Review & preview: Johns Hopkins
Here is the fourth installment of a series that checks in with the seven Division I programs in the state to give a glimpse into the past and the future. Thursday, we take a visit with Johns Hopkins.
The good: Despite the compiling the program’s first losing record since 1971, the Blue Jays overcame a four-game losing skid and seven losses in a nine-contest stretch to cap the regular season with back-to-back victories and the school’s 39th consecutive appearance in the NCAA Tournament. "In the end, I’m happy that we kept that streak alive, although I’m not a streak guy," coach Dave Pietramala said. "But we found a way when our backs were against the wall to do the job, and I know we’re capable of doing the job. Now we’ve got to find a way to do it all the time." … Freshman Pierce Bassett made the final seven starts in the cage and although his record as a starter was 3-4, he registered a 9.90 goals-against average and a .536 save percentage. Heading into the offseason, Bassett is the guy to beat. "The best guy is always going to play, but Pierce has earned himself a starting position there," Pietramala said. "… We’re very confident in him, [sophomores] Steven Burke and Guy Van Syckle. We think we have three talented goalies and a young one [Under Armour All American Eric Schneider] coming in, and in the end, you go into it where here’s the guy at the position and he works to keep it or someone works to take it." … Including Bassett, six other freshmen got extensive playing time, and that experience could serve as a foundation for their continued development. "The growth that those guys are going to experience is going to be tremendous," Pietramala said.
The bad: Johns Hopkins did not fare well in groundballs, collecting 404 to opponents’ 448 for the season. The inequity in groundballs was a symptom of the team’s lack of speed and athleticism in the midfield and especially on the defensive end. "I think we probably need to improve our athleticism at the defensive midfield," Pietramala said. … Aside from attackman Steven Boyle (32 goals and 23 assists) and midfielder Michael Kimmel (23, 16), the offense struggled at times to find others who could create scoring opportunities. Sophomore attackman Tom Palasek (13, 7) also showed a proficiency at engaging defenses and opening up lanes for his teammates, but he is transferring. So who will initiate? "We’ve got to get back to basics," Pietramala said. "We’ve got to get back to drawing slides on the offensive side and being unselfish and moving the ball." … The Blue Jays didn’t do themselves many favors, winning only 47 percent (162-of-345) of their face-offs. With Michael Powers graduating, junior Matt Dolente will have to rebound from a subpar campaign (65-of-143 for .455). Freshman Mike Poppleton (10-of-20 for .500) and junior long-stick midfielder Peter Swerz (8-of-19 for .421) might be called upon to contribute.
Personnel changes: As mentioned above, the biggest losses on offense are Boyle, Kimmel and Palasek. The positives are that senior attackman Chris Boland (torn anterior cruciate ligament in right knee) and junior midfielder Mark Goodrich (undisclosed injury) will re-join junior attackman Kyle Wharton (24, 9), freshman attackman Zach Palmer (10, 5) and freshmen midfielders John Ranagan (9, 5) and John Greeley (6, 2). "As a whole, we’re evaluating how we want to play as an offense and part of that involves getting a chance to see our high school kids play before they come in here," Pietramala said. "So I think we have to make sure we look at that as well." … Defense will also be a concern with the graduation of defensemen Sam DeVore (33 groundballs and 21 caused turnovers) and Matt Drenan (21 groundballs) and short-stick defensive midfielder Dave Spaulding (27 groundballs). If junior long-stick midfielder Orry Michael can stay healthy, freshman long-stick midfielder Chris Lightner could get bumped to close defense with freshman Tucker Durkin. And the program will welcome a pair of Under Armour All-American defensemen in Jack Reilly and Tobias Armour. "We’ve got to get back to playing the ball defensively and support and being intelligent schematically," Pietramala said. "But how do you replace those guys? That’s why you recruit, and you hope that all this experience that the guys got this year will translate and help them."
Forecast for 2011: Cloudy with rain possible. The hits on offense are critical, and the transfer of Palasek puts the onus on Boland and Palmer to be the primary initiators. Durkin, Lightner and Bassett provide a good base on defense, but there are a lot of questions in the midfield. Johns Hopkins must mine more speed from its roster between the lines to keep up with the likes of Virginia, Syracuse and North Carolina – which are poised to create some distance between themselves and the Blue Jays.