Matt Rewkowski, a standout midfielder for the top-ranked Johns Hopkins men's lacrosse team, is unlikely to play against No. 2 Virginia when the teams meet today at 1 p.m. at Homewood Field in Baltimore. Doctors have cleared Rewkowski to play after he suffered a serious knee injury in the fall, but Hopkins Coach Dave Pietramala said Rewkowski still needs to work on conditioning.
The Blue Jays (4-0) haven't really missed him. Freshman Paul Rabil, an All-Met from DeMatha, moved to the first midfield in Rewkowski's absence. He scored four goals in a 12-11 overtime win over Syracuse last Friday, the most by a freshman midfielder at Hopkins in at least 15 years.
"He's not supposed to be scoring right now," Virginia Coach Dom Starsia said of Rabil. "Sometimes when you look at a team and they have a freshman playing, you can say, 'We don't have to worry so much about that one.' You can't do that with Rabil."
To that point, Hopkins is expecting to see the unusual defense the Cavaliers used to beat the Blue Jays, 9-7, in the 2003 national title game and in Virginia's 9-8 overtime win last year in Charlottesville.
Virginia puts longstick defenders on the Hopkins midfielders -- today, it would be Rabil (five goals), Greg Peyser (team-high nine goals) and KyleHarrison (team-high 14 points) -- and shortstick defenders on two attackmen. Most teams use the exact opposite tactic.
"We've told our guys not to be surprised to see that," Pietramala said. "We've made it clear to our attackmen that if they go to that defense, it's because [Virginia doesn't] think much of them."
The unusual defense is one reason Virginia has won six of the past seven against Hopkins dating from the 1999 Final Four. It is Virginia's best run in a series that began in 1904.
A win today also would give Virginia (6-0) its best start since '73.
"We have a maxim around here that there are no big games," Starsia said. "If we sell our soul to win this one, what do I tell the kids when we play Maryland next week? But still, this is a pretty big event in the life of a college lacrosse player. It's one against two at Homewood, and I don't want to dismiss that moment. It should be a great game."
-- Christian Swezey