Less is more for Hopkins' Kimmel

Standout midfielder learns to trust freshman teammates more

  • Michael Kimmel says he slumped in midseason because "I kind of felt like I had to do too much" on offense.
Michael Kimmel says he slumped in midseason because "I… (Baltimore Sun photo by Kenneth…)
May 14, 2010

Johns Hopkins midfielder Michael Kimmel creates scoring opportunities on offense, shadows opposing midfielders on defense and collects ground balls while playing the wing on faceoffs.

But when the senior tried to add more to his plate, his game cracked under the weight.

In a well-meaning attempt to relieve freshman linemates John Greeley and John Ranagan of the burden of high expectations, Kimmel shouldered the offensive load.

But that decision proved detrimental during the Blue Jays' four-game losing streak; the Towson native and Loyola graduate scored just twice and didn't have any assists against No. 19 Hofstra, No. 1 Syracuse, No. 2 Virginia and No. 4 North Carolina.

"I definitely hit a little bit of a skid in the middle of the season," Kimmel recalled. "That stretch right there was not very productive, and I think the reason was because I kind of felt like I had to do too much. I didn't give them [Greeley and Ranagan] enough credit. They're great players, and they're on the first midfield for a reason."

Kimmel overcame the brief slump, and he ranks second among the Blue Jays (7-7) in assists (16) and points (39) as the team prepares to play at No. 5 seed Duke (12-4) in an NCAA tournament first-round game on Saturday at noon.

Opposing defenses have keyed on Kimmel and senior attackman Steven Boyle, daring others like Greeley, Ranagan and junior attackman Kyle Wharton to dodge and initiate. And for good reason: Johns Hopkins is 19-5 when Kimmel scores at least two goals.

ESPN analyst Mark Dixon said Kimmel must remain an offensive option if the Blue Jays hope to advance further into the postseason.

"He's got to draw slides and continue to have great vision and move the ball," said Dixon, a former Johns Hopkins midfielder. "He needs to produce for Hopkins to be successful. I can't see Hopkins going far in the NCAA tournament if he's held to double-doughnuts [zero goals and zero assists]. He's going to have to generate some points."

Kimmel said he's well-aware that opponents have paid special attention to him.

"I think at the same time, that opens things up for the other guys," he said. "One thing about Steve is, he's a very unselfish player. He doesn't need to score three goals a game or have four assists. If we win, he's happy and same goes for me. We like to dodge against our matchups and draw some attention, and hopefully some guys can have some success."

Kimmel is the current standout in a prominent line of midfielders who have excelled at Johns Hopkins. Del Dressel, Kyle Harrison and Paul Rabil are just a few of the names who have represented the Blue Jays on the national level.

In fact, Dressel, Rabil and Kimmel are the only midfielders in the program's history to register 30 or more points in each of their four years.

But Kimmel doesn't have a linemate to alleviate some of the scoring burden. Dressel and John Krumenacker were a powerful 1-2 punch; Harrison, the 2005 Tewaaraton Award winner, could lean on classmate Matt Rewkowski and Rabil as a freshman; and Rabil was aided by classmate Stephen Peyser and Kimmel.

"I think this year has been more challenging for him because he doesn't have that other guy like a lot of our other middies have had," coach Dave Pietramala said. "Brian Christopher had him [last season], Rabil had Peyser. So we've always kind of had a tandem, and Mike has had a greater challenge than maybe some of those other guys because he doesn't have that guy with him right now and he's been charged with helping two young guys grow and develop. That's probably been one of the more impressive things … and that's the place I think he's grown the most."

Kimmel acknowledged that there are still times when he finds himself pressing the issue. When he does, he reminds himself of what he learned from Rabil and Peyser.

"Paul and Stephen gave me the ball when I was a freshman to do some things at times," Kimmel said. "So I was kind of trying to let [Greeley and Ranagan] ease into it, and I was trying to look out for them, but at the same time, I kind of hurt my game by trying to take too many dodges and trying to make too many big plays instead of just letting the game come to me. … They can get the job done."

edward.lee@baltsun.com

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