It was time for the “other guys” to shine for John Hopkins men’s lacrosse.
With top attackman Joey Epstein sidelined with a leg injury, the No. 13 Blue Jays didn’t miss a beat.
Blue Jays coach Dave Pietramala was pleased with his team’s effort at both ends of the field in a 15-7 victory against No. 17 Towson at Homewood Field Feb. 8. It’s a performance he might need each week with the Blue Jays’ unforgiving schedule.
“Joey is obviously a very talented player,” Pietramala said. “You don’t overcome the loss of a player like that with one guy. You need to do it through team offense. I thought the guys did a good job offensively.”
Senior attackman Cole Williams boosted Johns Hopkins’ offense with three goals and four assists. Last season, Williams was second on the team in points (46) and assists (19) and third in goals (27).
At 6-foot-5 and 215 pounds, he can create matchup problems against any defender, and the Tigers had no answer for him.
“I think it’s that senior mentality, knowing that it’s the last ride for me,” Williams said.
The win avenged a 17-8 loss to the Tigers in the 2019 opener. Pietramala received contributions throughout his roster. Junior midfielder Connor DeSimone and freshman midfielder Garret Degnon added three goals apiece, while sophomore midfielder Evan Zinn finished with two goals and an assist.
John Hopkins got a key performance from freshman attackman Owen Murphy, who provided a 3-1 lead with his first collegiate goal. Junior faceoff specialist Kyle Prouty went 14 of 19 from the “X,” while sophomore Matt Narewski also won six of seven draws and scored a goal.
“We’re going to need those other guys,” Pietramala said. “[Feb. 8] was about those other guys. We know what we’re going to get from Cole. … We need them to contribute, and if we can continue to get that and have Joey come back and fit things in, then you can be dangerous and kind of count on your depth.”
Still, the Blue Jays are going to need Epstein to make a deep run in the Big Ten and NCAA tournaments. Epstein warmed up with the Blue Jays prior to the game but was not able to see any action. The sophomore wore a brace on his right leg and is listed as day-to-day.
Epstein is one of the top attackmen in Division I college lacrosse. Last season, he set Johns Hopkins freshman records with 48 goals and 73 points, which also led the team. He earned first-team All-Big Ten, third-team USILA All-America honors and was the conference’s Freshman of the Year.
It was an encouraging sign the Blue Jays could play effectively without him. Epstein will be a huge boost when he gets back in the lineup.
Johns Hopkins has another big game Feb. 15 against Charles Street rival Loyola, which lost its opener, 12-9, against top-ranked Virginia.
The Tigers were also short-handed without two of their top players — Grant Maloof (South River) and Austin Stewart. Maloof had to sit out one game to retain his eligibility as a redshirt senior and Stewart, a Denver transfer, is still waiting to be cleared by the NCAA.
Towson coach Shawn Nadelen knew his team was primed for an uphill battle without the playmakers.
“Not having two of your first three midfielders out there with Grant Maloof and Austin Stewart, Grant especially being a veteran presence at the midfield, that hurt our ability to really allow the offense to work and move,” Nadelen said.
The Tigers’ offense will get a boost from senior attackman Jon Mazza, who was playing in his first game in nearly two years after dealing with a suspension. He finished with a pair of goals.
“Not playing for awhile, it took me a little bit [to get comfortable],” Mazza said.
Towson has its home opener Feb. 15 against in-state rival Mount St. Mary’s, which lost to Delaware to open the season.
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Johns Hopkins Athletics