March 30, 2011

Extra Shooting Session Bears Fruit for Johns Hopkins' Coppersmith

by Corey McLaughlin | LaxMagazine.com


Lee Coppersmith took shooting tips from former Johns Hopkins All-Americans Michael Kimmel and Brian Christopher to tune up for his breakout game Saturday against Virginia.

© John Strohsacker/LaxPhotos.com

Johns Hopkins sophomore midfielder Lee Coppersmith prepared during the week leading up to Saturday's game against Virginia as if he would play an important role. The Blue Jays coaching staff told him as much, given his skill set to beat defenders one-on-one and create his own shot, and the correct assumption that Virginia's defense would rarely slide during the game.

While much of the Johns Hopkins student body enjoyed spring break Thursday night, Coppersmith spent time breaking a sweat in the back gym of Johns Hopkins' athletic complex, practicing all types of shooting with former Blue Jay All-Americans Michael Kimmel and Brian Christopher.

On Saturday afternoon, he saw the fruits – more specifically, a banana – of that labor. Coppersmith scored a career-high three goals, all important and timely, in the Blue Jays' 12-11 upset win over second-ranked Virginia in front of 3,200 fans at Homewood Field in Baltimore.

Afterward, he received congratulations and chatted with former Saint Andrew's (Fla.) teammate and close friend Wyatt Melzer, a Virginia defenseman. Coppersmith also caught a traditional postgame yellow banana tossed from some Hopkins faithful in the stands, a sign of a job well done and an afternoon worth noting.

The Hopkins coaches had told Coppersmith he would be a key part of the game plan against Virginia in certain situations. They prognosticated the Cavaliers' defensive scheme would play to the 6-foot-2 Coppersmith's strengths – dodging defenders one-on-one and taking shots from up top.

But they didn't know that Coppersmith, usually a second-line midfielder, would be thrust into even more playing time than they envisioned when Virginia defenseman Matt Lovejoy knocked starting midfielder John Greeley out of the game with what was called an illegal body check in the second quarter.

Coppersmith prepared as if he would impact the game, anyway. Now he would have a greater role and more chances upon being called up to the first midfield.

He came out firing, scoring two consecutive goals late in the second quarter to give the Blue Jays a 7-3 halftime lead. The first on the run from the left alley with his strong left hand came off a pass from John Ranagan. The next was on the run right-handed from up top just 1:09 later. He beat Virginia goaltender Adam Ghitelman high-to-high on a play called coming out a timeout.

If it appeared that Coppersmith looked confident, he did.

"No nerves. Kind of excited," he said Saturday outside the Blue Jays' locker room after the game about his mood, knowing that Greeley would most likely not return for that game. "I knew I had a great opportunity ahead of me, and I knew if I just did my job and made smart decisions on the field, I could make the most of my opportunities."

"I did a lot of extra shooting this week," Coppersmith said, mentioning individual work and the alumni session Thursday with former Hopkins midfielders Kimmel and Christopher, two former high draft picks into Major League Lacrosse; Kimmel No. 2 overall to the Chesapeake Bayhawks in 2010 and Christopher No. 14 to Denver in 2009.

"Those two guys really helped me out shooting the ball hard," Coppersmith said. "That gave me a lot of confidence. Two guys that were All-Americans here, and had big games against Virginia in their careers. It gave me a lot of confidence just hearing them say, 'You can do this.' "

In the fourth quarter of the tight one-goal game Saturday, Virginia's defense started sliding to the player with possession more frequently. The Cavaliers quickly realized Coppersmith's abilities. But he still created open space, when he tied the score at 10 with 6:43 left, again shooting on the run with his off right hand to beat Ghitelman high.

"The two right-handed shots he hit were just big-boy shots at a big time," Virginia coach Dom Starsia said. "The first one ... he shoots one left-handed. We sort of had to be reminded of who he was as he started playing more. We immediately forced him to his right hand, [and] did a nice job there. He hits the first one and the second one we get to him. I could hear our defense talking. We slide to him. He still hits the shot."

They were big scores from an unlikely source. Coppersmith had never had a multi-goal game before Saturday and had just five career goals in 15 games at Johns Hopkins.

"Lee Coppersmith was an unsung hero today," said Johns Hopkins coach Dave Pietramala, who patted Coppersmith on the shoulder as the coach walked past outside the locker room. "You lose one of your best middies early in the game, and I was really proud that another guy stepped up."

Asked about Greeley's status, Pietramala said,"He'll be fine; he'll play," perhaps indicating Greeley would play Sunday against North Carolina. Greeley dressed in street clothes on the bench during the second half Saturday. If Greeley can't go, Coppersmith has shown he's up to the task of running on the first midfield line.

"I was working hard all week. I did a lot of extra work, making sure I could go left and right because I knew they would make me go right if I scored a few lefty," Coppersmith said Saturday. "Coach was saying to me this week, 'This is going to be a good game for you,' because he knew that my skill set would work well for this game. I wanted to make the most of this opportunity and get some extra work in to get ready."

Good thing he did.


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