Hopkins' Ford: big impact with little commotion

`Other' 1st-unit midfielder readies game for Virginia

College Lacrosse

Men's notebook

March 19, 2003|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,SUN STAFF

Some of the best midfielders in college lacrosse will be on display at Homewood Field on Saturday.

Virginia, No. 1 in The Sun/Channel 2 rankings, is led by Chris Rotelli, who was a first-team All-American last season. Adam Doneger carries that same distinction in his resume for No. 4 Johns Hopkins, and Blue Jays sophomore Kyle Harrison is regarded as All-World in waiting.

Then there's Conor Ford, the other man on Hopkins' first line.

Over the past 21 games, only Bobby Benson has more points for the Blue Jays than Ford's 58, but he doesn't dwell on the matter that those 31 goals and 27 assists weren't always noticed.

"Sometimes, I play better when I'm lost in the shuffle," Ford said. "I've usually done better when people are writing about someone else. When I was in high school, guys like Ryan Boyle and Dan LaMonica put up big numbers and got a lot of press. I was putting up the same numbers and not getting much notice. I started to like it."

Ford was the top star for St. Paul's in 2000, when Princeton's Boyle was at Gilman and Maryland's LaMonica was at Boys' Latin. Ford played hockey in the winter and soccer in the fall, when his ability to adapt and thrive was evident. He began his high school soccer career as a goal-scoring striker. He finished it as a sweeper, and still scored, though off set pieces.

Ford selected Hopkins when John Haus was the coach, and he has answered whatever need Dave Pietramala has had.

As a freshman, Ford ran on the second midfield until Joe McDermott suffered a concussion and a hole needed to be filled on attack. He collected 22 goals and six assists. With last year's freshman class including Kyle Barrie and Peter LeSueur, Ford returned to midfield. Running on the first two units as a sophomore, Ford put up 17 goals and 16 assists.

The Blue Jays have improved their midfield depth, so Ford, who has seven assists but is looking for his first goal of the season, works strictly with Doneger and Harrison on the first unit.

"He's the perfect fit for those guys," Pietramala said. "Both need to have the ball in their stick a whole lot, because they do a lot of creating. Conor has great lacrosse savvy, and the unique ability to play without the ball. You're not going to find a lot of midfielders who can be successful without the ball, like he can."

Virginia-Hopkins is the Channel 2 Game of the Week. Seating at Homewood will not be a problem. The recent warm spell allowed the renovation of the stands to be completed.

True to name

The impending war in Iraq has led to warnings about possible delays in the NCAA basketball tournament. No college athletes are keener to the hazards of combat than those at the service academies, but it wasn't shaping up like a normal spring for Air Force, anyway.

The Falcons are scheduled to play at Mount St. Mary's on Saturday, and will remain on the East Coast for a Tuesday game at Navy. Coach Fred Acee has already taken his team from Colorado Springs to UMBC for a scrimmage, and to West Point for a game. April will bring separate road trips to Fairfield, Notre Dame and North Carolina.

"We can't get them to come to Colorado Springs," Acee said, "but it's necessary that we play them."

The 1-3 Falcons have played to the level of their competition. They put up a good fight in a loss to Duke in the Denver Shootout, lost the next day to lightly regarded Manhattan, and dropped a double-overtime decision at Army.

Billy Arnold, a four-year starter in the goal out of Westminster High, had 18 saves in the loss to Army. Centennial product John Anacker is Air Force's long-stick midfielder, and the Falcons' defensive scheme also includes Chris Palmer out of South Carroll and Mount St. Joseph grads Andrew Sunderland and D.J. Benzing.

Ground balls

Army coach Jack Emmer got his 300th career win against Holy Cross, matching the NCAA record set by Dick Garber of Massachusetts, but was turned back by Penn on Saturday. Army's next two games are at Ohio State and home against Hofstra ... Each Maryland opponent has gone scoreless for at least 17 minutes. Bucknell went 30 minutes, 5 seconds without a goal against the Terps.

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