1. Joel Tinney’s hidden ball trick earned the national media’s attention, but his passing was my most impressive takeaway from Tuesday night.
Tinney can get to the middle of the field in so many ways. He has a fluid roll dodge, rapid side-to-side agility, and a cruel shot fake. As a freshman in 2015, he drew tons of eyes from defenses. As a junior, he is drawing even more -- and he’s seeing those ball-watching defenders.
If the dimes Tinney dropped on Tuesday night are a glimpse of the future, then an already dynamic Hopkins’ offense has another element. He had two assists: One to Wilkins Dismuke after beating his defender with a swim move, the other to John Crawley after posting up to bait a slide. Watch Tinney observe the Navy defense, then bounce at the opportune moment. He sees Crawley pop free, but he makes one final jump cut upfield to get his hands free and put himself in the perfect passing lane. It’s a one-pass goal, but that’s beautiful ball movement.
2. Ryan Conrad (6-0, 190), Dox Aitken (6-2, 190), Will McNamara (6-0, 185) and AJ Fish (6-3, 185) are workhorses; their endline-to-endline gives head coach Lars Tiffany’s scheme a brand new element.
At Brown, Tiffany’s teams earned a reputation for playing fast thanks to long-sticks Larken Kemp and Alec Tulett’s ability to get the ball off the carpet and make plays with it in their crosse. In Charlottesville, Tiffany inherited a roster full of highly coveted recruits. McNamara was IL’s third-ranked freshman in 2012; Conrad and Aitken were ranked first and second in their respective classes. Tiffany is putting those talented pieces in place, and his team is playing a whole different brand of fast lacrosse than Brown did.
Against Loyola, the ‘Hoos were actually more reminiscent of past Albany teams than of the 2016 Brown Bears. With Conrad, Aitken, McNamara and Fish playing the two-way role that Matt Bertrams, John Maloney and others once did for the Great Danes, the ‘Hoos were able to turn defense into offense while only substituting off one player (their LSM). Replacing him was what Albany refers to as the “four-man” -- a lone offensive midfielder -- Ryan Lukacovic.
Lukacovic, a natural attackman, drew the pole, which freed up his linemates to dodge against short-sticks. Sometimes, those short-sticks were offensive midfielders trapped on defense by the two-way play of the ‘Hoos. That substitution pattern wore Loyola down and led to juicy transition opportunities.
In this clip Aitken is on defense by design. This isn’t the best on-ball defense -- Aitken gets beat to the middle of the field and Virginia needs to slide -- but Aitken’s athleticism and anticipation gives his defenseman an easy outlet when the shot is eventually blocked. Aitken beats every opposing midfielder to the hole, and he finishes.
3. The ‘Hoos pushed the pace and forced a well-coached, typically uptempo Loyola team to play outside of its comfort zones at times. That’s a scary proposition for undisciplined teams on Virginia’s schedule.
I’m not pressing the panic button on Loyola; they answered nearly every Virginia run with one of their own. But the fact of the matter is most teams aren’t as athletic or disciplined like Loyola, which is is bad news for UVA’s future opponents. At times the Greyhounds tried to beat the ‘Hoos at their own game, squeezing passes and over-carrying on breaks.
Pat Spencer had a campaign worthy of Tewaaraton consideration as a freshman. He tallied 52 assists to only 46 turnovers. Even as an underclassman, Spencer was a calming presence for the Greyhounds. This season, Loyola will go as their sophomore superstar goes, and on Saturday, he struggled. Spencer dished out two assists but was responsible for four turnovers. The numbers are surprising, but the fashion in which Spencer piled them up may be even more of a shock. Here he makes the heads up play to lobby for the quick restart, but then he jams a hospital pass into a high traffic area once the officials grant it to him.
While we are on Virginia vs. Loyola... could Campus Insiders have picked a better matchup to broadcast on Twitter? I love how prominent the game was as it popped up on every Twitter user’s discovery tab. Plus, showing related tweets below the broadcast urged new viewers to join the conversation. How many eggs tweeted some variation of, “I’ve never seen this sport but I like it.”?
Give me a Twitter game every week, please.
4. Trevor Baptiste’s stat lines are straight out of a video game.
The junior face-off specialist won 15-of-18 face-offs and buried a goal in the Pios’ season opener. Yet, it felt like a normal day for the two-time First Team All-American. Baptiste won 68.0% of face-offs as a freshman and 69.4% as a sophomore. He has been so consistently dominant while at Denver that we now expect Baptiste to win two-thirds of the face-offs every time he steps on the field. It’s unbelievable.
5. There’s no pass on the field that Bucknell junior attackman Will Sands will shy away from.
Will Sands is the straw that stirs the drink for Bucknell. Down 8-6 halfway through the fourth quarter, the Bison leaned on their junior attackman to get them going. He responded with three assists in the final seven minutes, leading his team to a 9-8 victory.
However, his ability to thread passes into tight windows got him in trouble over the course of the game. Bucknell looks to initiate with Sands on nearly every possession; the only variety in their offense is in the area on the field from which Sands begins his dodge. They’ll outvert him to the midfield sometimes, but when they start him on his wrong-side rather than his strong-side, they’re asking for trouble.
Pulling a pass across your body is a high-level skill. Skipping a pass across the field through a sea of long-poles is another. Doing both at the same time is a huge no-no. If Bucknell puts Sands at the goalie’s top-right rather than the goalie’s top-left, then he would be a threat to get topside with his dominant hand. Instead, they put him in position to dodge down the alley, and Bryant’s off-ball defenders -- from the man sinking to the crease who left the farthest man from the ball open to the defender who jumps the route -- play it perfectly.
Late in the game, Sands used the threat of a pick to gain topside before he even crossed goal-line extended. It’s hard to believe that the cohesive Bryant defense from the first clip is the same bunch that ball-watches and loses its man here. Sands feeds Reed Malas wide open at 12-yards to tie the game.
6. Don’t count Navy’s defense out so quickly.
It’s been a rough stretch for the Mids. They’ve allowed 15 goals in each of their first two games. Per IL’s Patrick McEwen, opponents are scoring on 41.1% of their possessions. It’s early February (the Ivy League hasn’t even started yet!) and there’s time for a unit with an underestimated amount of turnover to find its identity. Plus, the two teams they played -- Hopkins and Maryland -- have enough firepower to light up any defense in the country.
7. We should start getting excited about the House that Galloway Built — and the House that Galloway Is Building.
Providence’s 1-1 record won’t turn any heads, but their defensive stats should. Tate Boyce (9 saves, 4 goals against) was once again phenomenal against Holy Cross. The team allowed four goals on 41 defensive possessions, following up an impressive defensive outing highlighted last week against BU. Keep an eye on the group coached up by John Galloway over the past few seasons.
Meanwhile, Galloway’s current squad in Jacksonville put up a fight with Lehigh, a perennial Patriot League contender. #LaxTwitter is going to erupt when the Dolphins are shown on a major broadcast for the first time in the Galloway-Powell era.
8. Nobody celebrates like Rutgers.
Everyone’s favorite Lacrosse School opened up its season at St. John’s on ESPN3. If you have ties to another program around the country, do not watch this game. You will fall in love with Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights had nine different goal scorers and each one made a point to celly harder than the last. No exaggeration, at least a third of their goals were low-to-high rips that random Twitter accounts are waiting for @LaxFilmRoom to post so they can add a filter, some EDM and some emojis and then pass it off as their own clip.
9. The UAlbany Great Danes remain undefeated on photoshoot day.
The Danes dominated both headshots and team photos last year. In what has become one of my favorite annual traditions, @BarstoolJordie broke down this year’s individual photos. Love the uniqueness each player brings to the table. Minnesota high school hockey’s All-Hair Team has gotten stale; everyone’s looking for that slow-mo, hair-in-the-wind look. Lots of product. Lots of touching. That’s not Albany. These are rugged looks; some are even borderline barbaric. Give Jordie’s blog a read to see for yourself.
10. At halftime of marquee ACC hoops games, teams have been casually reminding their classmates that, yes, they do attend a Lacrosse School.
Both Notre Dame’s and Virginia’s men’s basketball teams are fresh off Elite Eight appearances. That doesn’t change the facts. Notre Dame and Virginia are Lacrosse Schools through and through. Here’s a friendly reminder:
Masshole of the Week: Patrick Fraser (Walpole, Mass.)
Fraser has been lighting up corners on the EMO since he was a freshman. Now in his junior year, he’s starting to see some time in the six-on-six. On Tuesday against Navy, Fraser buried a hat trick -- two EMO stepdown rips that we’re used to, and one on-the-run rip that, as Quint Kessenich mentioned on the broadcast, is a new element of Fraser’s game.
[Sidenote: I love how Paul Carcaterra warns the defense to “Watch seven in white!” before they pay no attention to seven in white and he buries his third goal.]