Scouting report

NCAA Lacrosse Final Four

May 25, 2002

NCAA men's semifinals

ESPN and Channel 2 analyst Quint Kessenich breaks down today's NCAA Division I men's lacrosse semifinals at Rutgers Stadium. Kessenich was a freshman goalie for Johns Hopkins in 1987, when the Blue Jays last won the NCAA title.

No. 1 Johns Hopkins (12-1) vs. No. 4 Princeton (9-4)

Time: 11:30 a.m.

Coaches: Princeton's Bill Tierney has won six titles, more than the rest of the active coaches in Division I combined. The 2002 season has been arduous for the Tigers, but they've won seven straight, including a buzzer-beater against Georgetown in the quarterfinals. The Blue Jays' Dave Pietramala is front-runner for national Coach of the Year. His relentless work ethic has a young Blue Jay squad dreaming and believing that anything is possible.

When Hopkins has the ball: Suffocating defense is the cornerstone of the Princeton dynasty. When you attack the Tigers, you must be willing to make the extra pass and swing the ball to the weak side. Historically, teams which have succeeded against Princeton have scored in transition, creating chaos and striking in unsettled situations. That isn't the way Hopkins operates. The Blue Jays don't have a deep bench, but play with precision and a savvy that belies their youth. Kevin Boland (11 goals, 19 assists), Adam Doneger and a pair of freshman Kyles, Barrie and Harrison, are the key initiators. Conor Ford (17, 15) and Bobby Benson (27, 13) are accurate mid-range shooters.

When Princeton has the ball: The Tigers have opened things up this spring, as Tierney has given them the green light to freelance and take chances. Princeton will test the Ryan Boyle (19, 30) vs. P.J. DiConza matchup early and then isolate against the Hopkins defensive midfielders with Josh White, Owen Daly and Brad DuMont. Off any dodge, the Tigers like to jam the ball inside to B.J. Prager (28, 2). Sean Hartofolis (28, 8) must be accounted for, as he has 18 goals in seven career playoff games.

Key matchups: Harrison enjoyed an outstanding debut March 2, when he won 11 of 15 faceoffs from Princeton's Drew Casino. Both goalies are final four newcomers. Hopkins' Nick Murtha (.609 save percentage) has been razor sharp in 12 of 13 starts while Princeton's Julian Gould (.603) has been less consistent. DiConza contained Boyle in March, but the sophomore attackman has been more daring as the season progressed.

Bottom line: Hopkins has shown remarkable grit and courage with six one-goal wins, but Princeton inked the blueprint for tight playoff victories. Underclassmen have scored 60 percent of the Blue Jays' goals, while the Tigers lost five contributors from last year's champions. In the past decade, only Syracuse has been able to beat Princeton in NCAA play.

No. 2 Syracuse (13-2) vs. No. 3 Virginia (11-3)

Time: 45 minutes after conclusion of first semifinal.

Coaches: Syracuse has had only four coaches dating back to the early 1900s. John Desko has made three straight title-game appearances since taking over from Roy Simmons Jr. He has rebooted the Orangemen by emphasizing defense and a more conservative attack. Virginia's Dom Starsia is known for his recruiting. Because of a key injury to Mark Koontz, the Atlantic Coast Conference Player of the Year, Starsia's defensive game plan and adjustments will be crucial.

When Syracuse has the ball: Good luck covering Mike Powell (36, 38) and Josh Coffman (38, 23). Throw in powerful midfielders Brian Solliday and Spencer Wright (20, 11) and sharpshooters Mike Springer (30, 10) and Brian Nee, and you quickly realize how Syracuse averages more than 14 goals a game. Without Koontz, Virginia may need to play zone or some form of box and one to shut off Powell or Coffman.

When Virginia has the ball: The Cavaliers' offense flows through Conor Gill (13, 41), but with John Glatzel stalking him closely, Virginia may be smart to pursue other options. Freshman John Christmas (26, 15) and Joe Yevoli (37, 9) have combined for 63 goals and 24 assists. Midfielder Chris Rotelli (23, 10) will draw a quick double-team and put the Syracuse defense in motion. Syracuse has struggled against inverting midfielders, and A.J. Shannon (24, 10) will be Virginia's trump card. The left-handed Canadian played attack for two years and thrives isolating from behind the goal.

Key matchups: Glatzel will square off against Gill for the last time in a rivalry that began when the former was at Boys' Latin and the latter at St. Paul's. Glatzel has neutralized him in the past, but Gill burst for a tournament-record nine assists against Cornell. He has the vision and supporting cast to put up big numbers. The goalies are also former Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association standouts, Virginia's Tillman Johnson (St. Mary's) and Syracuse's Jay Pfeifer (Gilman). The Cavaliers' fortunes lie in the acrobatic and emotional style of Johnson (.566).

Bottom line: Virginia has struggled to win faceoffs. Freshman Jack deVilliers has won only 47.1 percent, but Jason Leneau is an improving second option. The Cavaliers get superb wing play from Trey Whitty. Syracuse counters with Chris Bickel (55 percent) and freshman wing Jarrett Park, the Big East Rookie of the Year in soccer.

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