Goals are painful for Huntley

With 16 in five games, Hopkins sophomore is opposition target, and he accepts lumps

College Lacrosse

March 25, 2006|By GARY LAMBRECHT | GARY LAMBRECHT,SUN REPORTER

Kevin Huntley has a nose for the goal, and the Johns Hopkins sophomore attackman does not mind getting it bloodied as he makes his way there.

Huntley collects bumps, bruises, turf burn and other ailments with a frequency that matches his ability to make an opponent pay by doing what he does best. The former Calvert Hall star, who is the son of the most prolific goal-scoring midfielder in Hopkins history, is the pure finisher who sparks the offense for the No. 10 Blue Jays.

And no one invites and handles more abuse from the opposition. You can usually find Huntley mixing it up in close with one or two defenders as he battles for position. He often takes a body check or a hard slash as he dodges before shooting, and he'll absorb a knockdown after winning another battle by scoring.

To Huntley, a left-hander who has scored 16 goals and has six assists - both team highs - it's worth it.

"You can't be afraid to take the hit," Huntley said. "I've always played that way. I took quite a beating in high school. I'm not afraid to put my shoulder down and get into the middle and invite the contact. I'm not the quickest guy. I'm probably not going to get a shot off without getting hit."

"People [on defense] take some liberties with him, but Kevin never complains. He never retaliates," Hopkins coach Dave Pietramala said. "He takes a tremendous beating and he's pretty unflappable."

The coaching staff at Homewood still is wondering what it might be like to have Huntley, 5 feet 10, 180 pounds, healthy for an entire school year.

During the first week of his freshman fall season, he broke his left thumb and was out for several months. Last fall, he broke his right thumb during the second week of fall ball and had to shut down his spring preparations once again. Then, during a February scrimmage against Georgetown, he got pushed to the ground and injured his wrist. That hampered him until recently.

Through it all, Huntley has continued to find the goal. A year ago, after Huntley got some limited playing time in the Blue Jays' first four games, then-senior attackman Kyle Barrie went down with a sprained ankle against Virginia. That forced Pietramala to turn the freshman loose, and Huntley responded.

During a six-minute span in the fourth quarter, Huntley torched the Cavaliers for three goals. He finished with five points and was the pivotal player in a 9-7 Hopkins victory. That started a run in 2005 that included four game-winning goals and a team-high seven goals in the NCAA tournament, which the Blue Jays won for their first national title since 1987.

When Hopkins (3-2) plays at top-ranked Virginia (8-0) today, it will trot out a finisher who, dating to last year's coming-out party against the Cavaliers, has amassed 37 goals and 12 assists. So far this season, Huntley has set the tone in victories over UMBC and Syracuse with five-goal games and has two other hat tricks. The days of covering him with a short-stick defender are long gone.

"[Huntley] showed last year that if you put a short stick on him, you're toast," Hopkins junior attackman Jake Byrne said. "He uses his body to create space. He has such an excellent left hand, and he can get open to his left no matter how much you guard against it. I think Kevin is probably the toughest player on our team."

Huntley's lineage helps explain his approach. His father, Dave, helped lead Hopkins to back-to-back NCAA titles in 1978 and 1979 and scored 100 goals in his career.

A native of Toronto, Dave grew up around the Canadian indoor game and later coached several indoor teams in the National Lacrosse League, including the Baltimore Thunder. He also has coached three Canadian world teams, and in recent years coached the Baltimore Bayhawks of the Major Lacrosse League.

Kevin, a Baltimore native, started spending considerable time with his father around professional players about 10 years ago. They included Gary Gait while he was widely considered the world's top player.

Kevin would play for Gait when he coached the Canadian under-19 team at the 2003 world championships. At 16, Kevin scored 16 goals to lead Canada to a silver medal. He also spent two summers in Canada playing box lacrosse, a wide-open game that lends itself to lots of contact all over the field.

"Kevin is very professional in his approach to the game. He's not emotional about it. He's all business," Dave said. "I took him on the road with me a lot, and he grew up around guys like Gary Gait and Paul Gait. He saw how they handled themselves.

"He's not too affected by stuff. When you carry the ball like he does and you wait that extra second [before shooting], you know you're going to get tagged."

Said Kevin: "Sometimes I'll be watching myself [get hit] on film, and I'll go, `Ooo, that one hurt.' But I just don't feel it during the game. It doesn't bother me anymore. I'm so used to it."

gary.lambrecht@baltsun.com

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