton. I had to remind myself that the season wasn't over after one game," Starsia added. "I understand what's going on in [the Hopkins] camp, but this is a very important game for us. Why shouldn't it be? We're not going to concede any psychological edge to Hopkins. Why should we?"

On paper, Virginia has little to concede. The Cavaliers are deeper, more dangerous on offense and playing at home. They own possibly the nation's best close defender in Ryan Curtis and the premier faceoff team in Jason Hard and David Jenkins.

All Hopkins has to do is flash back to last year's national semifinals, when eventual NCAA champion Virginia beat Hopkins, 16-11, by blowing open the game early. Sure, attackman Conor Gill sparked the Cavaliers with five goals in the first quarter, but it began with Virginia's winning 10 of the game's first 13 faceoffs, as the Cavaliers raced to a 9-3 lead.

Hopkins coach John Haus has Joe Driscoll sharing more faceoff duty with Eric Wedin, last year's workhorse.

"We have to limit [Virginia's] opportunities. Their attack is dynamite," Haus said. "Hopefully, Eric will have a little more gas at the end [of the game and the season]. Our wing play on faceoffs will be a big key. And we have to get some production out of our second midfield."

Among that group, only Rob Frattarola has registered on the board, with one goal and one assist. Dave Rabuano and Jamie Hubbard have yet to record a point. In contrast, Virginia's David Bruce, a second-line middie, has nine goals, more than any Hopkins player.

While the Blue Jays try to improve on their 22 percent shooting, at least they know Conor Denihan, sore knee and all, has regained some confidence. Last week at Syracuse, he snapped out of a 1-for-19 drought by scoring a game-high five goals on seven shots.

Ultimately, Hopkins must contain a Virginia offense that can be scary, with its sharp passing and array of good shooters. Gill makes the attack go with some of the best feeds in the game. The other weapons include attackmen Drew McKnight (11 goals, 12 assists) and Ian Shure (seven goals) and midfielders Jay Jalbert (seven, four) and A. J. Shannon (six, three).

Gill expects a spirited battle.

"[Hopkins'] backs are to the wall, and I think they're definitely going to bring their A game," Gill said. "There's a fine line between knowing you're good and playing well enough to win. We have to play hard and play smart."

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