BEFORE TOWSON University men's lacrosse coach Tony Seaman demands to play Johns Hopkins again, he should bring a more disciplined team, one that doesn't commit 20 turnovers. And one that passes better and doesn't hack so much.
Until then, leave those kinds of requests up to the guys with the real stud athletes, like those in Syracuse. In other words, quiet please.
No. 1-seeded Hopkins scored five fourth-quarter goals in an easy 14-6 win against host Towson in an NCAA Division I quarterfinal yesterday, but there was more than just mere talent that separated the two teams. Hopkins was more patient, deliberate, organized and fundamentally sound, all the qualities that make the Blue Jays the most balanced team in the country.
Towson is a poor man's Syracuse.
The Tigers were helter-skelter, so reckless that they eventually self-destructed in the second half. The Tigers' fast-paced, relentless, "I don't care who shoots" style got them to the tournament, but this is a team that can't be so carefree once it reaches a certain point.
The Tigers don't have to be as slow-paced as Princeton, but there are times when they need to slow it down and play a smarter game.
Syracuse can get away with the run-and-gun style because it annually puts together the best collection of athletes in the game. The Orangemen might give up five goals in six minutes, but they can score eight in nine. Towson has the style, but not the substance.
Not yet anyway.
And the Tigers might never get there.
"I just thanked them in the locker room," Seaman, the fifth-year coach, said of his senior class. "They meant an awful lot to us. We convinced them to come here when we took over the program, weren't very good and went through a couple of tough years. These guys survived that. They got to the final four in 2001. We gave Hopkins as much as they possibly could through the first three quarters."
Hopkins gave Towson enough time to beat itself. The Tigers are known for self-destruction. Run-and-gun has become run-and-blow-up. Earlier this season, Towson used a 5-1 spurt to build a 9-6 lead over the Blue Jays, only to lose, 17-9. You would figure that maybe the Tigers do something about the erratic offense in the playoffs.
Not a chance.
Towson had 20 turnovers compared with 13 for Hopkins. Long-stick midfielders and defensemen thought they were short-stick midfielders and attackmen. Midway through the second quarter, Towson defenseman Neil Adams, a senior, was leading a fast break at the top of the restraining line. He had a teammate open on the right of the crease on the backside, but Adams took the shot, which was stopped.
Early in the third quarter, defenseman/midfielder Danny Cocchi had attackman Ryan Obloj open on the right wing, but instead of passing, Cocchi shot and suffered the same fate as Adams.
And that's the way it went for Towson for most of three quarters.
Hopkins led 9-6 at the end of the third period, but two of the Tigers' goals were of the garbage variety. If goalie Reed Sothoron wasn't superb in the first half, this game had blowout written all over it.
When the Tigers should have been settling the ball, they instead kept pushing and pushing into more turnovers. Meanwhile, Hopkins was methodical and precise, grinding and grinding until it slowly took Towson apart.
"At times, I thought we played pretty well," Seaman said. "Offensively, I was disappointed with the way we shot the ball."
Hopkins knew Towson would knock itself out. Blue Jays coach Dave Pietramala preached patience to his team all week.
"We made a point all week to stay within the game plan; stay the course," Pietramala said. "As aggressive as Towson plays, you know they're going to foul you. It's a matter of capitalizing. ... They [the extra-man situations] allowed us to gain some comfort."
The Blue Jays scored on three of six extra-man opportunities, all of which came in the second half. Blue Jays midfielder Conor Ford scored an extra-man goal on a feed from Peter LeSueur with 8:57 left in the third quarter, and midfielder Bobby Benson made it 9-5 with 1:07 left in the period after Cocchi was called for slashing just 60 seconds earlier.
Both times, Hopkins had good ball movement. Both times, its players were unselfish in running the offense. All afternoon, even in a sluggish first half by the Blue Jays, they had more discipline than Towson.
Maybe Towson will go over the film of this game. Until Towson can get the horses to run such an offense, the Tigers need to learn there is a time to run and a time to slow it down.
A good time comes in the NCAA quarterfinals, especially when you're outmatched.