3 Things To Watch

May 28, 2007|By GARY LAMBRECHT

Pace and fatigue

How much gas does Duke have in its tank, and can it play at its preferred fast pace? The Blue Devils blew a 10-3 second-half lead against Cornell, largely because Duke lacks depth and it tired in the fourth quarter on a very hot day. Hopkins used three midfields and played five attackmen against Delaware, and would love to be within striking distance after three quarters.

Battle for the ball

Will Stephen Peyser and Jamison Koesterer take care of business in the faceoff game? They did an excellent job countering Delaware's Alex Smith, the best in the game, and the Blue Devils have rarely excelled at the X in 2007. Lots of extra possessions for Hopkins mean trouble for Duke.

Between the pipes

Duke All-American Dan Loftus has been spectacular for much of the season, and he might need another 15-plus save effort today. Hopkins senior Jesse Schwartzman is 9-1 in the NCAA tournament. He might be saving his best for last in his hometown.

KEY MATCHUPS

Hopkins sophomore defenseman Michael Evans did a fine job containing Matt Danowski in April, allowing only one goal. Then again, Danowski did make some ridiculous feeds inside on the run to Zack Greer to finish with four assists. Hopkins senior defenseman Eric Zerrlaut got benched during that 11-9 Duke victory after losing Greer (six goals) on the crease several times. Zerrlaut has played much better during the Blue Jays' eight-game winning streak, and he probably needs to be great today. Duke All-America long-stick midfielder Nick O'Hara might be the best in the game at digging up ground balls and turning them into points in transition, but he isn't the best cover guy. Hopkins junior midfielder Paul Rabil has only one goal and three assists in the past two tournament games and might be primed for a breakout.

COACHES

Hopkins coach Dave Pietramala has taken the Blue Jays to five final fours in the past six seasons and is 84-19 (.816) in seven seasons at Homewood. Including his three seasons at Cornell, his overall record is 107-36. Hopkins has won at least 12 games in five of Pietramala's seven seasons. Duke's John Danowski is coaching in his first final four in his first season with the Blue Devils. He won 192 games over 21 seasons at Hofstra and took the Pride to eight NCAA tournaments before going to Durham.

WHEN DUKE HAS THE BALL

It all starts with attackmen Matt Danowski (94 points) and Greer (93). They are only the second pair of teammates to each top the 90-point mark. Cornell's Mike French (96) and Eamon McEneany (95) did it in 1975. Danowski dodges hard, rides hard, shoots extremely well and sees the field. Greer is the supreme finisher. Midfielders Ned Crotty and Brad Ross have come on strong, but Greer and Danowski make the offense go.

WHEN HOPKINS HAS THE BALL

Junior midfielder Rabil is the spark for Hopkins. He has the size, speed, shooting and passing skill to hurt an opponent, and he might be due for another big game. Junior midfielder Stephen Peyser and freshman midfielder Michael Kimmel are athletic enough to stretch defenses and allow attackmen Steven Boyle, Jake Byrne and Kevin Huntley to slip open.

BOTTOM LINE

The Hopkins attack should bounce back, two days after going scoreless. Boyle should rebound from his seven-turnover day. And the midfield should put pressure on the Duke defense. Look for both goalies to be stout, and for the Hopkins faceoff men to take some starch out of Duke. But Greer and Danowski should make enough plays to get it done for the exhausted Blue Devils, who should complete their mission in a tight contest.

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