Valuing give and take

college lacrosse men

Always a scoring threat, UMBC's Poillon shows versatility in his senior season as one of the nation's leaders in assists

March 14, 2009|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,edward.lee@baltsun.com

Early in the fourth quarter of the UMBC men's lacrosse game against Princeton on March 6, the Retrievers' Peet Poillon found himself at the top of the offensive zone with an open shooting lane 15 yards away from the Tigers' net.

But with a Princeton defenseman quickly sliding toward him, Poillon gave up the shot and passed the ball to senior Alex Hopmann, who turned a closer shot into an easy goal.

"If there's a shot there, I'm going to take it, and if there's a pass there, I'm going to make it," Poillon said. "There have been more opportunities than in the past to make the extra pass rather than take the next shot."

That realization illustrates the development of the senior midfielder's game, one that had previously been predicated on putting the ball into the net rather than into his teammates' sticks.

In his junior season at Ohio State, Poillon joined teammates Kevin Buchanan and Joel Dalgarno as 30-goal scorers, finding the twine 32 times last year. But Poillon recorded just eight assists, leading some to wonder whether he was merely the beneficiary of playing alongside talented teammates.

Poillon seems to have answered those doubts this spring. He leads UMBC in assists with 13, which ranks him fourth in the nation behind Duke's Ned Crotty (21 assists), Virginia's Danny Glading (14) and Denver's Charley Dickenson (14).

ESPN analyst Quint Kessenich watched Poillon in the Retrievers' back-to-back losses to Johns Hopkins and the Tigers last week and noted that Poillon is thriving next to midfield linemates Hopmann and junior Kyle Wimer.

"UMBC's first midfield unit is one of the top first midfield units in the country, and Peet's drawing quick double teams and quick slides from the defense," said Kessenich, a two-time first-team All-America goalie for the Blue Jays. "So he knows that sometimes he's going to have to pass up the shot and spin the ball to guys with better opportunities."

In the Retrievers' offense, the midfielders initiate the attack, usually from the top of the zone. Therefore, it becomes even more significant that they make split-second evaluations based on opponents' defensive schemes and matchups.

Poillon's play seems to validate his growth in that area, coach Don Zimmerman said.

"I think he maybe has been used to handling the ball more here than he has before," Zimmerman said. "So now, he's got to understand, 'Hey, I've got other guys out there that are more than capable of doing the job as well.' Those assists are a good sign that he's making good decisions and he's getting the ball to the open man."

Poillon's penchant for distributing the ball reminds some of his predecessor, Terry Kimener, who posted 22 assists and got his teammates involved.

But Poillon, 5 feet 9, 165 pounds, displays a different style than Kimener, who - at 6-2, 180 - used his strength to fend off defenders and bull his way to the net. Poillon is shiftier and uses his speed to dodge past opposing defensemen, and that's why he has shrugged off comparisons to Kimener.

"Terry's obviously a really good player, but I didn't feel pressure to fill his spot," Poillon said. "Everyone's a different player, and Coach Zimmerman never really put it in terms like that. People were jumping to that conclusion rather than looking at my job coming in. ... I didn't feel any pressure as far as picking up his role or his offensive production. I was coming in to play my role, and whatever was best for the team, that's what I was hoping to do."

Although Poillon prefers to lead by example, he has become more vocal with his teammates.

"At first, I think [rallying the team] was more natural for the two of us [Hopmann and Wimer]," Wimer said. "But as the season has progressed, he's saying more and more. At first, he was a little timid, but now he's earned the right to take charge."

Poillon, who leads UMBC in points, figures to be a high priority for opponents, but he insists that he is not the team's standout player.

"I feel like we're all very capable of getting to the goal, making the extra pass, and I think we've been successful," Poillon said. "From what I see, it's a six-man offense. I feel like there's a lot of guys who are very talented."

NO. 9 UMBC (3-2) @ NO. 4 MARYLAND (4-1)

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