It's been transition game for Hopkins' Harned

From change of position to change of possession, he's been smooth as silk

College Lacrosse

March 20, 2004|By Jeff Zrebiec | Jeff Zrebiec,SUN STAFF

Earlier this week in practice, Johns Hopkins was simulating the fourth quarter of today's lacrosse showdown with Syracuse when senior Corey Harned did something that would make the most reserved coach -- never mind the Blue Jays' fiery Dave Pietramala -- go nuts.

On a faceoff, Harned swooped in from the wing, scooped up the ground ball and, with a man pressuring him, whipped a behind-the-back pass with his long stick to a teammate.

"I'm looking and he puts it right on the guy's stick," said Pietramala, whose Blue Jays (4-0) enter today's 1 p.m. game at Homewood Field against No. 3 Syracuse (3-0) as the nation's top-ranked team.

"I mean, what do you say?. ... With Corey, we've given him a lot more freedom to do what he does and to make plays."

Don't let the fancy pass fool you.

Harned, considered one of the best at one of college's lacrosse's most glamorous positions -- long-stick midfielder -- is not a flashy player.

That is, unless you consider picking up a ground ball, going the length of the field and giving it up to a teammate as being showy. Harned makes it look routine.

"If you look at a lot of the good, long-stick middies out there, they're a lot of flash, a lot of stick-checkers," said Harned, 22, who prepped at Sachem High School in Holbrook, N.Y.

"That's the total opposite of my game. I don't know many checks, don't even know the names of the checks that half these guys throw. I just try to play the ball, knock it to the ground, get it up off the ground and get the ball to the offensive end."

Harned's responsibilities also include shadowing the opposition's top midfielder, helping out in the clearing game and playing the wing on faceoffs.

"He brings a new facet to the long stick here at Hopkins," said junior Tom Garvey, who shared the long-stick position with Harned two seasons ago, but is now on the Jays' close defense.

"He plays with a lot of speed and has a great ability to make things happen in transition. And he's got one of the best sticks on our team by far."

That's rare for a defender, but then again, Harned (6 feet, 200 pounds) has spent the better part of his lacrosse career as an attackman and still holds Sachem High's all-time goals record.

Recruited as an attackman by former Blue Jays coach John Haus, Harned, whose brother, Chris, was a Hopkins attackman from 1997 until 2000, didn't stay in that position for long.

He dropped to midfield during fall ball of his first year, then was shifted to the defensive midfield in the spring and played in 12 games.

But when Harned met with the coaching staff after the season ended, he was given a pole.

"We didn't feel like he could contribute on offense, but he was such a good athlete and we had to find a place for him," said Pietramala. "And talk about a selfless guy. It was always, `What ever you'd like me to do, coach.' "

Said Harned: "In a program like this, you have to be happy just getting on the field. I took the opportunity and went with it."

Harned's biggest obstacle in the transition has been injuries. Early last season, the former football player discovered that he has some meniscus damage and an arthritic condition in both of his knees.

Pietramala holds Harned, who has declined to have a procedure on his knees done until after his college career, out of practice at least once a week, and the senior agrees, albeit grudgingly.

"He always has an excuse on why he should keep playing," said Pietramala. "He's as tough as a kid as you can coach, both mentally and physically."

Harned, whose omission from the All-America teams last year surprised many, had a coming-out party of sorts in last year's final four, scoring two goals and recording an assist in the Blue Jays' 19-8 victory over the Orangemen, and adding a goal in his team's 9-7 loss to Virginia in the championship game.

That effort earned him a spot on the all-tournament team, not exactly familiar terrain for long-stick midfielders.

"I made some plays, but that's how the game was going at the time," said Harned, "I don't think I have the ability to change a game like that."

Pietramala disagreed.

"He is 100 times more skilled a player with a long stick in his hand than he was with a short stick," said Pietramala. "We've given him the freedom to shoot a little more, try to make plays, because we think he can change the game doing that."

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