Nine days from now, Johns Hopkins will meet 2010 NCAA tournament finalist Notre Dame in the San Francisco Fall Lacrosse Classic at Kezar Stadium, and that scrimmage could serve as the first true indicator of where the Blue Jays are and where they could be headed.
Until then, coach Dave Pietramala is spending his days evaluating the players, and his assessment is still under construction.
"I think it’s difficult to gauge where we are right now," he said. "We haven’t played against anybody else yet. What I would tell you is that the attitude of this team, the approach of this team, the way we’re practicing is different from what it was a year ago. There is a sense of focus, a sense of urgency. The older guys have done a very nice job of leading, and I think we enter the season -- after an un-Hopkins-like season -- with a sense of humility and a sense of focus and desire to get back at it. So this has been a pretty focused group. They’ve done the things we’ve asked them to do. It’s been an enjoyable group to be around. We’re young. We’re still very young. We might be the youngest team in Division I lacrosse right now with the freshmen and sophomores, but the seniors have really set a good tone for this group. Where we’ll be, that’s to be determined. I make no predictions right now, but what we are doing is, the kids are practicing hard. They’re enthusiastic. They’re excited to come back to practice the next day. We’ve done some different things in terms of drills and how we’re practicing, and it’s been a positive step after the disappointment from a year ago."
Compiling the program’s first losing record (7-8) since 1971 was a humbling experience for all involved, and Pietramala questioned his own practices and strategies, eventually agreeing to make changes.
One of those changes is making every position open to competition.
"Right now, everybody’s competing for a spot," he said. "It’s not just a ‘You were here last year at this position, so you will start here next year.’ Everybody’s going to have to earn their keep after the season we had last year and the disappointment. We need to be more competitive in practice, and the obvious way of doing that is everybody’s got to earn their keep and compete for their spots."
Pietramala, whose contract was extended by the school through the 2016 season, is cautiously optimistic that an influx of freshmen could give the team the jolt it needs.
"There are some young guys who show a lot of promise, but right now, our focus is to learn how to practice the right way again, get our young guys up to speed and up to snuff on how we do things, our basic philosophies and our principles," he said. "We’re going to go out and play Notre Dame in California, and everybody’s going to get a chance to play, and we’re going to be able to have a better evaluation then."