In an odd turn of events, Johns Hopkins has seemingly recaptured its former blue-blood glory in the month of May. As the tournament’s sixth seed, it will be looking to continue its hot streak in the Big Ten tournament final against Maryland men’s lacrosse.
The Blue Jays and the Terps meet again for the 115th time overall, and the third time this season, on Saturday at 8 pm. The game will air on Big Ten Network.
What happened last time
On April 24, Johns Hopkins was a mere minute and 48 seconds away from being the first team in over a year to beat Maryland. After confidently matching up with, and at times dominating, the No. 1 Terps for the better part of 60 minutes, the Blue Jays tallied a three-goal run to capture their second-largest lead of the game on an 11-13 scoreline.
With about five minutes remaining in the game, for around three minutes, the Blue Jay defense held tight, determined to walk away with the Crab Trophy. For the final two, attackers Jared Bernhardt and Logan Wisnauskas promptly willed Maryland to victory, orchestrating a three-goal run of their own. It was a run mainly made possible by the timely work of faceoff specialist Luke Wierman, who also spent the better part of the contest bullied at the dot by Matt Narewski, who at one point won 10 straight faceoffs.
Wierman, nonetheless, showed up when it mattered. He beat Narewski in three straight attempts and helped vitalize the late-game surge and eventually secure Maryland’s win.
What’s happened since
Despite the devastating loss to the Terps, the Blue Jays haven’t lost a step. They continued their upward trend and snagged their first win since March 13 in the tournament against Penn State. Johns Hopkins rolled past the Nittany Lions using a 5-0 run spanning through the second and third quarter.
Johns Hopkins topped its efforts in the semifinals with another win over a second-seeded Rutgers team. And despite looking supremely outmatched on paper, the Blue Jays went back and forth with the Scarlet Knights, eventually breaking away with a two-goal run and subsequent 12-10 win. Narewski notched a staggering 18-of-23 performance, goalie Tim Marcille continued his late-season success with 12 saves against the league’s second-best offense and freshman midfielder Jonathan Peshko looked unguardable as he tallied a career-high four goals.
Now the Blue Jays meet the Terps once more, looking to earn an automatic bid into the NCAA tournament. The Terps have played just one time since they narrowly defeated Hopkins in the season finale and they didn’t show a semblance of rust, throttling the Wolverines 16-8.
Three things to watch
1. Who will start at faceoff for the Terps? Head coach John Tillman and assistant coach Tyler Barbarich have relentlessly searched for answers at the faceoffs and have found some success with in-game adjustments. For Maryland this year, the starting faceoff man is typically the hot hand. And after finding a way to outperform Nick Rowlett, Justin Shockey looks to be the guy moving into the next game. Wierman could be a viable option as well, but after two overall uninspired performances against Hopkins and Michigan, it’s likely Tillman will be looking in other directions.
2. Will this be another close affair? The Blue Jays have plenty of fight left. Not only can they flip their fortunes this season with a win on Saturday, they have a chance to continue to play for more in the NCAA tournament. There’s also the added incentive of avoiding a season sweep by their heated rival. If Narewski can deliver and Marcille can mark up another stellar performance, a neck and neck battle isn’t out of the question. Johns Hopkins has proved in the last three weeks they have loads of potential and skill to match up with more talented squads.
3. Will Maryland finally get it done in the Big Ten tournament after three years of falling short? After the win on Thursday, Bernhardt noted how unlucky Maryland has been throughout his career finding success in the tournament. Since their second Big Ten tournament in 2017, the Terps have lost in the title game to Johns Hopkins in 2018, fell short in the semifinals to Johns Hopkins again in 2019 and never had a chance to play in 2020. Maryland has a chance to break the streak of bad luck against the Blue Jays with a team that looks destined to go the distance.