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August 16, 2011

ESPN's Kessenich previews 2012 MLL Draft

ESPN analyst and former Johns Hopkins All-American goalkeeper Quint Kessenich has been intently following the current Major League Lacrosse season as it unfolds.

But Kessenich has also been keeping an eye on the upcoming senior class, which will make up the incoming rookie class for next summer’s MLL campaign. With that in mind, Kessenich, writing for Inside Lacrosse, listed his top 10 players in the MLL Draft, which is scheduled to take place on Jan. 13 in Philadelphia.

At the top of the list is Cornell attackman Rob Pannell, a Tewaaraton Award finalist and the reigning United States Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association Player of the Year who led the nation in points per game (5.2).

Kessenich put Virginia attackman Steele Stanwick at No. 2. Stanwick, a Baltimore native and Loyola graduate, paced the Cavaliers to the national championship en route to being named the Tewaaraton Award winner.

Duke defenseman Mike Manley sits at No. 3 despite missing last season after undergoing surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his knee.

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Categories: Johns Hopkins, Maryland
        

July 15, 2011

ESPN’s Kessenich eyes a pair of area recruits from “non hot-bed” spots

In the second of two reports for Inside Lacrosse, ESPN analyst Quint Kessenich highlighted seven recruits who participated in the Warrior 40 at Harvard University from what he described as areas not traditionally known as fertile soil for lacrosse.

Kessenich, a contributor to The Sun, singled out Johns Hopkins recruit and goalkeeper Ahmed Iftikhar, who just wrapped up his junior season at Detroit Country Day School. According to Inside Lacrosse, the 5-foot-9 and 160-pound Iftikhar considered Penn, Yale and Harvard before agreeing to join the Blue Jays. This is what Kessenich wrote of Iftikhar:

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Categories: Johns Hopkins, Maryland
        

July 13, 2011

Several area recruits catch attention of ESPN's Kessenich

Forty underclassmen from around the country took part in the Warrior 40 at Harvard University last week, and ESPN analyst Quint Kessenich singled out several players who have verbally committed to some area programs.

In the first of two reports for Inside Lacrosse, Kessenich, a contributor to The Sun, selected Navy recruit and midfielder Danny Simonetti as the second player who impressed him. Although a little undersized at 5-foot-8 and 165 pounds, Simonetti, who will graduate next spring, is a two-way player who should fit in with the Midshipmen’s work ethic. “Simonetti is a do-it-all type midfielder who can get ground balls, play defense, carry the pill in transition and possesses flawless stick with both hands,” Kessenich wrote. “He scored 17 goals and added 19 assists for Cold Spring Harbor [in New York] last spring. He will be the ideal complimentary midfielder on a well balanced line.”

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Categories: Johns Hopkins, Loyola, Maryland, Navy
        

July 12, 2011

Maryland gets a few representatives on national Under 19 team

After four days of tryouts at UMBC between July 7-10, US Lacrosse announced the 23-man roster that will seek to capture the 2012 Federation of International Lacrosse (FIL) U19 Men’s World Championships in Turku, Finland.

The state has a few representatives on the team. They include defenseman Robert Enright, an incoming freshman at Johns Hopkins; midfielder Charles Raffa, an incoming freshman at Maryland; and midfielder Robert Zoppo, a soon-to-be sophomore at Towson.

Midfielder Stephen Kelly, who recently wrapped up his sophomore year at Calvert Hall, was selected to the U19 team. Midfielder Ryan Tucker, a Gilman graduate who will play for 2011 national champion Virginia, was also chosen.

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Categories: Johns Hopkins, Maryland, Towson
        

July 7, 2011

ESPN’s Mark Dixon delves further into Division I coaching changes

Thursday’s edition of The Sun included an article on the spate of head coaching changes in Division I this year. The article included a few quotes from ESPN analyst and former Johns Hopkins midfielder Mark Dixon and a thumbnail look at a few selected schools that had hired new coaches or were in the process of doing so.

Dixon surmised that the impetus to win immediately and frequently that administrations are putting on head coaches has resonated on the youth and high school levels of lacrosse.

"I think if you look at the landscape of the sport and when you take it down to the cellular level, the intense involvement of parents and the existence of club teams for kids who are 10 years old, the behavior at games of coaches toward referees, parents toward coaches, parents and coaches toward players -- these are things that youth football and club soccer have endured, and now we face these things in lacrosse," Dixon said. "I think as the game grows, more and more athletes are picking it up, and I think the biggest thing is that the majority of parents haven’t played the game.”

Dixon said university officials can point to Villanova as a case study. The Wildcats went 11-5 this past spring and advanced to the NCAA tournament for the second time in three years despite not fielding a full-time coach.

“That team has not been fully funded with scholarships and the coaching staff has not been a full-time group,” Dixon said. “That’s when really established programs start taking a look at themselves and say, ‘Why can Villanova accomplish this, but we can’t?'”

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Categories: Johns Hopkins, Maryland, Navy, Towson
        

CORRECTED: Review & preview: Premature 2012 poll part 4

Here is the fourth installment of an attempt at a preseason and premature poll for next season.

The top 20 was broken up into four installments with Thursday’s post involving teams ranked from Nos. 5 to 1. Monday featured Nos. 20 to 16, Tuesday Nos. 15 to 11, and Wednesday Nos. 10 to 6. Friday will include three schools not mentioned in the poll that could make some waves.

Unless there are confirmed reports about certain players planning to use fifth years of eligibility, this space will assume that seniors in 2010 will not return next year. Unannounced fifth-year seniors and potential transfers will affect the rankings that come out next February, but here’s a spin anyway.

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Categories: Johns Hopkins
        

July 1, 2011

What ESPN's Mark Dixon intends to look for in Saturday's All-America game

On Saturday night, 44 of the nation’s top prep lacrosse players will descend upon Towson University’s Johnny Unitas Stadium to take part in the sixth annual Under Armour All-America Classic, and ESPN analyst Mark Dixon will have a front-row view of the action.

The former Johns Hopkins midfielder will provide commentary for ESPNU’s broadcast of the game, which he said must be treated as an all-star game.

“So you can’t base how a person is going to fare on the collegiate level based on one game,” Dixon said Thursday afternoon. “Last year, Nicky Galasso, playing for the North [team], scored one goal. He was the No. 1 recruit coming in, and people were wondering, ‘Wow, is he not that good?’ And then he’s just dynamite as a freshman at Carolina where he becomes a first-team All American. So you can’t put too much stock into it. But I get excited just to see what we can look forward to in college lacrosse the next four years.”

Dixon said the group of attackmen headlined by North Carolina recruit Jimmy Bitter, Maryland’s David Solomon and Johns Hopkins’ Mike Daniello has the potential to be “special.”

Dixon said he’s also intrigued by the corps of midfielders led by Virginia recruit and The Sun’s All-Metro Player of the Year Ryan Tucker and Albany’s Lyle Thompson.

“The midfield seems to be the position that doesn’t have as many marquee guys anymore,” Dixon said. “It just so happens that the attack has had the dominant collegiate players over the last few years. So I’m interested to see how some of these midfielders can do.”

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Categories: Johns Hopkins, Maryland
        

June 23, 2011

Maryland leads pack in Under Armour All-America selections

Maryland fell just short of capturing the national championship, but the Terps will reload with one of the top recruiting classes in the nation.

The Under Armour All-America list was announced on May 26, and Maryland leads all Division I schools with seven players on that list.

Representing the Terps on July 2 at 8 p.m. at Towson University’s Johnny Unitas Stadium will be three attackmen in Jay Carlson (St. Paul’s), Kevin Forster and David Solomon, two midfielders in Bobby Gribbin (who reportedly has switched his commitment from Penn State) and Joe LoCascio, and two defensemen in Goran Murray and Eric Parnon.

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Categories: Johns Hopkins, Loyola, Maryland, Navy
        

June 14, 2011

Review & preview: Johns Hopkins

Here is the sixth 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. Tuesday’s visit takes us to Johns Hopkins.

REVIEW

The good: After the compiling the program’s first losing record since 1971, the Blue Jays bounced back in convincing fashion, going 13-3 and earning the No. 3 seed in the NCAA tournament. Coach Dave Pietramala, the subject of intense scrutiny during the offseason, said the seeds of reversal were planted in the fall. “Coming out of the fall, we felt like we had a good nucleus, we felt like we were getting good leadership, and it was just a matter of putting people in the right places,” Pietramala said. “So we weren’t surprised that we had a good year. We believed that the things we set forth to be better at, we were obviously much better at.” … One of the facets that Pietramala stressed was improving the team’s athleticism with regards to ground balls and faceoffs. After collecting 404 ground balls to opponents’ 448 last season, Johns Hopkins turned that around, scooping up 518 ground balls to opponents’ 433. And after winning only 47 percent (162-of-345) of their face-offs in 2010, the team won 64.9 percent (227-of-350) of draws this past spring. Those numbers resulted from the team being faster overall. “I think we did accomplish that,” Pietramala said. “We were better off the wings, we were better defensively, and we were better off the ground. All of that isn’t due to us just being bad ground ball players. Part of it is athleticism. So I think our athleticism helped us there.” … The Blue Jays returned to their traditional strength – defense. That unit surrendered 7.3 goals per game (sixth-lowest average in Division I) after allowing 9.6 goals last season. “This group was far more committed to the defensive end of the field,” Pietramala said. “They were far more committed to preparation, to film, to doing the little things, and that’s a credit to that young group. So were we surprised? We were hopeful that we would get back to playing the way we were capable.”

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Categories: Johns Hopkins, Review & preview
        

June 7, 2011

JHU's Lightner to skip fall workouts

Johns Hopkins defenseman Chris Lightner will skip workouts in the fall to heal his ailing back.

This past spring, the sophomore successfully transitioned from long-stick midfielder to close defenseman, tying for fourth on the team in caused turnovers and collecting 21 ground balls. But the Timonium native and Calvert Hall graduate was saddled with a nagging back injury for much of the season.

“Chris has battled a back issue all year,” Blue Jays coach Dave Pietramala said Tuesday morning. “We got him through the season, and now it’s just important that we rest him. He’s absolutely fine. He’ll be good to go [next spring]. There are no issues there.”

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Categories: Johns Hopkins
        

May 27, 2011

Guarded optimism over this weekend's attendance abounds

Baltimore’s claim to being the hotbed for lacrosse can be defended on many fronts, but attendance at the NCAA championships on Memorial Day weekend may not be a battle that has been won just yet.

The NCAA record for attendance for all three days of championship weekend was set in 2008 when an announced crowd of 145,828 flocked to Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass. That same year, a record 48,970 watched Syracuse defeat Johns Hopkins, 13-10, in the Division I final.

Baltimore did host the largest crowd to watch the semifinals in 2007 when 51,719 descended on M&T Bank Stadium.

An NCAA spokeswoman confirmed late Thursday that the ticket office has sold more than 100,000 tickets for the weekend, and the feeling is that attendance could match last year’s combined attendance of 122,983 or even exceed that number.

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Categories: Johns Hopkins, Maryland
        

Q&A with ESPN's Paul Carcaterra

ESPN analyst and former Syracuse All-American midfielder Paul Carcaterra provided analysis of the NCAA tournament quarterfinals from the sports network’s studio. Reprising that role for this weekend’s semifinals and final, Carcaterra broke down the keys for each of the semifinalists, pontificated on whether one of the team is the favorite, and didn’t budge on his initial assessment of the Tewaaraton Award winner – with one large caveat.

So let’s break down each of the semifinalists in terms of what they will need to be successful this weekend. Let’s begin with No. 5 seed Duke.
I think for Duke, it’s all about getting [freshman attackman] Jordan Wolf into the action early. He’s only a freshman, but I think that if he’s dodging well and he’s confident, he’ll open up a bunch of lanes for the midfielders. [Redshirt junior] Justin Turri, [junior] Robert Rotanz and [sophomore] David Lawson are all capable scorers, and I think they’re more effective off the dodge when Wolf is creating and causing problems in the defense. That’s certainly a key. And then another key for Duke is [senior long-stick midfielder] C.J. Costabile. If he has a great game, there’s a good chance that Duke will win. I say that because not only does he face off and he would be going against [Maryland sophomore] Curtis Holmes, who has been fabulous all season long, but he plays the wings as well. So if he’s not at the draw, he’s going to be on the wing, and he’ll have to be huge on those 50-50 ground-ball situations.

What about Denver?
They’re a tough team to scout. Going into Hopkins, I think everyone thought that if you stop [junior attackmen] Mark Matthews and Alex Demopoulos, you were going to win the game. But they showed that they have a midfield that is completely capable of putting up big numbers and creating matchup problems. That is a balanced, balanced offense. So if that midfield gets going and makes its presence felt early, you’re going to see Matthews and Demopoulos have great one-on-one matchups, and I think that’s key. We’ve seen their attack light it up and now we’re seeing their midfield take over games. I think that’s where the Hopkins game was won last week – at the midfield. They just dominated the short-stick defensive midfield of Johns Hopkins. Hopkins didn’t want to slide early because they didn’t want to leave guys like Matthews and Demopoulos open, and Denver made them pay. So I think a balanced offense would be really big for Denver. I think another key would their ability to adjust to a zone defense. If Virginia goes zone, [the Pioneers] are going to have to get into their offensive set and move the ball and almost play like they do on their extra-man [unit].

How about Virginia?
For Virginia, I think it’s their quick-strike offense. That’s what beat Cornell. They had great possessions, but they were quick ones. They found opportunities right away against Cornell and never really allowed Cornell to get into their base defense, and they struck pretty quick. I love their transition game. When guys like [sophomore midfielders Chris] LaPierre and Blake Riley are getting into the mix, they’re tough to stop because they put so much pressure on the middle of the field, and with guys like [junior attackmen] Steele Stanwick and Chris Bocklet, they can strike fast. I don’t think Virginia wants to let Denver get into their base defense too much. I think they want to attack right away because when they attack right away, they usually go through Stanwick, and he’s been masterful in the playoffs thus far.

And Maryland?
I’m not a guy that likes to say that the keys are faceoffs and goaltending. Those are obvious. To me, if you’re getting solid goaltending and you’re winning the majority of the draws, of course those are keys to the game. But when you have a faceoff kid like [sophomore] Curtis Holmes, to me, that takes it to another level. They won 11-of-14 faceoffs against Syracuse, and they completely controlled time of possession. Syracuse was never able to get into sync offensively because they coupled great faceoff play with very patient possessions, and I think if they do that against Duke, it’s going to be trouble. It’s the most frustrating thing for an offensive team to try to make plays after not having the ball for a long period of time because people get antsy and then they try to do things that are uncharacteristic. It just puts them in a very difficult situation offensively. People can argue all they want about stall warnings. This is the playoffs. You do whatever you can to advance. I don’t fault [Terps coach] John Tillman one bit for that game plan because he’s playing within the rules of the game. When you have Curtis Holmes and you’re adding on these valuable and patient possessions, it’s very, very difficult to counter that. If Holmes is winning at the rate he’s been winning in the playoffs, I don’t see anyone really blowing them out. Maryland is in every single ball game, down to the wire, and they’re favored if he’s playing at that rate.

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Categories: Johns Hopkins, Maryland
        

May 26, 2011

JHU's Dolente, Ranagan headline area representatives on All-American list

The Division I All-American list is out and two Johns Hopkins players made the first team.

Senior faceoff specialist Matt Dolente and sophomore midfielder John Ranagan represented the Blue Jays on the first team. Dolente concluded the 2011 campaign ranked second in the country with a .667 success rate (194-of-291), and his 194 wins ranks third for the most in a single season.

Ranagan ranked third on the team in assists (14) and fourth in both goals (18) and points (32). He finished with 11 multi-point games this season.

Virginia’s Steele Stanwick, a Baltimore native and Loyola graduate, was also named to the first team. The junior attackman, who leads the Cavaliers in points (64) and assists (35), is the reigning Atlantic Coast Conference Player of the Year and the only Tewaaraton Award finalist whose team is still competing in the NCAA tournament.

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Categories: Johns Hopkins, Loyola, Maryland, Navy
        

May 24, 2011

Denver in 2011 reminds Tierney of Princeton in 1992

As the architect of six national championships at Princeton, Bill Tierney cherishes the memories of those titles and the teams that toiled away to register those achievements.

But Tierney, who left the Tigers for Denver after the 2009 season, acknowledged that he can make a comparison between his current Pioneers squad and the Princeton team that edged Syracuse, 10-9, in double overtime to capture the NCAA title in 1992.

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Categories: Johns Hopkins
        

Q&A with ESPN's Mark Dixon

ESPN analyst and former Johns Hopkins midfielder Mark Dixon prowled the sidelines of all four NCAA tournament quarterfinals this past weekend, observing and collecting notes on what he saw and heard. Dixon, who will provide radio commentary for the NCAA Network on Westwood One for the semifinals on Saturday and the final on Monday at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore, offered his opinion on the results in the quarterfinals, the favorite to capture the national championship and the leading candidate to take the Tewaaaraton Award.

Although each quarterfinal game ended with the lower-seeded team defeating a higher-seeded opponent, many of these teams were evenly matched. So it’s not fair to say that the entire round was defined by upsets, is it?
I would agree with you. I think everybody’s favorite all year was Syracuse, but Syracuse played seven games where they won by two goals or less and then of course, they lost to Cornell. So while Syracuse was the No. 1 seed and probably the majority of people’s favorite [to win], they weren’t really dominant in most of the games this season. They really turned it on late, but it was against some not-as-stiff competition. If you look at a team like Virginia, the No. 7 seed, that was everybody’s pick to go to championship weekend. With the events that took place this season, they fell off a little bit and they lost some games and the defense wasn’t playing well. Now they’re in there, but this isn’t the Virginia team that people picked to make it to championship weekend. So I think when you look at the whole gamut of the season, no one team was that dominating squad. No one team got you to say, ‘Wow, I’m betting the house on this team to win the national title.’ It just never happened. So I think it speaks to the separation between the elite lacrosse teams in the country, which is very, very narrow.

Can we say that the four teams in the national semifinals – No. 5 seed Duke, No. 6 seed Denver, Virginia and unseeded Maryland – were at some point in the season contenders for the NCAA championship?
With the exception of Denver. I think everybody knew that Denver was going to be better. But if you would have told me back in February that Denver would be in the national semifinals, I don’t think I would have said Denver. And the same thing could be said of Duke. I thought Duke would make the tournament with maybe a first-round or quarterfinal loss, but all of the leadership they lost last year in addition to the productivity – I know everybody speaks about [Max] Quinzani and [Ned] Crotty on the attack, but they also lost Steve Schoeffel in the midfield and Parker McKee on the defensive end and then over the summer, they lost [defenseman] Mike Manley to a knee injury. So I think Duke and Denver are surprising. Maryland and Virginia are two teams that the majority of folks picked to get to championship weekend. But of course, Maryland was up and down in its play, and we already discussed Virginia. So I think Duke and Denver are surprising from the preseason standpoint. Now as the season wore on and we had the Duke-Notre Dame game yesterday, I think you could say, ‘Yeah, anybody could win that game.’ But the Hopkins-Denver game, you thought Hopkins was going to be able to control the faceoffs a little better and really test that Denver defense, and they never got that chance.

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May 23, 2011

Denver's win came at expense of coach's friend

As mentioned in the blog last week, Saturday’s NCAA tournament quarterfinal meeting between Johns Hopkins and Denver pitted a pair of old friends in Blue Jays coach Dave Pietramala and Pioneers coach Bill Tierney.

Tierney was an assistant coach at Johns Hopkins when he recruited a tall, powerful defenseman named Dave Pietramala from Hicksville, N.Y. Even when Tierney became the head coach at Princeton and Pietramala enjoyed stints at Cornell and Johns Hopkins, the two remained close.

But those ties were buried for 60 minutes on Saturday when sixth-seeded Denver defeated the third-seeded Blue Jays, 14-9, at Hofstra University’s James M. Shuart Stadium in Hempstead, N.Y.

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Categories: Johns Hopkins
        

May 22, 2011

Postscript from Denver vs. Johns Hopkins

By the numbers, Johns Hopkins, not Denver, should have advanced to the Final Four at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore on Saturday.

As coach Dave Pietramala correctly noted, the Blue Jays were superiors in areas like shots (36-29), ground balls (31-23) and faceoffs (16-of-27). So why did No. 3 seed Johns Hopkins fall, 14-9, to the No. 6 seed Pioneers in an NCAA tournament quarterfinal at Hofstra University’s James M. Shuart Stadium in Hempstead, N.Y., on Saturday?

“I don’t think our team gave them the level of respect they deserved,” Pietramala said. “Why that is, I don’t know. I’ve seen us play other teams, and you come out of the locker room and you get a feel for your team. You watch your team practice, you watch your team warm up, and I just don’t think that we as a group gave them the respect that they deserved. And that’s a shame because we allowed an opportunity to slip by us.”

Asked to elaborate on that lack of respect, Pietramala began his answer by asking the reporter if he had any children.

“I can tell you from experience, kids understand certain things,” said Pietramala, the father of seven-year-old twin boys. “They understand Syracuse. They understand Virginia. They understand Carolina. They understand Maryland. Teams that have won championships. This was a new team for us. I’m telling you that when we got on the plane [after scouting Denver’s 13-10 victory over Villanova in the first round on May 15], we walked away like, ‘Wow.’ [Coach Bill Tierney] inherited a very talented team, but what I would say is, what a magnificent job they’ve done as a staff of actually making them a team. … Listen, I know my team. I know the feel of our locker room. There are no excuses. We got beat, and we should’ve prepared better. Shoot, if you want to blame anybody, blame me. I’m the head coach. That’s the way it goes. But I didn’t feel like we had that little extra something that we’ve had in some other games. I can’t attribute it to our guys not caring. They do care. If you know the things we’ve dealt with this year and the way they’ve done things, I can’t say they did not care. I just don’t think we played with the level of respect that maybe we should have, and that’s our fault.”

Other notes:

Continue reading "Postscript from Denver vs. Johns Hopkins" »

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Categories: Johns Hopkins, Postscript
        

May 21, 2011

Denver vs. Johns Hopkins: Halftime thoughts

Johns Hopkins is in danger of becoming the second higher-seeded team to fall in the quarterfinals of the NCAA tournament as the No. 3 seed Blue Jays trail No. 6 seed Denver, 7-3, at halftime at Hofstra University’s James M. Shuart Stadium in Hempstead, N.Y., on Saturday.

The winner of this contest will meet seventh-seeded Virginia (11-5), which bounced second-seeded Cornell, 13-9, in the first quarterfinal here.

Johns Hopkins (13-2) got the first goal of the game when freshman midfielder Rob Guida took a pass from sophomore midfielder John Ranagan and blasted a shot past Pioneers freshman goalie Jamie Faus just 2 minutes, 21 seconds into the contest.

But Denver (14-2) embarked on a 6-0 run punctuated by the midfielders’ abilities to use their speed to blow past the Blue Jays’ short-stick defensive midfielders.

Johns Hopkins did get goals from Ranagan and senior attackman Kyle Wharton within a 43-second span midway through the second quarter, but sophomore midfielder Cameron Flint followed with his third goal of the game to give the Pioneers the 7-3 lead.

Other notes:

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Categories: Halftime thoughts, Johns Hopkins
        

Denver's Baxter returns, JHU's John Greeley appears fine

Denver could get a big lift Saturday in its NCAA tournament quarterfinal against Johns Hopkins due to the apparent return of senior attackman Todd Baxter.

Baxter, who has been an everyday starter alongside juniors Mark Matthews and Alex Demopoulos, did not play in the sixth-seeded Pioneers’ 13-10 victory over Villanova in the first round on Sunday because of a high right ankle sprain and a partially torn ligament in the right knee.

Baxter, who ranks third on the team in goals (28), assists (18) and points (46), is participating in pre-game warm-ups. Although he is wearing a black, protective sleeve on the knee, Baxter appears to be running and moving without little hesitation.

Also, there was a rumor on the Internet that Blue Jays sophomore midfielder John Greeley was walking around campus this week with a walking boot. But he is also taking part in pre-game warm-ups with no troubles, and he is expected to start for No. 3 seed Johns Hopkins.

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Categories: Johns Hopkins
        

Denver vs. Johns Hopkins: Three things to watch

This is only the second meeting between Denver and Johns Hopkins and the first since 1998. Fresh off of a 13-10 victory over Villanova in the first round on Sunday, the sixth-seeded Pioneers (14-2) are riding an 11-game winning streak and seeking its first appearance in the NCAA tournament semifinals. The No. 3 seed Blue Jays (13-2) walloped Hofstra, 13-5, on Saturday and are 28-9 in the quarterfinals. Here are a few factors that could influence the outcome at James M. Shuart Stadium at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y., on Saturday.

1) Solve Denver’s two-man game on offense. As profiled in Friday’s editions of The Sun, Johns Hopkins’ defense is playing superbly, surrendering an average of 6.8 goals this season, which is the lowest since Dave Pietramala became the program’s head coach for the 2001 season. But one of the Blue Jays’ two losses came at the hands of Princeon, which utilized a two-man game on offense to win 8-3 on March 5. Enter the Pioneers, who employ a similar strategy. ESPN analyst and former Virginia All-American attackman Matt Ward said Denver’s system is a bit more structured than Princeton’s. “They have the better personnel to execute those types of plays,” Ward said of the Pioneers. “… I would say it’s more designed than Princeton’s. Princeton kind of does a big circle with a lot of two-man individual games. Everyone in Denver’s offense is moving for a purpose – even if they’re not in the two-man game, which creates goals coming off of two or three passes.”

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May 20, 2011

JHU's Pietramala meets another close friend

A week after dispatching a friend from the NCAA tournament, Johns Hopkins coach Dave Pietramala has a similar unenviable task on Saturday when the third-seeded Blue Jays meet No. 6 Denver at Hofstra University’s James M. Shuart Stadium in Hempstead, N.Y.

The Pioneers are coached by Bill Tierney, who was formerly the coach of Princeton when the Tigers captured six national championships. Tierney was also the assistant coach at Johns Hopkins when he recruited a tall, powerful defenseman named Dave Pietramala.

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Q&A with CBS Sports Network's Steve Panarelli

CBS Sports Network analyst and former Syracuse All-American defenseman Steve Panarelli helped the Orange reach the Final Four in 2004 and 2006 with the team capturing the national championship in 2004. Panarelli discussed the most interesting game of the NCAA tournament quarterfinals this weekend and a key storyline for each contest.

What’s the most intriguing game of the weekend?
The Syracuse-Maryland game is the most intriguing, I think. Someone said to me, “How does Syracuse get the No. 1 seed and they’re rewarded in the wquarterfinals with Maryland?” If you’re a seeded team and the best team out there, that’s probably one team you wouldn’t want to play. I think it’s going to be a great game. I think they match up well with each other. I think it’ll be up and down, there should be a lot of goals and excitement. So it’ll be a great game to watch.

Can unseeded Maryland keep pace with Syracuse if the game becomes a track meet?
Like I said before, I think the game is going to be up and down, and I think there’s going to be a lot of goals. That’s just the way those two teams play. I think the big thing that will help Maryland is faceoffs. If they can control X, they control time of possession and transition. That will put them in a good position to win the game. I think being how it’s going to so fast-paced and up and down, I think the faceoffs will be huge, and I think in a game like that, especially with two teams creating a lot of shots offensively, the goalie play is going to be huge. So look for the faceoff guys and the goalies to play a huge part in that game.

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May 18, 2011

Denver awaiting word on Baxter's status

No. 6 seed Denver isn’t sure whether senior attackman Todd Baxter will be able to suit up for Saturday’s NCAA tournament quarterfinal against No. 3 seed Johns Hopkins at James M. Shuart Stadium in Hempstead, N.Y.

Baxter, who has been an everyday starter alongside junior Mark Matthews and junior Alex Demopoulos, is dealing with a high right ankle sprain and partially torn knee ligament that sidelined him for the Pioneers’ 13-10 victory over Villanova in the first round this past Sunday.

“Todd, as he tells me, he gets better every day,” Denver coach Bill Tierney said during his weekly press conference with area media. “I know less than he knows and he knows a lot less than what the doctors know. So we’ll see.”

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Q&A with ESPN's Matt Ward

ESPN analyst and former Virginia All-American attackman Matt Ward provided analysis during No. 6 seed Denver’s 13-10 victory over Villanova in the first round of the NCAA tournament on Sunday. The 2006 Tewaaraton Award winner discussed why it’s still fair to talk about parity in college lacrosse, why he’s interested in the Notre Dame-Duke quarterfinal, and why top-seeded Syracuse should beware of a potential upset.

With seven of the top eight seeds winning this past weekend and unseeded Maryland beating No. 8 seed North Carolina, is it fair to say that talk of parity in college lacrosse should stop?
No. I think this year is as wide open as any. If you take a look at the games, Duke-Delaware was very close. UVA was lucky in terms of getting out of Charlottesville with a win. Someone asked me to fill out a bracket, and I couldn’t tell you what was going to happen or who was going to win. I think you’re really going to see the parity this week in terms of anyone being able to beat anybody. It used to be where you could say that four teams were the elite. This year, the top eight are as even as I can remember. Any team can beat anyone to make it to the Final Four. So it’s going to definitely be a fun, interesting weekend.

What team impressed you the most this past weekend?
I think it was Maryland. When Maryland lost to Colgate and ended up not getting seeded and had to play North Carolina in the first round, I looked at Maryland and said, ‘That’s a top three team.’ I’ve thought that all year. They didn’t necessarily play brilliant every single day, but when they do, they’re as good as anybody. In the NCAA tournament, they’re bringing a focus, their hustle, their energy and their best game. When I saw that they had Syracuse, the No. 1 seed, I said, ‘Man, that’s a tough break for the No. 1 seed, to have to play that team in the quarterfinals.’ Maryland dominated possession of the ball against a very good faceoff guy in [freshman] R.G. Keenan of North Carolina. [Sophomore] Curtis Holmes for them has been phenomenal, and when they can do that, their defense is sound enough that they’re going to put on a lot of pressure, and they’re going to be tough to beat. In my opinion, they were the most impressive team.

What team in the quarterfinals has the most question marks?
I think you kind of have to look at Virginia, which is basically playing a very, very young team. We don’t know what’s going to happen with [senior midfielder] Rhamel [Bratton], and they’ve really had to lean on [junior attackman] Steele Stanwick. My concern there is Steele’s been battling a foot injury all year. How is that going to be handled as the pressure is notched up a level? Can they get production from their midfield? They’re playing a Cornell team that is as hot as any team in the country right now. [Junior] Rob Pannell on the offensive end is as good an attackman as I’ve seen in the last 10 years. The kid is an absolute stud. He can do it all. He can dodge, he can pass, he gets his teammates involved. He just has the perfect mix of skills to really dominate the college lacrosse landscape.

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May 16, 2011

Q&A with ESPN's Quint Kessenich

ESPN analyst and former Johns Hopkins All-American goalie Quint Kessenich spent the past weekend in the studio of ESPNU in Charlotte, N.C., watching every NCAA tournament first-round contest and participating in an online chat. On Monday afternoon, he will film a one-hour show wrapping up the first round and looking ahead to next weekend’s quarterfinals, each of which he will provide color commentary. Kessenich spoke Monday morning about the favorites’ ability to weather the storm, a team in the quarterfinals that is most troubled, and a snub for the Tewaaraton Award finalists.

Although seven of the eight seeded teams won their first-round games, some of them – No. 2 Cornell, No. 3 Johns Hopkins, No. 6 Denver and No. 7 Virginia – trailed either in the first quarter or at halftime. What did that suggest to you?
The theme was close games at halftime, and then adjustments and superior talent came through in the second half. Villanova led [Denver], 8-5, [in the third quarter] and Hartford led [Cornell], 3-1, [in the first quarter]. Bucknell led 4-1 early [against Virginia], and even Penn clawed back to keep the game within reach prior to halftime [against No. 4 seed Notre Dame] and Hofstra jumping out [against Johns Hopkins], 2-0. That was the theme, and the reason for that, to me, was that the teams between nine and 16 are very talented. They were excited and amped up to play, and they came out swinging. When the favored team dealt with that first flurry and settled down, they made their adjustments, found their strides, and then got rolling. In all those cases, you saw those teams in the second half play their best game, and the emotion was taken out of the equation. … To me, a bunch of those teams played really well for about a half or 45 minutes. I thought Maryland played the best 60-minute game, and now going forward into the quarterfinal round where all of these games look like one-goal games on paper, you’re going to have to play 60 minutes because if you do come out flat and the other team jumps on you, 4-0, you might not recover.

With seven of the eight seeded teams winning, what does that say about parity in college lacrosse?
When they talk about parity, to me, parity exists between teams 12 to 35 now. To me, the top teams are still the top teams. We could see upsets of the top teams, but 12 to 35 is absolute chaos. When a team like Siena can beat Rutgers or Robert Morris can beat Bucknell, there’s not much difference between teams 12 to 35. I still think this quarterfinal group has earned its separation from the pack, but beyond them, teams like Colgate and Harvard that didn’t get into the tournament are at equal quality with the teams that lost this weekend.

What team impressed you with its performance this past weekend?
I thought Delaware in its loss [to No. 5 seed Duke] was explosive offensively. I was impressed with what Bucknell brought to the table, and aside from not playing enough guys and getting tired, their offense is about as good as I’ve seen all year. From a winning standpoint, Hopkins continues to win using its formula of faceoff success, ground ball play and goaltending. Duke’s formula is pretty simple right now. They’re going to score in transition, and they’re going to score in the half-field set. I’ve got questions going forward because of their defense and their goaltending. And I like the way Notre Dame responded coming off of back-to-back losses to Syracuse and North Carolina. I thought they responded and jumped on Penn, 4-0, and that’s what you hope to see if you’re a Fighting Irish fan.

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May 15, 2011

Quarterfinals set for Johns Hopkins, Maryland

Johns Hopkins and Maryland found out Sunday whom they will meet in the NCAA tournament quarterfinals next weekend.

The Blue Jays, the third seed in the tournament, will face No. 6 seed Denver on Saturday at James M. Shuart Stadium at Hofstra in Hempstead, N.Y., at 2:30 p.m. The contest will be the back end of a doubleheader featuring No. 2 seed Cornell (14-2) and No. 7 seed Virginia (10-5), which begins at 12 p.m.

The Pioneers overcame a 7-5 deficit at halftime to win, 13-10, against Villanova on Sunday evening.

Johns Hopkins (13-2) took care of Hofstra, 13-5, on Saturday and will meet the Denver (14-2) for only the second time in the schools’ histories. It will be the first meeting since Bill Tierney left Princeton for the Pioneers, and Tierney and Blue Jays coach Dave Pietramala are close friends.

Johns Hopkins has won eight games in a row, not having lost since March 19 when it was edged by Syracuse, 5-4, in double overtime. But Denver has been even hotter, winning 11 straight contests since falling to Notre Dame, 10-9, on March 12.

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May 14, 2011

Hofstra at Johns Hopkins: Three things to watch

Although Johns Hopkins dropped Hofstra from the regular-season schedule after the 2010 campaign, the NCAA selection committee ensured that the teams would continue their series with this first-round contest in the NCAA tournament. The visiting Pride (13-2) has split the last six meetings against the Blue Jays, but Johns Hopkins (12-2) has won all four games in the NCAA tournament, including a 10-4 thumping in 2008. Here are a few factors that could influence the outcome at Homewood Field in Baltimore on Saturday.

1) Look out for No. 14. Hofstra is averaging more than 10 goals per game this season thanks to the play of senior attackmen Jay Card (28 goals and 15 assists) and Jamie Lincoln (29, 10). But senior attackman Stephen Bentz (23, 14) is just as potent, and Blue Jays coach Dave Pietramala said he is trying to make sure the defensemen are aware of No. 14’s presence. “While Card and Lincoln are a little more similar – one’s a lefty and one’s a righty – I think Stephen Bentz is probably the perfect complement to those guys,” Pietramala said. “I think he’s a guy that does a little bit of everything. He feeds the ball, he can finish, he can dodge. So I actually think he’s the perfect complement to those two goal scorers. I think they make him better and he certainly allows them play and succeed in the areas that they do well.”

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May 13, 2011

Older brother's counsel contributed to Gvozden's rise at Hofstra

Hofstra junior goalie Andrew Gvozden has enjoyed a breakout season, leading his Division I peers in goals-against average (5.70) and ranking second in save percentage (.621).

Gvozden, a Severna Park native and graduate, has rebounded from a sophomore campaign in which he split 14 starts with then-freshman Rob Bellairs, giving cause for analysts to question the strength of the Pride’s candidacy to challenge for the national championship.

Gvozden said his acclimation to playing in the cage was accelerated by conversations with his older brother Michael, who was a three-year starting goalkeeper for Johns Hopkins from 2008-10.

“He kind of prepped me going into it, about all of the pressure, how different it was from high school ball, and how it’s more based on your reactions and your body positioning rather than just talent alone,” Andrew Gvozden said. “So he really prepped me more on the mental aspects of being a college goalie.”

Michael Gvozden, the defensive coordinator for the Loyola Marymount men’s club lacrosse team and an assistant coach for the Beverly Hills High School girls lacrosse team, said his conversations with his brother were rooted in his experience in his final year with the Blue Jays when he made the team’s first eight starts before giving way to then-freshman Pierce Bassett.

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Hopkins' Bassett not running to stand still

ESPN analyst and former Johns Hopkins midfielder Mark Dixon, who will provide commentary for NCAA tournament first-round contests involving Hartford at No. 2 Cornell on Saturday and Siena at No. 1 Syracuse on Sunday, noticed something unusual about Pierce Bassett of Johns Hopkins.

When the ball is in the Blue Jays’ offensive side of the field during games, Bassett, the junior sophomore goalkeeper, can sometimes be found running a few sprints between the cage to the top of the box.

Bassett said he’s been doing that since his days at Brophy Prep in Arizona.

“It’s something to keep my heart rate up and keep myself in the game so that I don’t get cold,” he said. “That way, if the ball comes back on the defensive end, you’re ready.”

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May 12, 2011

Q&A with CBS Sports Network's Matt Danowski

CBS Sports Network analyst and former Duke attackman Matt Danowski knows a thing or two about postseason success, having helped the Blue Devils reach the Final Four in his last three years. The four-time All American who was awarded the Tewaaraton Award in 2007 spoke about Maryland’s first-round game at North Carolina, a Denver squad that could make waves, and a potential upset in the first round.
 
Any surprises leap out to you when the bracket was announced on Sunday night?
I have to say that I was a little surprised that Hofstra got in. I thought they’d be on the bubble a little bit, but 13-2, you really can’t argue with that. I just didn’t think they had the wins to get in.

So in your opinion, which team had a better resume than Hofstra?
I think there were a lot of teams that were hovering around and had the same thing going on in terms of wins. Hofstra may have had the most wins and 13-2 is tough to argue with, but there were a couple teams on the bubble there, and it just didn’t seem that they could separate themselves.

Should Maryland feel slighted about the NCAA selection committee sending the reigning Atlantic Coast Conference tournament champion on the road for a first-round contest at North Carolina?
The thing is, when Maryland got their win against UNC, it was in the ACC semifinals, and a lot of people don’t believe that the ACC should even have a tournament and that it shouldn’t count. So you’ve kind of got to look at it from both angles. When Maryland lost to Colgate, I don’t think that helped their case at all. If Maryland had taken care of Colgate, they probably would have had a home game. So I don’t think they have a right to gripe.

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May 11, 2011

End of series with Johns Hopkins "disappointed" Hofstra's Tierney

As a former midfielder and offensive coordinator at Johns Hopkins, Hofstra coach Seth Tierney routinely looked forward to annual showdowns with the Blue Jays in the regular season.

But a series that had taken place every year since 2004 ended prior to this season as Johns Hopkins dropped the Pride from the schedule. Tierney, who will lead Hofstra (13-2) into an NCAA first-round contest against the third-seeded Blue Jays (12-2) on Saturday, said Johns Hopkins’ request saddened him.

“Yeah, I was disappointed,” Tierney said Tuesday. “It’s my alma mater, the games have been very exciting, there are Long Island guys on both rosters, there are Maryland guys on both rosters. I think the games had some rivalry-type traits to them, and I was upset to see that it was going to end.”

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Former JHU goalie says he was "scapegoat" for last year's troubles

Michael Gvozden speaks of his four years at Johns Hopkins without a hint of rancor in his voice.

But the former goalkeeper is candid about how his senior year ended when he was replaced midway through the 2010 campaign by an unknown freshman named Pierce Bassett.

“I think I was more of a scapegoat with what happened,” Gvozden, a Severna Park native and graduate, said, referring to the Blue Jays’ first sub-.500 record since 1971. “I just don’t think the chemistry on the team was right at all, and I certainly know that I did not fit in with that group or where it was going. I have no problem saying that. I’m not going to sit here and it’s not going to make me sleep better at night to badmouth Hopkins or the coaches or the players. That’s not good use of my time. What I will say is, I did graduate from Hopkins with my pride.”

Gvozden became the full-time starter in his sophomore year, helping the team reach the NCAA tournament final in 2008. Last season, he registered an 8.83 goals-against average and a .532 save percentage in nine games (eight starts) before being replaced by Bassett (9.90 GAA, .536 save percentage) for the final seven contests.

Johns Hopkins coach Dave Pietramala sympathized with his former goalie’s perspective – to an extent.

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May 10, 2011

Q&A with ESPN's Paul Carcaterra

ESPN analyst and former Syracuse All-American midfielder Paul Carcaterra provided commentary for the network when the bracket was unveiled Sunday night. Carcaterra discussed Maryland going unseeded, the teams with the easiest and most difficult paths to the Final Four and the one team that poses the biggest threat to the seeded teams.

What’s your take on Maryland being unseeded and having to travel to meet North Carolina for the third time this season?
I think Maryland is in a situation with winning the ACC, which is lacrosse’s toughest conference, to go on the road for the first round, that’s definitely a difficult draw for them. And if they win, they could potentially play Syracuse, the No. 1 team. So you’re playing your arch rival in North Carolina, a conference opponent whom you’ve played twice already. So if you look at Maryland and their potential path at getting to the Final Four, it’s harder than anyone else’s. That Colgate loss certainly did them in, in terms of not getting seeded. But I still felt that Maryland had played their way into a top-8 seed. If you look at Denver, they didn’t lose to anyone as their only two losses were to Syracuse and Notre Dame. That Duke victory is huge for them, but outside of that, they didn’t have to go through the ACC or play the type of schedule that Maryland has. Denver’s schedule, I thought, was much softer than Maryland’s.

So was Denver worthy of getting a home game?
I think there are a lot of things in consideration. I think from the outside looking in, people don’t realize all of the intricacies of how the seeding is done. There’s travel, conference opponents. They don’t want to pit ACC teams against each other. It’s been many years since a first round with ACC teams has been done. So they’re conscious of that, and they take all of that into consideration. But I think Denver is going to be a travel team regardless, and let’s be honest. The sport is growing in leaps and bounds out West. It’s made great strides from a popularity standpoint. I think it’s good for a sport, to take a playoff team to Denver and to that facility. That city is becoming a big-time lacrosse city. So I think it’s an opportunity where you have a team like Denver which certainly had a good year. You can argue that they deserved a top-8 seed. So I don’t think anything was outlandish regarding that.

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May 9, 2011

Q&A with ESPN's Mark Dixon

ESPN analyst and former Johns Hopkins midfielder Mark Dixon will assist coverage of this weekend’s slate of first-round games in the NCAA tournament. Until then, Dixon sounded off on Maryland going on the road, Denver getting a higher seed than he had anticipated and Penn limping its way to the tournament.

It would appear that the NCAA selection committee emphasized RPI more than strength of schedule and quality wins this season. Did you come to the same conclusion?
I think it was two years ago when it was more strength of schedule and RPI that got people in. Last year, it was quality wins. So it seems like the scales get tipped in a different direction every year because I think there’s eight or nine criteria altogether, but it’s not necessarily ranked in any order. So if you have a particular team with a lot of wins or an incredibly strong strength of schedule, you can see things go in different ways. But I definitely think that the numbers played a huge role – they usually do – and I think it was pretty cut and dry with the 16 teams that got in. the team that were left out, you could make arguments very positively for the teams that got in versus why teams didn’t get in. I think the biggest controversy – if you want to call it that – is Denver getting a home game at [the No.] 6 [seed]. When you look at their strength of schedule, I think it was 29 with an RPI of six. And then you’ve got a team like Maryland that has to travel, and they had a better of strength of schedule. Even though their RPI wasn’t as strong, you could argue that they had more quality wins. There’s always going to be those discussions, but I think for the most part, the committee did a good job using the numbers.

So it sounds like you didn’t quibble with the bubble teams that got in and the bubble teams that were left out.
Stony Brook, for selfish reasons, I would have loved to see them play again because I would have liked to have seen [senior midfielder] Kevin Crowley roll out his career. But we’ve been saying it all year that Stony Brook was going to have to win the America East to get the automatic qualifier because they lost to Virginia, they lost to Cornell, and they even lost to Towson. So that’s going to drag down your numbers. They did beat Delaware, but of course Delaware won the automatic qualifier for the CAA [Colonial Athletic Association], so that was a non-issue. But at the end of the day, when you lose your automatic qualifier and your strength of schedule was 30 and your RPI was 13, that’s not going to get the job done. So I have no argument there. Harvard and Colgate, you certainly could have made arguments for them, but then you have Hofstra, who beat them both head-to-head, and that’s where that head-to-head criteria comes in.

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Pietramala explains decision to drop Hofstra from Johns Hopkins schedule

When the 16-team field of the NCAA tournament was unveiled Sunday night on ESPNU, network analysts Quint Kessenich and Paul Carcaterra discussed the first-round contest between Hofstra and third-seeded Johns Hopkins.

Kessenich and Carcaterra pointed out that the Blue Jays and Pride had played each other in the regular season every year since 2004 – until this season.

Both analysts also noted that Hofstra had handed Johns Hopkins a 14-6 thumping that began a four-game slide and contributed to the team’s first sub-.500 record since 1971 and that Pride coach Seth Tierney, who had served as the Blue Jays’ offensive coordinator for six years, might use that snub as motivation prior to the two sides meeting on Saturday at 12 p.m.

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May 5, 2011

Johns Hopkins understands what awaits on Friday night

Hardly anyone would mistake Johns Hopkins as a sacrificial lamb, but the team is aware of what awaits when it travels to West Point, N.Y. to take on Army at Michie Stadium on Friday night.

The No. 15 Black Knights (9-5) will celebrate the careers of 12 outgoing seniors in their regular-season home finale. They also have a shot at upsetting the No. 4 Blue Jays (11-2) and further strengthening their candidacy for an at-large bid in the NCAA tournament.

Johns Hopkins coach Dave Pietramala said the coaches have taken pains to address the circumstances surrounding Friday’s contest.

“We’ve told them that we’re playing a team that we believe is going to put forth its very best effort,” Pietramala said Wednesday. “We believe it’s a team that’s going to play extremely hard. … They’re a very poised group. I think they’ve shown that. They are a group that is going to be very motivated. It’s their Senior Night. It’s a playoff game for them, and it’s a group that is very well-coached.”

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May 3, 2011

Army taking aim at Johns Hopkins for a shot at NCAA tournament

Army’s season isn’t over yet.

Despite falling to No. 14 Colgate in the semifinals of the Patriot League tournament on Friday, the No. 15 Black Knights could insert itself into the conversation for a berth by defeating No. 4 Johns Hopkins in the regular-season finale for both teams on Friday night.

Army (9-5) has an RPI of 23, but beating the Blue Jays would raise that ranking and give the team another quality win to add to tagging an 11-9 decision against No. 2 Cornell on March 5.

Coach Joe Alberici chuckled when asked if Friday’s game had taken on must-win proportions.

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May 2, 2011

Q&A with ESPN's Mark Dixon

ESPN analyst and former Johns Hopkins midfielder Mark Dixon will provide commentary for the next installment of the “War on the Shore” series between No. 1 Salisbury and Washington on Saturday at 1 p.m. Dixon discussed his candidate for the top seed in the NCAA tournament, Virginia’s performance on the heels of a major personnel shakeup, and Maryland’s bid for a top-eight seed and a home game.

With No. 1 Notre Dame falling to No. 3 Syracuse, 11-8, on Saturday, who is your candidate with the inside track for the top seed in the NCAA tournament?
I think the No. 1 seed right now is Syracuse. The reason is when you look at the three main criteria for the NCAA selection committee, it’s RPI, strength of schedule and quality wins, and I think Syracuse has all of those wrapped up. Their RPI was already No. 1 going into this weekend. The SOS hasn’t been put out yet, but I’d be shocked if they weren’t in the top three. And when you look at their quality wins, you’re talking about [No. 4] Johns Hopkins, Notre Dame, [No. 9] Virginia, [No. 7] Duke, [No. 5] Denver and [No. 13] Villanova. They just have all three of those wrapped up. They play St. John’s in their final and minus any catastrophe there, Syracuse will be the No. 1 seed.

What did you think of Virginia’s 11-2 win against No. 16 Penn in light of the program’s decision to dismiss senior midfielder Shamel Bratton and suspend indefinitely his twin brother Rhamel Bratton?
I wasn’t surprised, to be honest with you. [ESPN analyst] Quint Kessenich and I did a segment a couple weeks ago for Inside Lacrosse called “Quint vs. Dixon: Buy or sell Virginia?” and I said sell. The main reason was the team chemistry. You could just tell that things weren’t right with the team chemistry. So the players stepped up, voted to have Rhamel suspended and Shamel dismissed from the team, and that’s huge. When you’re looking around the locker room, those are the guys you go to battle with in terms of the lacrosse field every single day in practice and then on gameday against other schools, and they made the decision that they didn’t want them there. Virginia has problems in addition to the Brattons with the defense being very suspect. But they did a tremendous job [Saturday]. They made some adjustments. [Senior long-stick midfielder] Bray Malphrus played down at the close, and [redshirt junior defenseman] Chris Clements went up to long-stick midfield. I like [sophomore] Harry Prevas back there. [Senior] Adam Ghitelman is a good goalie who can make saves when given the opportunity. To beat Penn, 11-2, at home, I thought it was a statement win, and I liked the way this offense still has weapons. They still have [junior attackmen] Steele Stanwick and Chris Bocklet and [junior] Colin Briggs in the midfield. So this team still has an explosive offense. It’s just a question of whether or not this defense can pull it together. But I think for this team – in terms of the off-field distractions – the soap opera is done and the drama is finished. Shamel Bratton has been dismissed from the team. Sure, they’ll miss him on the field in terms of his ability and what he brought to the table as an electric offensive lacrosse player. But they don’t have to put up with all of the other stuff, and they can really just focus on winning games now and doing the best that they can without the whole sideshow.

What was the most surprising result of the weekend?
Two things stood out to me. One was the Syracuse offense and how they were able to pick apart the Notre Dame defense. I was really impressed with them being able to penetrate that Irish defense, and I think the big key to that from where I was sitting was [junior attackman] Tom Palasek. His ability to dodge off the corner, get about goal-line extended, create slides, create defensive rotations really opened up a lot of things for the Syracuse offense. And when you can get the ball into [senior attackman] Stephen Keogh, forget about it. That guy’s going to finish. He’s a tremendous goal scorer, and that’s what they were able to do. I was impressed with the play of the second midfield unit, [redshirt sophomore] Steve Ianzito in particular. I think the second biggest surprise wasn’t that [No. 12] Bucknell won the Patriot League championship, but how they did it in such dominating fashion. This is a team right now that is really gelling, and I think they’re peaking at the time that you want a team to peak. I just really love that trio that they have on the offensive end in [senior attackman Mike] Danylyshyn, [senior midfielder Ryan] Klipstein and [junior midfielder] Charlie Streep.

I’ve seen a few projected brackets that don’t have No. 6 Maryland getting a top-eight seed and a home game in the first round of the NCAA tournament. Agree or disagree?
I think Maryland is a top-eight seed and that they will get a home game. When you look at their body of work, their RPI is a little low right now at 11. Their strength of schedule is probably going to be anywhere between eight and 13, but if you look at their wins – the win over Duke in the ACC championship, the win over North Carolina in the ACC tournament – in my opinion, they’re going to get the home game. The RPI and the SOS are a little bit low, but when I look at my top eight, I’ve got Villanova, Bucknell and maybe Penn on the outside looking in. If I compare the resumes of those teams to Maryland’s, I guess Villanova would be the one that would be the most problematic with an RPI of four. But I think their strength of schedule is going to be much lower than Maryland’s. I see the Terps getting seeded anywhere between six and eight. And remember, they still have to play [No. 14] Colgate at home next weekend. That’s going to be a huge game for Colgate because if they can win, that would keep them alive. For Maryland, that’s a good win. Not an eye-popping win, but a good win.

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May 1, 2011

Postscript from Loyola at Johns Hopkins

In less than a year, Johns Hopkins has already reversed a troubling trend.

A season removed from absorbing three one-goal losses en route to the program’s first sub-.500 campaign, the No. 4 Blue Jays have won four one-goal contests this spring.

Johns Hopkins (11-2) added to that string on Saturday by holding off No. 18 Loyola, 8-7, at Homewood Field in Baltimore.

The Blue Jays, who have edged No. 6 Maryland, No. 8 North Carolina and No. 9 Virginia by one goal each, are 40-15 under coach Dave Pietramala in one-goal games.

After last season’s 7-8 record, Pietramala joked that he’s happy with any victory, but he conceded that he’s enjoyed witnessing the character this current squad has shown.

“I like that we found a way to win,” he said. “I like that we got the stop we needed to get. I like that when we needed to extend that lead by one more goal, we got it. I thought [sophomore midfielder] Lee Coppersmith’s goal [at the end of the second quarter] was a big one. I like that we feel good about putting our faceoff guy out there and knowing that we’ve got a pretty darn good chance of coming up with the ball. I like that.”

Just as he did in the 10-9 decision against North Carolina on April 3, senior faceoff specialist Matt Dolente won Saturday’s final draw. Although the offense would later cough up the ball, Dolente said he doesn’t mind bearing the burden of winning that key faceoff.

“We’ve been in that situation a few times this year where you need to come up with a faceoff late, and we’ve had good results and bad results,” he said. “But I think we feel comfortable in that situation. We’ve been in that situation before, and I was confident that we could come away with a win there.”

Other notes:

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April 30, 2011

Loyola at Johns Hopkins: Halftime thoughts

Johns Hopkins has seized control of what began as a tight contest, taking advantage of a 3-0 run to end the second quarter and take a 6-3 lead into halftime against Loyola at Homewood Field in Baltimore on Saturday.

The No. 18 Greyhounds (8-3) took a 1-0 lead after senior attackman Chris Palmer scored 6 minutes, 46 seconds into the first quarter, and both sides traded goals until the score was 3-3 with 9:14 left in the second period.

But the No. 4 Blue Jays (10-2) got goals from sophomore midfielder John Ranagan, freshman midfielder Rob Guida and sophomore midfielder Lee Coppersmith over a span of 3:08 to take the three-goal advantage into intermission.

Johns Hopkins is virtually assured of a spot in the NCAA tournament. Loyola will be the No. 2 seed in the Eastern College Athletic Conference tournament at Denver on Thursday night, but a win against the Blue Jays could strengthen the school’s candidacy for an at-large bid.

Other notes:

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Loyola at Johns Hopkins: Three things to watch

The rivalry between these Charles Street programs resumes, but the scales have been severely in favor of Johns Hopkins, which is 45-3 in this series. No. 18 Loyola (8-3) is riding a five-game winning streak after enduring a three-game skid in an eight-day span in March. Meanwhile, the No. 4 Blue Jays (10-2) has also won five consecutive games after dropping a 5-4 double-overtime decision to then-No. 1 Syracuse on March 19. Here are a few factors that could influence the outcome at Homewood Field in Baltimore on Saturday.

1) Slowing down Dolente. Johns Hopkins has demonstrated a knack for turning a defensive stop or turnover or a faceoff win into a transition opportunity. That latter scenario has caught the attention of the Greyhounds, who hope that senior faceoff specialist John Schiavone (107-of-191 for ..560) can neutralize Blue Jays senior Matt Dolente (138-of-206 for .670). “I think you’ve got to have the ball, to start,” Loyola coach Charley Toomey said. “I’m not going to say that we’re going to slow the tempo of the game down because right now, we need to score goals when we have those opportunities, and if it dictates that we’ve got to play fast, then that’s what we need to do. I really believe that the difference for Johns Hopkins over the last two months has been that Dolente has really come on. He’s a real force at the X, and he’s giving them possessions. … We know we’ve got our hands full.”

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Coaches at Johns Hopkins and Loyola praise the Dwan brothers

Friday’s edition of The Sun included a feature on the relationship between Bill and Matt Dwan, who are the respective defensive coordinators for Johns Hopkins and Loyola.

Bill Dwan has been by coach Dave Pietramala’s side since 2001, and Pietramala said there’s a reason why Dwan is the associate head coach.

“I think Bill Dwan is a guy that’s very, very underappreciated,” Pietramala said. “I say that because he is a guy that has no desire to get credit. He is a guy that thrives on being in the background. He is a guy that will make a tremendous head coach when that time comes. But he means more to this program than anybody has any clue.”

Pietramala said one of Dwan’s essential qualities is his ability to gauge Pietramala’s demeanor and take the opposite approach. That would seem to be beneficial considering that Pietramala is not shy about sharing his thoughts with the players when mistakes are made.

Pietramala also said that while the team is getting ready for the next opponent, Dwan is in charge of scouting the opponent after that. That worked well in 2007 when the Blue Jays limited Delaware faceoff specialist Alex Smith, NCAA record holder in several categories, to just 7-of-15 wins in an NCAA tournament semifinal.

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April 24, 2011

Postscript from Navy at Johns Hopkins

Johns Hopkins has traditionally been known for its stifling defense. But the offense is beginning to make some noise.

The Blue Jays (10-2) have reached double digits in goals in every game this season but two, and both of those turned out to be losses (to Princeton and Syracuse). Over the last six quarters and one overtime period, the offense has lit up No. 8 Maryland and Navy for 24 goals.

“I think we’ve done a good job being patient, and when we’re in a groove and distributing the ball and everyone’s getting touches, I think we’re clicking pretty well,” said senior attackman Chris Boland, who recorded two goals and two assists in Johns Hopkins’ 14-5 pasting of the Midshipmen at Homewood Field in Baltimore on Saturday night. “… That first half against Maryland [when the team trailed, 7-2, at halftime], we kind of weren’t doing the little things. We weren’t being disciplined, and we weren’t dodging hard to get to goal, drawing slides. I think we did a good job of that today for 60 minutes for probably the first time since Delaware. So we know we’re capable of it, and it was good to be able to put it together at this time.”

The Blue Jays’ usually conservative scheme appears to have been tweaked by offensive coordinator Bobby Benson, who has been trusting playmakers like Boland, sophomore attackman Zach Palmer and sophomore midfielder John Ranagan to be more creative and aggressive with the ball.

“I think we’re having a lot of fun playing this year,” Palmer acknowledged. “Not to say anything bad about our team last year, but this feels a lot more fun this year, and everyone’s kind of clicking well together and obviously playing well to this point. We’ve got to keep going with that.”

Still, coach Dave Pietramala wasn’t entirely pleased with the offensive output, noting that Navy outscored Johns Hopkins, 5-4, in the second half.

“The first two quarters were great,” he said. “We were unselfish. And we’re a young team, and we talked them right at the end that we have to show some more maturity. We can’t come out and say, ‘OK, I’m going to get my goals.’ We’ve just got to keep doing what we’re supposed to do. So we’ve still got some growing up to do, but I’m happy with the offense, and Bobby’s done a really great job with those guys.”

Other notes:

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April 23, 2011

Navy at Johns Hopkins: Halftime thoughts

Johns Hopkins is continuing its dominance over area rivals, taking a 10-0 advantage into halftime against visiting Navy at Homewood Field in Baltimore Saturday night.

The No. 4 Blue Jays, who have won four consecutive games, scored two goals in the first 51 seconds of the contest – both within a six-second span – and scored three goals on its first four shots.

Johns Hopkins (9-2) converted 2-of-4 man-up chances in the first quarter and 3-of-5 in the first half, has taken 27 shots, and collected 11 more ground balls.

Under coach Dave Pietramala, the Blue Jays are 51-4 against their in-state rivals, including 10-1 against the Midshipmen. Navy’s lone win in the series occurred last season when the Midshipmen snapped a 36-game skid to Johns Hopkins.

Navy (4-8), which has dropped four straight contests, is in danger of compiling the most losses in a single season under coach Richie Meade since he took over the program prior to the 1995 season.

Other notes:

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Navy at Johns Hopkins: Three things to watch

Navy (4-8) limps into this annual contest on a four-game losing skid and in danger of absorbing the most losses in a single season under coach Richie Meade. On the flipside, Johns Hopkins (9-2) is enjoying a four-game winning streak and will likely be eager to avenge last year’s 9-8 overtime loss to the Midshipmen that snapped a 36-game losing streak to the Blue Jays. Here are a few factors that could influence the outcome at Homewood Field in Baltimore on Saturday.

1) Track the ball. Senior attackman Chris Boland is generally regarded as the quarterback of the Blue Jays offense, but several players on that side can initiate the action. Sophomore attackman Zach Palmer leads the team in assists (16), sophomore midfielder John Ranagan and Boland each have more than 10 helpers, and sophomore midfielder John Greeley (9) and senior attackman Kyle Ranagan (6) aren’t too far behind. “One of the other things that impresses me is they all play from different places,” Navy coach Richie Meade said. “You can’t say this guy is always on the crease or this guy is always behind. They do a good job of interchanging. … They’re pretty scripted, and they have certain things they like to do. But after that, they’re pretty good at finding each other and using their skills. So I don’t think you can say that you have to focus on Boland. He might be considered the quarterback, but you’ve got to be able to defend the rest of them.”

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April 21, 2011

Tewaaraton whittled down to 25

The Tewaaraton watch list was whittled down to 25 players earlier in the week and three Maryland players are among the nominees for the aaward given annually to the top collegiate player.

Senior attackmen Grant Catalino and Ryan Young and long-stick midfielder Brian Farrell represent the Terps on that list.

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Navy doesn't have to look far for motivation

With no Patriot League tournament on the horizon for the first time since the school joined the conference for the 2004 campaign, Navy has centered all of its attention on a singular focus.

“We can beat Johns Hopkins,” coach Richie Meade said Wednesday of the team’s regular-season finale on Saturday night. “When the press looks at a game, they look at all the implications of that game. When we look at the game, we’re trying to play as well as we possibly can, trying to do things better than we did last week, and trying to take a step forward. We’ve got a great group of seniors playing in their last game in a Navy uniform, and we’ve got a bunch of freshmen and sophomores that have never played at Homewood Field, and this is a great challenge for them. And we’ve got a bunch of juniors that are going to be leaders of our team next year. So we want to play well. We want to rebound from what was a very disheartening loss [to Army on Saturday].”

Rather than wallow in despair, the players have taken out some of their frustrations in practice and in the weight room. Meade said the players had a tougher-than-usual practice on Monday at a time when the coaching staff would usually go lighter to preserve the players for making a run at the postseason.

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Johns Hopkins' Greeley unfazed by outside expectations

Less than two years ago, John Greeley entered the Johns Hopkins program as the No. 1 recruit, according to Inside Lacrosse. Depending on whom you talk to, the results haven’t lived up to those lofty expectations.

Midway through his second season as a starter, the sophomore midfielder ranks fourth among the Blue Jays in assists (9) and fifth in points (17). Those numbers are a significant improvement from his freshman year when he registered just eight points on six goals and two assists.

Greeley conceded that his progression hasn’t been as smooth as anticipated.

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April 20, 2011

Boland to return to Johns Hopkins for 2012

Johns Hopkins coach Dave Pietramala confirmed Wednesday morning that leading scorer Chris Boland has another year of eligibility and will be back for the 2012 season.

Boland, an attackman who is listed as a senior on the team’s website and media guide, spent his first season in 2007 as a reserve. He withdrew from school in 2008 before returning to lead the Blue Jays in scoring the following year. And the 2010 campaign was cut short after two games due to a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee.

Pietramala, who jokingly referred to the Columbia native and Boys’ Latin graduate as a “23rd-year senior,” said Boland’s presence next year should help guide a youthful squad that could graduate as many as nine seniors, including attackman Kyle Wharton, faceoff specialist Matt Dolente, short-stick defensive midfielder Tim Donovan and long-stick midfielders Ben Smith and Orry Michael.

“It’s important because I think Chris is learning to be a good leader and you can’t measure how important a guy like he is,” Pietramala said. “The impact those kids have on a program is immeasurable. So he’ll be back and then you’ve got this soon-to-be junior group that has hopefully been taught the right way to do things. 

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April 18, 2011

Q&A with CBS Sports Network's Steve Panarelli

CBS Sports Network analyst and former Syracuse All-American defenseman Steve Panarelli will provide commentary on Saturday’s Patriot League showdown between No. 12 Bucknell and No. 14 Colgate. On Sunday, he discussed his choice to replace Syracuse as the country’s No. 1 team, Johns Hopkins’ odds to win the national title and his favorite to win the Tewaaraton Award.

Were you surprised that top-ranked Syracuse was upset by No. 9 Cornell, 11-6, on Tuesday night?
A little bit surprised. I was fortunate to see Cornell play against Harvard that previous Saturday, and they looked good. Harvard did some stuff to lock up Pannell, and it kind of kept them in the game. But I knew Syracuse wouldn’t do. they weren’t going to lock up someone because they’ve got too much pride on defensive end to do that. And when [senior] John Lade went out of the game, that’s a match-up problem for anybody when you lose your best defenseman. And Syracuse has played in a lot of close games, but they haven’t really taken that next step, especially offensively, to where they put people away. So did it surprise me? No. I still thought they would’ve won at home, but Cornell’s definitely a good team, and Syracuse has been kind of up and down, wining some close games, but not being as oimpressive as they should have been by now.

If Lade, who did not play in Saturday's 13-3 win against Providence, is out for an extended period of time, how will his absence impact the Orange?
I think that would be huge for them because right now, they’re not dominating the faceoffs. So they’re playing a little more defense than usual, and they’re not putting up the goals that Syracuse is accustomed to. I think if they’re going to make a run and win it this year, they’re going to do it from the defensive end, which is kind of different for them in years past. They used to ride their offense and win close games, 16-15, or something like that. So if he’s out for an extended period, I think that’s going to have a huge impact, especially when they play these teams that have a dominant attackman. That’s when he needs to be playing.

So with Syracuse losing, who is the No. 1 team in the country in your opinion?
I think you have to go with Notre Dame. At the same time, I think it’s a tough call because right now, there are at least eight or nine teams that you could make an argument for that can make a run and win the whole thing. I don’t think there’s been a clear-cut No. 1 where one team is 100 times better than everybody. The parity this year has been unbelievable. I was talking about this with somebody recently, but I think the quarterfinals [of the NCAA tournament] are going to be the best we’ve ever seen because there are eight or nine teams that can legitimately win the whole thing. So when you get down to the quarterfinals, you’re looking at Final Four-type match-ups in that round, which is going to be interesting.

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April 17, 2011

Postscript from Johns Hopkins at Maryland

Maryland did it again, squandering an early sizable lead and falling to a longtime rival.

But unlike that 11-6 loss to North Carolina on March 26, the No. 7 Terps said the 12-11 overtime setback to No. 3 Johns Hopkins at Byrd Stadium in College Park felt differently Saturday night.

“We kind of just put that game in the past,” senior attackman Ryan Young said of the loss to the Tar Heels, who roared back from a 4-0 deficit in the first quarter. “It’s not like we completely collapsed – like we were scared to make plays. It’s Hopkins-Maryland, and today was a completely different game, a completely different atmosphere. We went on our run, they went on their run.”

The Terps (8-3) owned a 7-2 advantage at halftime, but looked helpless as the Blue Jays (9-2) went on a 9-2 run spanning the third and fourth quarters. Maryland coach John Tillman pointed out that rather than wilting, the team scored two goals in a 62-second span to send the contest into overtime.

“They could’ve packed it in,” he said. “The other team had the momentum, and it shows a lot about our guys. When things went poorly, I was very impressed with just the body language, the attitude, the calmness, the poise, the leadership that we had on the sideline. We get back in it, we have a chance to win it late in regulation and overtime. … I think what we showed is we’re making progress. A lot is going to happen in the next six weeks, and hopefully, we can continue to improve and grow and work on some things so that we can poise ourselves for a big run here.”

The first step is the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament where the Terps will face – guess who? – North Carolina (8-4) in the first semifinal on Friday at 5 p.m. in Durham, N.C.

“We’re just going to come back on Monday fired up like we always are and get ready for our first ACC game,” Young said. “Our goal is ACC championship. We’re not dwelling on this game.”

Other notes:

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April 16, 2011

Johns Hopkins at Maryland: Halftime thoughts

No. 7 Maryland has jumped out to a 7-2 advantage at halftime over No. 3 Johns Hopkins at Byrd Stadium in College Park, and the Terps have done so in stunning fashion on Saturday night.

None of the seven of the team’s goals have come from the vaunted attack of seniors Ryan Young and Grant Catalino and sophomore Owen Blye. Midfielders have scored six times, and sophomore long-stick midfielder Jesse Bernhardt got the other tally.

That’s not to suggest that the attack’s impact has been minimal. Young has been a non-stop dervish behind the net, and he has assisted on two of junior Joe Cummings’ three goals. Catalino hasn’t put a shot on net, but he has drawn sophomore defenseman Tucker Durkin Chris Lightner out of the middle of the box.

But if Maryland (8-2) is having this kind of success without goals from its attack, it could be a long evening for the Blue Jays (8-2).

Other notes:

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Johns Hopkins-Maryland to start as planned

A Maryland spokesman just announced that Saturday’s showdown between No. 3 Johns Hopkins and No. 7 Maryland at Byrd Stadium in College Park will begin at 8:03 p.m.

Halftime will be trimmed from 12 to 10 minutes, but the game should start as scheduled – barring any unexpected hiccups.

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Johns Hopkins at Maryland: Three things to watch

Bragging rights aren’t the only thing at stake when No. 3 Johns Hopkins visits No. 7 Maryland in a series that spans 116 years. The Blue Jays (8-2) have avenged last year’s losses to Virginia and North Carolina and would love to do the same against the Terps. Maryland (8-2) has won six of its last seven contests and is aiming for its first winning streak against Johns Hopkins since the 1995-96 campaigns. Here are a few factors that could influence the outcome at Byrd Stadium in College Park on Saturday.

1) Durkin and Reilly vs. Catalino and Young. Talk of the Terps offense usually begins with senior attackmen Grant Catalino and Ryan Young, each of whom recorded three points in Maryland’s 10-9 win in this rivalry last season. Young is pacing the Terps in both assists (15) and points (28) and Catalino is second in both goals (19) and points (27). That duo, which could get marked by freshman defenseman Jack Reilly and sophomore defenseman Tucker Durkin, respectively, certainly got the attention of Blue Jays coach Dave Pietramala. “There’s not a better guy in transition than Grant Catalino,” Pietramala said. “He can score from 16-plus. He’s a threat. People don’t recognize that he’s a big, strong, physical kid, and I’m watching him dodge people for some goals. So he’s extremely dangerous and difficult to match up with at times because of his size. Then you go to Ryan, and Ryan’s a different player. He’s a quarterback who is a tremendous feeder. He’s great in their big-little pick game. He can create slides, which makes things easier for Grant Catalino because now you have a defense that’s rotating and that frees his hands.”

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April 15, 2011

No time change for Johns Hopkins-Maryland showdown

Despite forecasts predicting some turbulent weather for Saturday, the annual contest between No. 3 Johns Hopkins and No. 7 Maryland at Byrd Stadium in College Park will begin at 8 p.m. as originally scheduled, according to a Maryland spokesman.

However, two games have been moved in a pre-emptive strike. The Atlantic Coast Conference showdown between No. 8 Virginia and No. 5 Duke in Durham, N.C., has been moved up one hour to 11 a.m. And the game between No. 20 Loyola and Georgetown in Washington, D.C., has been shifted from its 7 p.m. start to 3:15 p.m.

Forecasts are predicting thunderstorms and wind on Saturday with the heaviest rains projected to fall between 4 and 8 p.m.

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April 14, 2011

Johns Hopkins avoids repeat of 2010

With last Friday’s 11-6 victory over Albany, Johns Hopkins insured itself of finishing with at least a winning record.

That’s quite a contradiction from last season when the Blue Jays went 7-8, marking their first sub-.500 campaign since 1971.

Senior short-stick defensive midfielder Tim Donovan said the team – led by senior captains Chris Boland, Matt Dolente and Kyle Wharton – put itself through the grind to avoid repeating 2010.

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Johns Hopkins' Bassett, Maryland's Amato buoy respective defenses

Among the plethora of storylines seeping from Saturday’s showdown between No. 3 Johns Hopkins and No. 7 Maryland is the play of their respective goalkeepers.

Blue Jays sophomore Pierce Bassett ranks third in Division I in save percentage (.622) and fourth in goals-against average (6.16), making him one of three goalies ranked in the top five in both categories. (Notre Dame sophomore John Kemp and Hofstra junior Andrew Gvozden are the others.)

Terps redshirt freshman Niko Amato isn’t far behind, ranking second in goals-against average (6.12) and seventh in save percentage (.599). Fifth-year senior long-stick midfielder Brian Farrell said Amato has meshed easily with a defense that starts five seniors in close defensemen Brett and Max Schmidt (no relation) and Ryder Bohlander, short-stick defensive midfielder Dan Burns and Farrell himself.

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April 13, 2011

Maryland's Tillman to see a familiar face on Johns Hopkins sideline

Turns out that coaches haven’t monopolized the market on leaving one program for another.

Maryland’s success at wooing coach John Tillman away from Harvard dominated college lacrosse news in the offseason. A couple of Crimson players soon followed Tillman out the door.

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April 8, 2011

Albany at Johns Hopkins: Three things to watch

Albany (4-5) snapped a four-game skid with a 12-11 win against then-No. 20 Harvard last Saturday. On the flipside, No. 4 Johns Hopkins (7-2) is chugging right along after back-to-back decisions against a pair of top-five opponents in Virginia and North Carolina. The Blue Jays have won eight of the nine meetings between these teams, but the Great Danes did shock Johns Hopkins in the 2007 season opener. Here are a few factors that could influence the outcome at Homewood Field in Baltimore on Friday night.

1) Don’t fall into the trap. On paper, the Blue Jays would seem to be heavy favorites. But Albany, which has been plagued by a spate of injuries, appears to be fully healthy with the return of its first midfield of seniors Brian Caufield and Derek Kreuzer and junior Rocky Bonitatibus. That midfield missed the Great Danes’ contest against top-ranked Syracuse last month, but still found a way to score 13 goals en route to a five-goal loss. “What we hope is exactly what we heard in the huddle on Monday, that this is the next game, that the most important game of the season is the next game,” Johns Hopkins coach Dave Pietramala said. “We need to continue to improve, we need to continue to grow and develop, we need to prepare for every game as if it was our last. I know that’s all coach-speak and a cliché, but we can’t afford to be any different. This young team can’t afford to look beyond this week’s game.”

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Leftovers from Q&A with Johns Hopkins' Kyle Wharton

Friday’s editions included a Q&A with Johns Hopkins’ senior attackman Kyle Wharton. Due to space constraints, here are some more answers that didn’t make the cut.

Question: After experiencing last year’s disappointing campaign, how gratifying is it for the team to be 7-2 at this point of the season?
Answer: It certainly is better to be winning games. I think that’s a tribute to the team and the coaching staff and really getting out there during practice. But we’re taking it one game at a time, and we definitely want to keep on rolling here.

Q: You and fifth-year senior attackman Chris Boland are the only seniors among the 10 starters. Do you feel like the wise veteran with the younger guys?
A: Well, Chris is like 10 years older than I am. Technically, I would say that there are three seniors because Matt [Dolente] takes most of the faceoffs. But it feels good to be out there and it’s remarkable to really see the younger guys grow up right in front of you. It’s amazing to see.

Q: What’s your go-to meal?
A: Anything involving breakfast. I love pancakes, some eggs, some homefries. Especially from Pete’s Grill down the street. I’ll usually go with a couple of my roommates on Friday mornings.

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April 7, 2011

Different year, different atmosphere surrounding Johns Hopkins

The smiles hovering around Homewood Field are a drastic departure from last year’s glum expressions.

After barely qualifying for the NCAA tournament, getting bounced quickly by Duke in the first round, and compiling the program’s first losing record since 1971, Johns Hopkins is in the midst of a remarkable revival, winning seven of nine games this season and ranking fourth in The Sun’s rankings.

The reversal would seem to validate the offseason improvements that coach Dave Pietramala and his staff made, but that’s not necessarily the case.

“I think ultimately, it’s not about validation,” Pietramala said Wednesday. “It’s about us as a staff and our players doing what we’re here to do, and what we’re here to do is compete at the highest level of Division I lacrosse. Whenever you have a down year like we had, a disappointing year, your hope is that you can recognize the areas that need improvement and you’re able to do that. So I don’t think we feel validated. I think we feel that what we’re doing is what we’re supposed to be doing. We’re working hard, focused on specific areas, and we feel the areas we’re focused on are having an impact on our success.”

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April 4, 2011

Postscript from Johns Hopkins vs. North Carolina

For the second time in as many weekends, Lee Coppersmith helped propel John Hopkins to a nerve-wracking win against an elite opponent. And for the second time in as many weekends, the sophomore midfielder dodged the question of whether he deserved playing time with the first line.

“I can’t say that,” Coppersmith said after his goal with 1:52 remaining in the fourth quarter lifted the No. 6 Blue Jays to a 10-9 decision against No. 5 North Carolina at the Konica Minolta Big City Classic at The New Meadowlands Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., on Sunday. “All I can say is I’m going to work as hard as I can to do what I can do and be the best that I can be. I can only control what I can control and let the chips fall where they may.”

There was some speculation that Coppersmith might start against the Tar Heels after sophomore midfielder John Greeley absorbed a hard hit and missed part of the second quarter and all of the second half of the team’s 12-11 win against then-No. 2 Virginia last Saturday.

But Greeley got the nod, and Coppersmith, who scored his first career hat trick against the Cavaliers, ran on the second line.

While coach Dave Pietramala said Coppersmith’s showings haven’t altered his stance on the team’s first midfield, he said he was happy for Coppersmith, who has just as many goals (seven) as Greeley does this season.

“It’s just thrilling to see a kid kind of come of age right in front of your eyes,” Pietramala said. “He gets three against Virginia and now he gets the game-winning goal. That’s a guy who has all the ability in the world, but just hasn’t put it all together. It’s really been a lot of fun for all of us to watch.”

Coppersmith, who scored two goals last season, said his development is ongoing.

“I definitely feel like I’m growing, but I’ve got to continue to work hard in practice,” he said. “That’s where it starts and ends. Saturdays and Sundays are what determine losses, but practice is where you’ve got to impress the coaches the most.”

Other notes:

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April 3, 2011

Johns Hopkins vs. North Carolina: Halftime thoughts

Johns Hopkins did not leave its offense behind in Baltimore as the No. 6 Blue Jays enjoy an 8-5 advantage over No. 5 North Carolina at the Konica Minolta Big City Classic at The New Meadowlands Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., on Sunday.

Johns Hopkins, which entered the contest ranked 11th in Division I in scoring with an 11.1 goals-per-game average, scored the game’s first four goals with senior attackman Kyle Wharton bookending the run with a pair of goals.

But the Tar Heels (7-2) roared back courtesy of senior attackman Billy Bitter, who beat freshman defenseman Jack Reilly and scored three straight at the 8:37, 6:43 and 1:38 marks of the first quarter. After his third goal, the Blue Jays finally replaced Reilly with sophomore Tucker Durkin.

North Carolina knotted the score at five by scoring two of the first three goals of the second frame, but Johns Hopkins rallied back with three goals in a span of 39 seconds.

Sophomore midfielder John Ranagan scored from the left alley with 2:08 before halftime, then he fed sophomore attackman Zach Palmer for a one-time with 1:47 remaining, and senior attackman Chris Boland scored from point-blank range with 1:29 left.

Other notes:

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Johns Hopkins vs. North Carolina: Three things to watch

Both Johns Hopkins and North Carolina have been buoyed by fairly important victories last Saturday. The No. 6 Blue Jays (6-2) snapped a six-game losing skid to then-No. 2 Virginia with a 12-11 decision, while the No. 5 Tar Heels (7-2) scored a decisive 11-6 win against No. 9 Maryland. Johns Hopkins has dropped the last four meetings in this series. Here are a few factors that could influence the outcome at the Konica Minolta Big City Classic at The New Meadowlands Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., on Sunday.

1) Balance on defense. The first priority of many opponents is to try to take North Carolina senior attackman Billy Bitter out of the equation. But there’s a risk as the Terps learned last Saturday when Bitter were shut out, but the Tar Heels’ freshmen class accounted for seven goals and seven assists. That’s why Blue Jays coach Dave Pietramala is cautious about focusing too much attention on Bitter. “If you want to take away Billy Bitter, then you’re going to have to deal with [freshman attackman and leading scorer] Nicky Galasso,” Pietramala said. “If you want to take away Nicky Galasso, then you’re going to have to deal with Billy Bitter. [Junior attackman] Thomas Wood did not play, and when he gets back into the fold, that’s a pretty talented group that seems to be playing very well. So do you want the freshmen to be the ones to beat you? You’ve got to pick your poison, and you’ve got to decide how you’re going to defend them and what you want to try to take away. In doing so, you’re going to give up something elsewhere, and the question is, what’s the right thing to take away and what’s the right thing to give up. Up until this point, they haven’t lost many times, and they’ve seen two poles, they’ve seen a bunch of zones. They’re playing very, very well offensively, and we’re going to have to do a very good job of being careful.”

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March 31, 2011

Perseverance pays off for North Carolina

Trailing 4-1 at the end of the first quarter against an energized rival and in a hostile environment might have been the death knell for North Carolina a few years ago.

But rather than fold, the Tar Heels rallied to convincingly beat then-No. Maryland, 11-6, on Saturday at Byrd Stadium in College Park.

“I think for our young guys to go up there at this point in the season and just play with the confidence that they had, just staying the course was the biggest thing,” recalled North Carolina coach Joe Breschi, who burned through his two first-half timeouts within the first nine minutes of the contest. “Now they’re looking at you with both eyes instead of one in the huddle, saying, ‘You know what? You’re right. If we stay the course, maybe good things will happen.’ Not that we’ll win every game, but we’ll have a chance to win every game, and that’s all we asked our guys. … I think for us, it was a game that we matured in and got better. It didn’t start off the way everybody anticipated on our end. They took it to us, but we were able to withhold and stay in it long enough to get our own act together.”

The Tar Heels, who improved to 7-2 and moved to No. 5 in The Sun’s latest rankings, get another test Sunday at the Konica Minolta Big City Classic when they meet No. 6 Johns Hopkins (6-2) at The New Meadowlands Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J.

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Greeley or Coppersmith for Johns Hopkins?

With sophomore midfielder John Greeley recovering from a hard hit in Johns Hopkins’ 12-11 win against then-No. 2 Virginia last Saturday, Lee Coppersmith may be in line for his first career start.

While characterizing Greeley as “day-to-day,” coach Dave Pietramala seemed to acknowledge that Greeley, who did not return to Saturday’s game after leaving in the second quarter, may not be available and that Coppersmith could suit up for the No. 6 Blue Jays’ contest against No. 5 North Carolina at the Konica Minolta Big City Classic at the New Meadowlands Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., on Sunday.

“That decision might be made for us. You just don’t know,” Pietramala said. “But just because a guy gets injured doesn’t mean that he loses his position. As a staff, you sit down and make the determinations about what’s best for the team, but John Greeley’s been a mainstay and one of the reasons why we’re 6-2. So just because a guy gets hit and gets knocked out of a game, it’s awful tough for him to lose his spot just because of that.”

Coppersmith scored three goals against the Cavaliers while filling in for Greeley on the first midfield with sophomore John Ranagan and freshman Rob Guida. But Pietramala said he was more impressed with another facet of the sophomore midfielder’s performance.

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March 30, 2011

No cause for alarm around Virginia

Losing is a rarity for Virginia, which has lost just 19 times since 2005. Which is why the No. 7 Cavaliers were itching to return to the practice field Monday and Tuesday after Saturday’s 12-11 loss to No. 6 Johns Hopkins.

“I think we were anxious to get back on the practice field,” coach Dom Starsia said Tuesday. “That’s usually how it works. When you come off a loss, everybody’s anxious to get to it. I know for me, you kind of sit around and stew a little bit on Sunday, and you’re always glad to be back with the team on the practice field. And we had a spirited workout. So it was good.”

Virginia may have fallen in the rankings after the setback on Saturday, but the team is still 7-2 with victories over high-quality opponents like No. 8 Cornell, No. 11 Delaware and No. 18 Drexel. And with upcoming contests against No. 4 Duke, No. 5 North Carolina, No. 9 Maryland and No. 16 Penn, the Cavaliers are assured of running through a schedule that will earn points with the NCAA tournament selection committee in early May.

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March 28, 2011

Q&A with ESPN's Mark Dixon

ESPN analyst and former Johns Hopkins midfielder Mark Dixon will provide commentary on Saturday’s contest between Colonial Athletic Association rivals Towson and Hofstra at Johnny Unitas Stadium in Towson on Saturday. Prior to then, Dixon was kind enough to discuss why he thinks Notre Dame could be the last undefeated team left in Division I, whether 1-5 Princeton can still make the NCAA tournament, and how Duke has reeled off six consecutive wins since a 1-2 start.

Question: Of the two remaining undefeated teams in Division I, does top-ranked Syracuse (7-0) or No. 3 Notre Dame (6-0) have a better chance of staying that way before these two meet on April 30?
Answer: I think both of them have the best defenses in the country. I think Notre Dame probably plays – on paper – the “easier” schedule. They did beat Rutgers [Sunday], 8-3, and they continue to lean on that defense and cobble goals together. Syracuse is a team that has shown that it can play any style that’s necessary to win. They can run or they can play slow-down. They didn’t shoot particularly well [Saturday] night against Villanova. Notre Dame still has to play Villanova [on Saturday], which should be a great game. Probably in my heart of hearts, I’d say that Notre Dame may have a better chance of being undefeated, but if both of them are undefeated on April 30 when they play one another, I won’t be surprised at all.

Q: What was the most surprising result of the weekend?
A: Obviously, Hopkins beating Virginia was surprising. I thought the game would be close, but I didn’t necessarily think that Hopkins was going to beat Virginia just based on the offensive firepower that the Cavaliers possess. I guess the second surprise would be North Carolina beating Maryland. I thought Maryland would win that game maybe by three or four goals. And not only that Maryland lost, but the fact that it was freshmen from North Carolina that led the charge offensively. I think the freshmen combined for 14 points in that game – seven goals and seven assists. So that surprised me as well.

Q: What does the 12-11 win against No. 2 Virginia mean for No. 9 Johns Hopkins?
A: One, it gives them a marquee victory. It gives them a win that when you couple it with their strength of schedule – and last year, the argument was, who did Hopkins beat? – it’s a quality win. It also gives those kids a lot of excitement and a lot of personal satisfaction. I was at the game [Saturday], and I was sitting with my family at the scoreboard end [of Homewood Field in Baltimore], and when the game ended, these guys were running onto the field and jumping on one another. I was thinking to myself, “Wow, that’s kind of unusual for a Dave Pietramala team to be celebrating like that.” But when you consider what that senior class has been through, they haven’t beaten Syracuse, they haven’t beaten North Carolina, and they hadn’t beaten Virginia until [Saturday]. So to have that victory and to be able to savor that and enjoy it, I think it means a lot to them. It means a lot for their confidence, it means a marquee win that will go a long way on Selection Sunday should they be able to handle their business in relatively decent fashion from here on out. But I’m sure that Dave Pietramala is already hitting on this theme, that one win and one game does not make a season. They’ve got North Carolina up next, a team they haven’t beaten in three seasons. Then they’ve got a tough Albany squad, which has shown the ability to beat anybody when healthy and when they execute. And then of course, they’ve got Maryland. So it doesn’t get any easier, but I think this gives this group a lot to build on, a lot of confidence, and a lot to be proud of.

Q: On the flipside, what does the 11-6 loss to No. 7 North Carolina mean for No. 6 Maryland?
A: That’s such a senior-laden team, and to get beat at home after being up, 4-1, by essentially a bunch of freshmen, I think that’s got to be disheartening. Everyone has pointed to that [senior attackman] Ryan Young stick penalty as the turning point of the game, but if you remember, near the end of that first quarter when Maryland was up 4-1, they had a goal disallowed after a player was pushed into the crease prior to the shot being released, and once a player enters the crease in any way, shape or form, the play is blown dead immediately if the offense is still in possession of the ball. And on the next play, they hit a pipe. So instead of being up – potentially – 5-1 going into that second quarter, it’s only 4-1. So you had three things that didn’t go their way and kind of stole their momentum. If I’m Maryland, I’m looking at a couple of things. One, I’m looking at the team defense overall. I think teams are getting way too many inside looks against Maryland. [Goalkeeper] Niko Amato was great against Towson, he was terrific against UMBC, and he wasn’t that great [Saturday]. That’s going to happen. Everybody has on off day. And he’s a redshirt freshman who is fronted by all seniors – [defenseman] Ryder Bohlander, the Schmidts [Brett and Max], [long-stick midfielder Brian] Farrell, [short-stick defensive midfielder] Danny Burns. So I think Maryland’s defense has to do a better job of not giving up shots inside. And two, I think the offense has to do a better job of finishing. When you win 15-of-20 faceoffs and you win the ground balls, you’ve got to shoot the ball better. Right now, [senior attackman Grant] Catalino is the only outside threat. This team desperately misses [senior attackman] Travis Reed. He was having a nice 2011, and he’s got that heavy left-handed shot. You put Catalino on the right, Reed on the left, and that really opens a lot of things up. Now teams are keying on Catalino or playing zone and daring other players to beat them from the outside, and it’s just not happening for Maryland. But Maryland’s got Virginia, Navy, Johns Hopkins, so Maryland has a lot of opportunity in front of them.

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March 27, 2011

Postscript from Virginia at Johns Hopkins

After compiling the program’s first sub-.500 season since 1971 and starting eight sophomores and freshman this year, Johns Hopkins wasn’t expected to seriously challenge the rest of Division I for the national championship.

But after extending top-ranked Syracuse to overtime on March 19 and nipping No. 2 Virginia by a goal on Saturday, the No. 9 Blue Jays may have to set their aim a little higher.

Johns Hopkins (6-2) is still a young squad and prone to bouts of inconsistency and ineffectiveness. Just look at the 63-second span of the third quarter when the Blue Jays allowed the Cavaliers to score four consecutive goals to turn a 9-5 deficit into a 9-9 tie with 33 seconds left in the third quarter.

But the team bounced back, getting the game-winner from fifth-year senior attackman Chris Boland with 1:39 remaining.

Coach Dave Pietramala conceded that squandering the lead in the third quarter worried him.

“Doubt can start to creep in, and we’ve talked with this team about not having any doubt, believing in itself,” he said. “Like I said, I watched us grow up last week, and I watched us grow up in a losing effort. We played the game, and we played it to the best of our ability. Well, we turned around and did the same. To the guys’ credit, they never panicked. … The guys kept their composure.”

Aside from Boland’s three-goal, one-assist effort and senior midfielder Mark Goodrich’s lone goal, the remaining eight goals and four assists came from the sticks of freshmen and sophomores.

“We have a young team, and we expect that out of them,” Boland said. “… It’s good that these guys have confidence and to get a good win like this, but it’s back to another tough game and another good week of practice.”

Indeed, the schedule doesn’t get any easier with Johns Hopkins taking on No. 7 North Carolina at the Big City Classic at the New Meadowlands Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., on Sunday. The Tar Heels (7-2) blasted No. 6 Maryland (6-2), 11-6, on Saturday.

“Now to be honest with you, I told the team last week that how we handle the Syracuse win would define our team,” Pietramala said. “I think we handled it pretty well. I’ll reiterate that to them again. How we handle this one will continue to define our team.”

Other notes:

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March 26, 2011

Virginia at Johns Hopkins: Halftime thoughts

In what could be a season-changing outcome for Johns Hopkins, the No. 9 Blue Jays lead No. 2 Virginia, 7-3, at halftime at Homewood Field in Baltimore Saturday.

If Johns Hopkins (5-2) could hold on, it would be a significant win for the Blue Jays, who have dropped the last six meetings and 10 of the last 14 to the Cavaliers (7-1). In addition, Johns Hopkins has lost the last 10 contests against both Virginia and Syracuse.

The Blue Jays scored all four of the game’s first quarter goals. Sophomore attackman Matt White’s conversion of an assist from junior attackman Steele Stanwick with 9:28 left in the second quarter snapped a scoreless drought of 20 minutes, 32 seconds for the Cavaliers.

Virginia appeared to regain the momentum when the Cavaliers followed a Chris Boland goal on a 6-on-4 man-up opportunity with a shorthanded goal by junior midfielder Colin Briggs and an even-strength tally by junior attackman Chris Bocklet within a span of 80 seconds.

But back-to-back goals by sophomore midfielder Lee Coppersmith helped Johns Hopkins re-assume a four-goal advantage at intermission.

Other notes:

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Virginia at Johns Hopkins: Three things to watch

No. 2 Virginia (7-1) has survived some hiccups, but the Cavaliers have thrived against Johns Hopkins, winning the last six meetings and 10 of the last 14. The No. 9 Blue Jays took top-ranked Syracuse to double overtime, but was saddled with a 5-4 setback. Here are a few factors that could influence the outcome at Homewood Field in Baltimore.

1) Virginia is no Syracuse. One factor in Johns Hopkins’ ability to stymie the Orange a week ago was slowing the tempo and holding onto the ball for extended possessions. That kept the Orange’s high-octane offense in neutral, but it also hampered the Blue Jays offense. So coach Dave Pietramala didn’t sound too optimistic about repeating that game plan against the Cavaliers. “I’m not sure we can hold the ball as we did against Syracuse,” he said. “For one, I don’t think Virginia necessarily will allow that. And number two, we’re going to have to score some more goals, so we’re going to have to take some more chances. We didn’t get a chance to really push a lot of transition against Syracuse, and we need to do that. We need to get some more chances, and we need to be better on the extra man.”

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March 23, 2011

Virginia preparing for Johns Hopkins' methodical approach

One factor in Johns Hopkins’ ability to extend top-ranked Syracuse to double overtime last Saturday was the Blue Jays’ control of the pace of the game, slowing the tempo and possessing the ball for long stretches of time.

Johns Hopkins’ next opponent, No. 2 Virginia, is prepared for a similar tactic when the Cavaliers visit Homewood Field on Saturday.

“That’s the dilemma you face, and what the discussions in the office are, if their approach is the same, do you go out and kind of flush it out?” coach Dom Starsia said Tuesday. “The problem in a game like that is Hopkins limits their own opportunities to score goals, too. I’ve been on both ends of that situation. Syracuse is a very good defensive team. So they’re not an easy team to get chances against. I remember when it was only two years ago when we went up and played Hopkins to 16-15. I think we were up five at halftime or something like that, and Hopkins came roaring back. So I don’t think game can be so easily predicted in terms of how it’s going to play. We don’t expect that Hopkins will necessarily pick the same approach that they took against Syracuse.”

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Johns Hopkins not fretting about disputed no-goal call

Johns Hopkins fans have bemoaned an official’s ruling that senior attackman Kyle Wharton was guilty of a crease violation before scoring the apparent game-winning goal with four seconds left in overtime Saturday against top-ranked Syracuse.

Instead, the Orange got a goal from senior attackman Stephen Keogh in the second extra session, and the No. 9 Blue Jays were left with their second loss of the season. But coach Dave Pietramala said the controversial ruling is in the team’s rearview mirror.

“They said he dove. Listen, it’s one play in a series of plays that happen throughout a game,” he said Tuesday. “And while it’s one that stands out to a lot of people, there were other plays that we could have made to win the game. So it’s not something that we’re harping on. We’ve moved on, and we’re getting ready for Virginia.”

That’s probably a good decision considering that the No. 2 Cavaliers (7-1), who will visit Homewood Field on Saturday, have won the last six meetings and 10 of the last 14 games against Johns Hopkins (5-2).

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March 21, 2011

Johns Hopkins' Dolente goes from doormat to dominator on faceoffs

No. 14 Johns Hopkins’ 5-4 loss in overtime to top-ranked Syracuse Saturday night overshadowed an impressive performance by Matt Dolente.

The senior faceoff specialist won 10-of-14 draws against the Orange, which allowed the Blue Jays to control the tempo of the game and maintain possession.

For the season, Dolente has won 67-of-95 faceoffs (70.5 percent), and has won 10 or more in four of his last five contests. For his career, he has won 315-of-609 (51.7 percent) and ranks seventh in school history in faceoff wins and sixth in faceoff attempts.

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Q&A with ESPN's Matt Ward

A former All-American attackman who helped Virginia capture NCAA championships in 2003 and 2006 and won the Tewaaraton Trophy in 2006 as the sport’s top player, Matt Ward knows a thing or two about the rivalry between the Cavaliers and Johns Hopkins, which will be renewed again on Saturday. But first, Ward, an analyst for ESPN, offered his opinion on No. 1 Syracuse’s chances of going undefeated, the team that suffered the biggest hit with a loss on Saturday, and the team that may have elevated its hopes with a win on Saturday.

Question: Syracuse is 6-0, but has needed overtime in two of its last three games to remain unblemished. Do you think the Orange can be beaten?
Answer: I do. Syracuse is obviously a very skilled team, but I think this year – more than any other that I’ve seen – it’s wide open. Syracuse, in terms of skill set, has one of the best defensive ends in the country, but I don’t know if they have enough athletes to run the table and go undefeated. Certainly, they’re going to be a team that is in the hunt for a national championship, but they’re going to get tested all year. On the offensive end, the one question I have is outside of [sophomore attackman] JoJo Marasco, who’s going to run by someone and make a dodge to the goal? Most of their players are crafty, slick, off-ball players.

Q: What was the biggest surprise of the weekend?
A: To me, I thought it was Towson over [No. 4] Stony Brook. I was a believer – and still am a believer – in Stony Brook because of their faceoff guy [senior Adam Rand] and the talent they have on offense. But to me, that [9-8 score] was shocking. That was a great win by Towson. I think Towson’s a young team, and they’ve got some talented players who are starting to play a little bit better. But that’s a game that Stony Brook should win. I want to see Stony Brook bring it every single day if they want to become a national powerhouse, and I didn’t think Stony Brook brought their “A” game [Saturday]. And [No. 5] Hofstra going down [7-6] to Delaware as well. I wouldn’t have predicted that in a million years. I thought Hofstra was a team that had so many offensive weapons, while Delaware was a team that was struggling. But it was a great win for Delaware. Teams like Hofstra and Stony Brook, when you’re ranked No. 4 or 5 in the country, you need to win those games.

Q: In addition to Stony Brook and Hofstra losing, No. 11 Princeton and No. 15 Loyola were upset by No. 20 Penn and Air Force, respectively. Which of those four teams will be most haunted by Saturday’s setback?
A: I think it’s Princeton. Princeton is now 1-4, and they’re going into their Ivy League schedule. The Ivies are great this year. I don’t think there’s a bad team in the conference this year. So being 1-4, it’s going to be really hard for them to turn that around and make the NCAA tournament. It’s going to be a struggle. They have the players, but right now, it’s not looking good. Penn is an up-and-coming program. I love Coach [Mike] Murphy. He’s done a great job there. But that’s a game that Princeton needs to win. Losing to [No. 19] Villanova and UPenn in the same week can’t be a good feeling.

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March 18, 2011

Syracuse-Johns Hopkins not just another game to Blue Jays

Coaches frequently emphasize that one regular-season game does not define a season or a team. Count Johns Hopkins’ Dave Pietramala as a member of the group that believes that.

But even Pietramala conceded that the Blue Jays’ annual contest against Syracuse – the top two programs with regards to NCAA championships – has a little extra “oomph” to it.

“There are rivalry games and there are just games,” he said Thursday. “This is a game where both programs have storied traditions. It’s a game where both programs have played for national championships and have played each other for national championships. And quite honestly, it’s a game against the No. 1-ranked team in the country right now. So yeah, absolutely, there is probably a little more excitement. You hope your guys will take every game the same way, but you know as well as I do that young men are young men, and when you see that orange, you hopefully play a little harder, especially against a talented group like they have.”

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March 14, 2011

Lower-than-anticipated attendance doesn't fluster Face-Off Classic organizer

The announced attendance of 17,057 at the Konica Minolta Face-Off Classic at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore on Saturday was the second-smallest crowd to watch the event since its debut in 2007.

It was also the smallest crowd to attend the Face-Off Classic since it began offering three contests in 2010. Inside Lacrosse, which organizes the event, has already locked in a date and teams for next year’s Face-Off Classic, but what about 2013?

Andy Bilello, director of business development for Inside Lacrosse, said that for now, the company is committed to another installment two years from now.

“It doesn’t make me question whether we should do the Face-Off Classic in 2013,” he said during the third contest between No. 14 Johns Hopkins and UMBC. “It makes me pause to consider how we should do it. Are there things we can improve about the event, how we promote it, how we present it to fans?”

Next year’s Face-Off Classic is already scheduled for March 10 and pits Cornell against Virginia and Princeton against North Carolina. The addition of a third game is still up in the air, Bilello said.

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Syracuse's Palasek says he is "getting there"

The numbers would seem to indicate that Tom Palasek’s decision to transfer to Syracuse from Johns Hopkins has not turned out the way some had initially thought.

Although the top-ranked Orange are off to their first 4-0 start since 2002, Palasek, a junior attackman, is the team’s fourth attackman and has yet to score a goal. In fact, the junior has more turnovers (five) than points (two) and ground balls (two) combined, and he has taken just one more shot (six).

But Palasek, who did not take a shot or register an assist in Syracuse’s 9-8 overtime win against No. 15 Georgetown at the Konica Minolta Face-Off Classic at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore on Saturday, said he is finding a comfort level in the offense.

“I think I’m getting there,” Palasek said after the contest. “I wouldn’t say it’s 100 percent, obviously, considering I’ve only been here for two months now, and some of these guys, especially the seniors, have been playing together since they got here. But I feel like I’m picking it up pretty well. I think I’m doing well in practice, proving my worthiness to the guys.”

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March 13, 2011

Postscript from Johns Hopkins vs. UMBC

It’s been documented that Johns Hopkins has fared well when it wins the battle for groundballs. The No. 14 Blue Jays have also proven that they can be dangerous when their midfielders are creating scoring opportunities.

In Saturday’s 16-5 demolition of UMBC at the Konica Minolta Face-Off Classic at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore, the offense ran quickly and smoothly – in part – due to the playmaking abilities of the midfielders.

Sophomore John Ranagan scored twice and assists on three others, freshman Rob Guida scored a goal, and sophomore John Greeley assisted on one.

Those might not be the kind of numbers the midfielders from Virginia and Notre Dame produce, but coach Dave Pietramala said Johns Hopkins places other responsibilities on the midfield.

“We’ve asked the middies to be more assertive,” he said. “People watch us play, it’s not about how many goals our midfielders have. It’s, ‘How many slides did they draw?’ There can be a game where they really assert themselves, and they don’t have many goals, but they drew slides and then the attack benefits from those slides. So we’ve asked the middies to be more assertive. We’ve asked the attack to be good off the second pass. … So I think today, we actually got into a rhythm, which was hard the other night because they held the ball. I thought our midfielders were unselfish.”

Ranagan said there’s no competition nor pressure on either the attack or the midfield to lead the offense.

“So far this year, there’s been games when the attack has really stepped up, and there’s been other games when our midfield has had a lot of points,” he said. “But today, I thought all six of us on the field played great today. It’s nice when it all works together.”

Other notes:

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March 12, 2011

Attendance announced

It was just announced that the attendance for Saturday’s Konica Minolta Face-Off Classic was 17,057. That’s a somewhat surprising number considering the lineup of No. 1 Syracuse vs. No. 15 Georgetown, No. 2 Virginia vs. No. 13 Cornell and No. 14 Johns Hopkins vs. UMBC.

That’s the second-smallest crowd to watch the Face-Off Classic since its debut in 2007. The smallest crowd to attend the event was 17,000 in 2009, and that was just a doubleheader involving Maryland against Duke and Princeton against Johns Hopkins.

Last March, an announced attendance of 19,742 watched the Face-Off Classic’s first foray into three games.

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Categories: Johns Hopkins, Maryland, UMBC
        

Johns Hopkins vs. UMBC: Halftime thoughts

After more than six hours, it appears the Konica Minolta Face-Off Classic has run out of gripping, tense dramas as No. 14 Johns Hopkins is enjoying a 9-3 advantage at halftime against UMBC at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore in the final game on Saturday.

After top-ranked Syracuse survived a 9-8 overtime contest against No. 15 Georgetown and No. 2 Virginia edged No. 13 Cornell, 11-9, the Blue Jays (4-1) scored the game’s first three goals and five of the first six to put the Retrievers in a significant hole.

Johns Hopkins has attacked UMBC’s short-stick defensive midfielders, initiating from up top and forcing slides that have opened up shooting lanes for the attackmen.

Sophomore midfielder John Ranagan leads all players with four points on two goals and two assists, and fifth-year senior attackman Chris Boland has registered two goals and one assist.

Other notes:

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Categories: Halftime thoughts, Johns Hopkins, UMBC
        

Johns Hopkins vs. UMBC: Three things to watch

Both teams enter the contest from opposing directions. No. 14 Johns Hopkins (4-1) defeated Manhattan, 10-3, to further the distance from last Saturday’s 8-3 loss to No. 6 Princeton at Homewood Field. Meanwhile, UMBC (1-2) lost to No. 17 North Carolina, 13-9, last Saturday. Here are a few factors that could influence the outcome in the Konica Minolta Face-Off Classic at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore.

1) Testing the Blue Jays’ conditioning. It's no secret that players prefer games over practices, but Wednesday night’s victory over the Jaspers was still physically draining on Johns Hopkins. The Retrievers, however, are well-rested and have spent the week concentrating on the Blue Jays. “I think it’s a team that you know is going to be well-prepared and play extremely hard,” coach Dave Pietramala said of UMBC. “… And yet you only have a day-and-a-half to prepare for them. That’s a concern. I would expect that we’ll see similar things to what Princeton and Manhattan did. A team that wants to be patient and value their possessions, a team that’s very good on the extra man, a team that’s athletic and tough and physical between the boxes.”

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Categories: Johns Hopkins, Three things to watch, UMBC
        

March 10, 2011

Johns Hopkins happy to get past Manhattan

Not many gave Manhattan a serious chance of upending No. 14 Johns Hopkins at Homewood Field Wednesday night, but coach Dave Pietramala sounded delighted that the Blue Jays emerged with a 10-3 victory.

Pietramala cited the letdown factor after the team dropped an 8-3 decision to No. 6 Princeton last Saturday and is slated to meet local rival UMBC at the Konica Minolta Face-Off Classic at M&T Bank Stadium on Saturday.

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Categories: Johns Hopkins, UMBC
        

Injury could sideline UMBC's starting goalkeeper

UMBC could enter the annual showdown with Johns Hopkins without its starting goalie.

Junior Brian McCullough suffered a thumb injury in the Retrievers’ 13-9 loss to No. 17 North Carolina last Saturday. Coach Don Zimmerman called McCullough – who has posted an 11.60 goals-against average and a .431 save percentage in three starts this season – a “game-time decision” for Saturday’s contest against the No. 14 Blue Jays at the Konica Minolta Face-Off Classic at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore.

“The good news is that Brian had a career game,” Zimmerman said, referring to McCullough’s career-high 14 saves against the Tar Heels. “The bad news is he took a shot to the thumb, and it’s tender, and we’ve got to pad it up. We’ll see how effective he is for this weekend.”

If McCullough is unavailable, UMBC will turn to sophomore Adam Cohen, who registered an 8.76 goals-against average and a .427 save percentage in nine games – eight of which were starts.

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Categories: Johns Hopkins, UMBC
        

March 7, 2011

Q&A with ESPN's Quint Kessenich

ESPN analyst and former Johns Hopkins All-American goalie Quint Kessenich covered top-ranked Syracuse’s 12-10 win against No. 2 Virginia on Friday night, watched No. 8 Princeton’s 8-3 demolition of No. 9 Johns Hopkins in person on Saturday afternoon, and will be part of the sports network’s coverage of the Konica Minolta Face-Off Classic at M&T Bank Stadium on Saturday. Kessenich offered his perspective on the gap between Syracuse and the rest of the Division I, Saturday’s upsets, and the most impressive individual performance.

Question: You watched Syracuse’s win against Virginia in person. Is it fair to say those two teams have separated themselves from the rest of the pack?
Answer: I think the gap is between everybody and Syracuse. With Maryland’s loss to Duke, I think it’s fair to say that Syracuse is a step ahead. Virginia would be No. 2 and then I’ve got Notre Dame and Hofstra at [Nos.] 3 and 4. So it is fair to say that visually, it looks like Syracuse is No. 1. Virginia’s got to clean up some defensive issues. I put Virginia in the pack. Virginia played to 9-9 against Drexel late in their game. Virginia played an overtime game at Stony Brook. They have not shown to be dominant.

Q: What impressed you about the Orange?
A: Overall balance of their roster. Great defense and goaltending. A really strong faceoff and ground ball play. And then senior leadership. Having spent about a day-and-half around that program, I really got the sense that these seniors are absolutely committed.

Q: There whispers about nepotism when Syracuse coach John Desko put his son Tim on the team. Now that Tim scored a game- and career-high five goals in the win against the Cavaliers and leads the offense with 10 goals in three games, do you think he has proven his father’s decision was the correct one?
A: He’s gotten so much better. Last year, he only had 12 goals. The other day, he had five. He’s really improved. I think the kids on the team really like him a lot. He’s a no-nonsense, hard worker, and he’s shown that he belongs. It’s pretty obvious that he’s well-respected there.

Q: What was the biggest surprise of the weekend?
A: Princeton’s domination of Hopkins surprised me. I watched the game in person, and then I think Army beating Cornell and Duke beating Maryland were the three things that surprised me most.

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Categories: Johns Hopkins, Maryland, Q&A
        

March 5, 2011

Four Maryland players dot Tewaaraton Watch List

The Tewaaraton Watch List was released Friday, and four players from No. 3 Maryland are on the list.

Attackmen Grant Catalino and Ryan Young, defenseman Brett Schmidt and long-stick midfielder Brian Farrell – all seniors – are among the early hopefuls to claim the Tewaaraton, which is given annually to the top player in college lacrosse.

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Categories: Johns Hopkins, Maryland, Towson
        

Princeton at Johns Hopkins: Three things to watch

The Tigers have won the last two meetings between these teams, but No. 8 Princeton is also 0-1 after dropping its season opener to No. 7 Hofstra a week ago. The No. 9 Blue Jays are 3-0 and outscoring their opponents by an average of nine goals, but they haven’t played against an opponent as talented as the Tigers. Here are some factors that could play into the outcome of Saturday’s contest at Homewood Field in Baltimore.

1) Eyeing Princeton’s two-man game. Johns Hopkins has limited opponents to 5.7 goals per game thus far, but that defense has yet to encounter the “pairs” offense that Princeton utilizes. That strategy preaches using on-ball pick and off-ball screens to create mismatches and scoring opportunities, and it will be up to a Blue Jays defense that starts two sophomores and one freshman at close defense and a sophomore goalie to decipher that Tigers offense. “We’re still young,” Johns Hopkins coach Dave Pietramala said. “[Freshman] Jack Reilly is still getting his feet wet. So it’s a group that has worked extremely hard in practice, so we’ve been pleased with their desire to improve. We feel like we’re improving, but we still have a long way to go there. … We’re also going to play an offense that’s very different. It’s a little more exotic than what we’ve seen. So now a young defense has to respond and play against an offense that we really don’t see much.”

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March 3, 2011

Palasek's slow start doesn't concern Syracuse

Tommy Palasek presumably transferred from Johns Hopkins to Syracuse for more and better opportunities.

So far, however, the junior attackman has yet to crack the starting lineup in the No. 1 Orange’s first two contests of the season. Palasek posted two assists in the team’s season-opening win against No. 18 Denver, but he was shut out in a victory over No. 13 Army on Sunday and has yet to score a goal after taking four shots.

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Categories: Johns Hopkins
        

March 2, 2011

Princeton could meet Johns Hopkins without McBride duo

Less than a week after No. 2 Virginia was forced to play against No. 5 Stony Brook without senior midfielders Shamel and Rhamel Bratton, Princeton could be in a similar pinch regarding Jack and Chris McBride.

The availability of the senior attackmen, who are cousins, for Saturday’s contest against No. 9 Johns Hopkins is unclear as both are nursing injuries. Chris McBride sat out the No. 8 Tigers’ 11-9 loss to No. 7 Hofstra last Saturday, and Jack McBride was forced to the sideline late in the game.

On Tuesday, coach Chris Bates characterized Chris McBride’s status as “to be determined.”

“He’s getting back out there,” continued Bates, who declined to elaborate on McBride’s injury. “We’re hopeful, but we just have to be cautiously optimistic. ... He is [back at practice], but it’s not full-go yet. So time will tell.”

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February 28, 2011

Q&A with ESPN's Paul Carcaterra

ESPN analyst and former All-American Syracuse midfielder Paul Carcaterra will have a front-row view of Friday night’s tilt between No. 1 Syracuse and No. 2 Virginia as he provides commentary for ESPN. Carcaterra discussed two surprises of the weekend, a team that may have done itself a huge favor, and the wish for a delete button on Loyola’s 3-2 win against Towson.

Question: What was the most surprising result of the weekend?
Answer: I think it would have to be two. Duke [ranked No. 10 by The Sun] only putting up three goals against Penn, that was shocking to me. Duke is a team right now searching for an offensive identity. They don’t have the dodgers and playmakers that can really create and give some of their shooters an opportunity. Guys like [senior attackman] Zach Howell, who’s a fabulous shooter, they don’t have those other pieces to the offense to get him the ball. Putting up three goals against Penn, a team that towards the bottom of the Ivy [League] last year, in a loss, that was pretty shocking to me – regardless of the deficiencies of Duke, they have a ton of talent still in Durham. It’s just that they’re very young and obviously, it’s going to take longer to develop that talent than expected. And then the other piece was [No. 14] Georgetown getting blown out by [No. 3] Maryland. Maryland was a team that I picked in the preseason to go to the Final Four. After watching Georgetown against Jacksonville last week, I thought, ‘This offense is for real. They’re crafty, they’ve got good dodgers and finishers.’ I thought it was an offense ready to take Georgetown over the hump that they’ve been traveling on the last few years, but apparently not. Maryland just lit them up. I expected Maryland to be a great team, but I didn’t expect Georgetown to be in a position where they wouldn’t be able to compete in that game. They didn’t, so maybe it’s the same old Georgetown.

Q: What team registered the most impressive performance of the weekend?
A: I’d have to go back and probably say Maryland. They dominated all facets of that game and just forced their will on Georgetown. They dictated the tempo of the game, they defeated Georgetown in every facet – ground balls, physical play. They really came out, ands they made a statement yesterday. They didn’t beat a team that doesn’t have talent. Georgetown’s a team that has talent year in and year out. They just completely blew them out. So that was, to me, the most impressive team performance of the weekend.

Q: Was there an individual who stood out with his showing over the weekend?
A: I would say that the most impressive player performance over the weekend was either [Maryland senior] Grant Catalino’s five goals in that game. He’s a fabulous player. He’s big, strong and has the skills of an elite attackman. He’s not a guy that uses his size and strength to create offense all the time, but he’s just skilled. He’s a great shooter and a fabulous offensive player. His performance [Saturday] was just great as well as [Virginia junior attackman] Steele Stanwick’s. Five goals and three assists in a tough game against Stony Brook minus the Brattons, he really put his team on his shoulders. Eight points in a one-goal, overtime game including the game-winner, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better performance than his.

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Categories: Johns Hopkins, Loyola, Maryland, Q&A, Towson
        

February 23, 2011

Postscript from Johns Hopkins at Delaware

The final box score from Tuesday night’s game will show that once again, the starting attack of seniors Chris Boland and Kyle Wharton and sophomore Zach Palmer led the way in both goals and points in No. 9 Johns’ Hopkins’ 18-5 demolition of No. 20 Delaware.

But their performance should not overshadow the encouraging play of the team’s youthful midfielders.

That’s because while the Blue Hens defense sought to contain the attack, sophomore John Ranagan and freshmen Rob Guida and Eric Ruhl sparked the offense in the first two quarters.
Guida scored the first two goals of the game, Ranagan assisted on the next two, and Ruhl capped the scoring in the first half.

Coach Dave Pietramala said he wasn’t surprised by Delaware’s defensive game plan after the attack unit combined for seven goals and four assists in the Blue Jays’ 10-6 victory over Towson in the season opener last Saturday.

“I would imagine after the last game when you watched how we played, John and [sophomore] John [Greeley] and Robert were not great, and our attack carried the majority of the workload and had the majority of the points,” Pietramala said. “In this game, if I’m a coach, I’m looking at Hopkins and saying, ‘OK, well, the attack had a lot of the points. We’ve got to be very aware of them.’ I was really pleased to see Robert Guida get off and get a couple early. I thought both Johns played well. I thought the first line got some production, and we got some production from the second line and Eric Ruhl. In the last game, I didn’t feel like we got enough out of our middies, and that was something that we talked about that day and in practice over the last two days. So it was a focal point.”

Ranagan said he understands that the offense will continue to be scrutinized until the midfield produces on a consistent basis. But he expressed a confidence that he said stems from his teammates.

“We have our teammates’ support, so it’s not too bad,” Ranagan said. “We have two great captains at attack, and we’re all playing together. John and I played half a season together last year, and this is all new for us. So it’s nice to have three guys who are going through it together.”

Other notes:

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February 22, 2011

Johns Hopkins at Delaware: Halftime thoughts

A short turnaround doesn’t seem to have bothered No. 9 Johns Hopkins, which has cruised to a 6-1 advantage over No. 20 Delaware at halftime here at Delaware Stadium in Newark, Del.

The Blue Jays, who are coming off of a season-opening 10-6 win against Towson on Saturday, scored the game’s first three goals – all in the first quarter.

The offense has gotten production from both the attack and midfield. Senior attackman Kyle Wharton scored twice, sophomore Zach Palmer scored once, and fifth-year senior Chris Palmer assisted on one goal.

Freshman midfielder Rob Guida scored the first two goals of his career, sophomore John Ranagan registered two assists, and freshman Eric Ruhl scored once.

Johns Hopkins has been especially proficient at penetrating the Blue Hens’ sagging defense, finding running room and shooting lanes up top and down the left alley.

Other notes:

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Categories: Halftime thoughts, Johns Hopkins
        

Johns Hopkins at Delaware: Three things to watch

Both teams enter Tuesday night’s meeting without a mark in the loss column. The No. 11 Blue Jays are 1-0 after beating Towson, 10-6, while the No. 19 Blue Hens are undefeated in three games thus far. Here are a few factors that could play a role in the outcome in the contest.

1) Youth gone wild. One of Johns Hopkins’ pressing questions was seemingly answered Saturday as the team’s freshmen and sophomores combined for five goals and seven assists. The rest of the points came from senior attackmen Kyle Wharton (three goals) and Chris Boland (two goals and one assist), but coach Dave Pietramala said the younger players have a standard for future contests. “That’s what we’re going to have to get to win because that’s who’s playing,” he said, noting that eight of the 10 starters were freshmen and sophomores and 13 of the 23 players who got into the game were freshmen and sophomores. “We started two seniors and six sophomores and two freshmen when you look at our attack, midfield and defense. That’s where the production’s going to have to come from. We got five goals from our two seniors in Boland and Wharton. So you hope you can expect that, but at this point, when you look at things statistically, where else are you going to look?”

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February 21, 2011

Q&A with ESPN's Mark Dixon

ESPN analyst and former Johns Hopkins midfielder Mark Dixon will provide commentary for WMAR and ESPN3 during Saturday’s game between No. 13 Loyola and No. 20 Towson. Dixon discussed No. 5 North Carolina’s 13-8 loss to Ohio State, the most impressive showing by a team and individual and the need to implement instant replay.

Question: What was the most surprising result of the weekend?
Answer: It’s a surprise and not a surprise in talking about North Carolina [ranked No. 5 by The Sun] getting run off the field by Ohio State. It’s not that they lost, but the fashion in which it happened. One point from the midfield? A lot of us had been pointing to the fact that North Carolina really didn’t have a whole lot of depth in the midfield. One goal came from the midfield and that was [junior] Jimmy Dunster early in the game.

Q: Could this be a precursor to what could be a rough season for the Tar Heels? Or is it merely an early-season hiccup?

A: I don’t know. I’m not really sure. Again, the depth at midfield is not really there for North Carolina. I’m looking at that attack, and they’re putting out four guys that can score, and I think there’s one who can really open things up for you in the midfield. That’s [freshman] Nicky Galasso. Whether [coach] Joe Breschi elects to move him to the midfield remains to be seen,  but I think [senior goalkeeper] Chris Madalon didn’t look sharp [Saturday], and the defense was giving up some shots that they were doing at the end of last season. Carolina beat Ohio State late in the season last year, 19-13, and that was almost the beginning of the end for North Carolina’s season in terms of that defense just collapsing. That was late in the season, and now, it’s early in the season. So do you hit the panic button? I don’t think so. Not in the third weekend of February. But I think there are some addressable situations that need to take place in Chapel Hill. And remember, this team was ranked as high as No. 3 in a lot of preseason polls, and that stock was losing a lot of value because of some injuries and some other players leaving the team or being dismissed from the team. But I think it’s too early to say, ‘OK, they’re going to have a horrible season.’ They still may make the NCAAs. Again, it’s very, very early, but people were expecting them to make it to Baltimore on Memorial Day weekend, which would be Carolina’s first visit to the national semifinals since 1993. Right now, it looks like that is not going to happen.

Q: Most impressive showing by a team or individual?

A: By an individual, Notre Dame’s Zach Brenneman [a senior midfielder]. Hands down. Three goals and two assists. To me, he’s the East Hampton express. He’s from East Hampton, New York, and he dodges like a freight train. When he gets a head of steam, no one can stop him. And then in the latter stages of the game, he’s the one who established the breathing room between Notre Dame and Duke. So individually, I was really, really impressed with Zach Brenneman. From a team perspective, probably [No. 1] Syracuse. They handled a pretty strong [No. 17] Denver team at home [the Carrier Dome in Syracuse]. They were up 4-0 early in the contest, and they played like a team that was ticked off and had lost on that very same field for only the second time in that program’s history in the NCAA tournament. They came out with a lot of fire in their belly and handled a pretty good Denver team.

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Categories: Johns Hopkins, Maryland, Q&A, Towson
        

February 19, 2011

Johns Hopkins at Towson: Three things to watch

There’s a lot at stake when No. 11 Johns Hopkins visits No. 20 Towson Saturday in the season opener for both teams. The Blue Jays are eager to distance themselves from the memory of last year’s 7-8 record, while the Tigers would like to snap a 15-game losing streak to their Baltimore rivals. Here are a few factors that could play a role in the outcome in the contest.

1) “Pierce"-ing Bassett. The Tigers’ worst loss of 2010 came at the hands of Johns Hopkins, which won last season’s meeting by seven goals. Some of that credit goes to then-freshman goalkeeper Pierce Bassett, who made nine of his game-high 12 saves in the first half, which allowed the Blue Jays to sprint to an 8-0 lead. “We need to manufacture goals,” Towson coach Tony Seaman said. “We’re going against one of the best defenses in the country with some wonderful athletes and a goalie who really gave us some problems last year. He put up a stone wall against us, and it was difficult for us to score goals. And we lost those guys that dominated our goal-scoring last year. So we need to find people who are going to be able to put the ball in the goal for us.”

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February 17, 2011

Johns Hopkins' Wharton might sit out opener vs. Towson

One of the more pressing matters Johns Hopkins dealt with was waiting for fifth-year senior attackman Chris Boland to recover from surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee.

Now the No. 11 Blue Jays’ concerns have shifted to senior attackman Kyle Wharton.

An injury prevented Wharton from participating in the team’s scrimmage against Cornell last Saturday, and his status for the season opener against No. 20 Towson is up in the air.

“We don’t know yet,” coach Dave Pietramala said Wednesday of Wharton’s availability. “He’ll be a game-time decision.”

If Wharton, whose injury has not been disclosed by Pietramala, doesn’t play, a pair of freshmen in Brandon Benn and Kevin Interlicchio could join Boland and sophomore Zach Palmer as starters. Pietramala also said the coaches are considering moving a midfielder to fill Wharton’s absence.

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February 16, 2011

Towson trying to alter luck vs. Johns Hopkins by changing schedule

Since 1980, Johns Hopkins and Towson had scheduled their annual match-up for either late April or early May, and the contest sometimes served as a tune-up for the NCAA Tournament for both teams.

But the traditional grudge match was moved to the beginning of the schedule this season to accommodate both schools, and that’s fine with Tigers coach Tony Seaman, who is eager to help his team snap a 15-game losing skid to the Blue Jays on Saturday in the season opener for both teams at Johnny Unitas Stadium in Towson.

“We’ve never beaten them at the end of the season, so why not try the early part? I mean that sincerely,” he said. “If it’s not broke, don’t fix it. But if it’s broke, fix it. I don’t know why I would change it if I was them. We’ve saved their [butts] going to the playoffs two years in a row.”

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Categories: Johns Hopkins, Towson
        

Creating space a theme for Johns Hopkins' Wharton

There’s no disputing that Johns Hopkins’ Kyle Wharton has one of the fastest and hardest shots in the country – as evidenced when he tore the net with a blast in a 13-6 victory over Towson on April 28.

But Wharton is what is known in lacrosse circles as a stand-and-shoot finisher, and opponents disarmed the 6-foot-2, 205-pound attackman by assigning a short-stick midfielder to stay in his hands and prevent him from winding up and getting off a shot.

So in the offseason, the senior took it upon himself to become more a dodger and work on his off-ball movement so that he can free himself up for a scoring opportunity.

“It was frustrating,” Wharton acknowledged of the defensive ploys he faced last spring. “But after talking to the coaches all through the summer and through the fall, we’ve definitely improved in that aspect.”

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February 15, 2011

Towson's Wascavage could start in cage vs. Johns Hopkins

When Towson opens the 2011 season at home against Johns Hopkins Saturday, the Tigers could insert a first-time starter in the net.

Redshirt sophomore Andrew Wascavage is poised to start because of an illness that has sidelined senior Travis Love, who ranked 17th in the country with a .556 save percentage last spring.

An ailment prevented Love from participating in a scrimmage against Princeton on Saturday, according to coach Tony Seaman. “He was held out, and I haven’t heard from the doctor what the story is there,” Seaman said Monday. “So there’s a good chance it could be Wascavage.”

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February 11, 2011

Q&A with former Army coach Jack Emmer

When Jack Emmer retired as Army’s head coach after the 2005 season, he left as college lacrosse all-time winningest coach with 326 victories. That mark has since been surpassed by Salisbury’s Jim Berkman, but Emmer continues to monitor the game from the stands. Emmer, whose job status with ESPN is in the air, shared his perspective on the upcoming season.

Question: Many analysts have picked Syracuse as the favorite to win the NCAA championship. What team poses the biggest challenge for Syracuse?

Jack Emmer: “Well, you’ve got to come and play every game, and last year in the first round of the tournament when everything was at stake, Army beat them at home. So they certainly can be beaten. Will Army do that again? I don’t know. But Syracuse, they’re the best team in the country. But they’re a little unproven on their attack, I think. They’re going to rely on a guy who was hurt last year in [sophomore] JoJo Marasco and [senior] Stephen Keogh. They’re good, and Marasco has a lot of talent, but he doesn’t have a lot of experience. So they don’t have that great offensive player to go to, but they’re excellent at the defensive end, particularly with [senior goalkeeper John] Galloway. So they’re going to be real tough to beat. But UVA, they’ve got a lot of offensive talent. They’re a little shy on the defensive end, I think, so they’ve got to put together a defense. But they’re right there. I tell you, the most talented team in the country might be Maryland. Unfortunately, this is Dave Cottle’s team. This was supposed to be his best team. They’re a very veteran team, very solid. [Senior long-stick midfielder Brian] Farrell is a horse, and they’ve got a couple guys like that. I think Maryland, if they can get their act together, could be very, very good. So they look like the three best teams to me. And then there’s a whole bunch packed together after that.”

Q: Is there an underrated team that you think will be poised to make an impression in May?

JE: “I think there’s a big-time sleeper that nobody talks about, and it’s their first year of being eligible for the Division I tournament, and that’s Bryant University, coached by Mike Pressler. They’re not going to get much publicity in the Baltimore area, but I’ve seen them play quite a bit, and I’ve got great respect for Mike. He’s an outstanding coach, as he was at Duke, and they’ve got some outstanding players. They have a junior goalie named Jameson Love, and he’s as good as anybody I’ve seen. They have a face-off guy who transferred in as a fifth-year student from Notre Dame [Trever Sipperly] who was Notre Dame’s face-off guy last year. They have a defenseman named [sophomore] Mason Poli, and he is going to be as good as any close defenseman around. They’ve got a good attack. They’re very balanced. They just need to score enough goals, but they’re going to be very good. Last year, they beat Army, they beat Yale, lost to UNC by a goal, but they might be on the cusp of getting there. I think Lehigh has gotten a lot better. That’s another sleeper. UMass is going to be pretty good. They’re always on the cusp. Siena, who knows about them? They play Duke in the first game, and they’ll give them a good game."

Q: Which coaching move will have the biggest impact in the game?

JE: “I would say the most immediate impact is probably going to come down to Maryland because I think the talent is there and they might respond well to a new approach and then that talent might step up to a new level. I think John Tillman is stepping into a pretty good situation in his first year there. I think they’ll be very receptive to him, and I think he could have a very positive impact because they’re good. I think Harvard [with Chris Wojcik] is in the mix with teams like Yale and Brown. They’re going to be pretty good, too. I still think Cornell and Princeton are the class of the Ivy League. Ben DeLuca being the new guy there [at Cornell], he’s a real protégé of Jeff Tambroni. So he’s going to keep that program focused and going in the right direction. And they’ve got a great player in [junior attackman] Rob Pannell. He’s as good as anybody in the country.”

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February 10, 2011

Johns Hopkins preview

Thursday’s entry is the fourth installment of a week-long series taking a look at each of the seven Division I programs in this state according to their order of finish from last season. Check back on Friday for a preview of Loyola, and The Sun’s lacrosse preview is slated to be published on Thursday, Feb. 17. Today is Johns Hopkins’ turn.

Overview: The Blue Jays are out to prove that last year was an aberration. In compiling the program’s first sub-.500 record since 1971, the team dealt with a four-game losing streak and seven losses in nine contests. But the squad rebounded and qualified for the NCAA Tournament for the 39th consecutive time. A loss to eventual national champion Duke in the first round had coach Dave Pietramala pledging to review and change anything and everything associated with the program. Johns Hopkins is trying to keep pace with the likes of Virginia, Syracuse and North Carolina, and time will tell if the Blue Jays’ work in the offseason will pay dividends.

Reason for optimism: While the graduation of attackman Steven Boyle (32 goals and 23 assists in 2010) and midfielder Michael Kimmel (23, 16) would seem to cripple the offense, the unit does welcome back fifth-year senior attackman Chris Boland. He led Johns Hopkins in scoring with 46 points in 2009, but tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee last March. Boland, who did not participate in the fall, is expected to join senior Kyle Wharton and sophomore Zach Palmer on the first attack. “Chris has a really good sense and feel for the game,” Pietramala said. “He’s our smartest player. So he see two passes ahead, he understands where the open man is going to be, he understands pace and tempo. He’s a fifth-year senior, so not only does he bring his abilities, but he brings – even though he missed a year – a wealth of experience, having been here this long, to a young team. And that’s invaluable at this point.”

Reason for pessimism: The Blue Jays relied on a large senior class last season, and that class is now gone. Pietramala said the program graduated over 250 games of experience and now return no more than 76 games of experience. “So you’re replacing a lot,” he said. “While we were young last year, we’re probably younger this year because there is no more [goalkeeper Michael] Gvozden, no more [defenseman Matt] Drenan, no more [defenseman Sam] DeVore, no more Kimmel, no more Boyle. There are five guys who played a lot of lacrosse in their careers here at Johns Hopkins. So you lose a lot there.”

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January 26, 2011

An unofficial stab at 2011's preseason poll (Part 2)

Here is the second installment of the 2011 poll compiled after last year's national championship. These rankings could – and probably will – change based on transfers and seniors granted fifth years of eligibility, so please take this with a grain of salt.

 

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October 7, 2010

Johns Hopkins still in construction phase

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."

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October 6, 2010

UMBC working to erase memory of 2010

UMBC is several months away from the start of the 2011 season, but the memory of last year’s 4-9 record still resonates within the program.

"I think that’s a strong motivating force behind everyone involved in the program – players, coaches, support staff," said coach Don Zimmerman, who shared his thoughts after the announcement that the Retrievers would meet Johns Hopkins in the Konica Minolta Face-Off Classic on Saturday, March 12. "It’s a new year, and we want to have a good one."

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October 5, 2010

Pair of Johns Hopkins rivalries return to campus

Johns Hopkins will participate in two lacrosse tripleheaders at professional venues next spring, meeting local rival UMBC at the Konicia Minolta Face-Off Classic at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore on March 12 and North Carolina at the Konica Minolta Big City Classic at The New Meadowlands Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., on April 3.

But two staples that had been played in NFL stadiums – the annual showdowns with Princeton and Maryland – have been returned back to campus at the request of all three programs.

Blue Jays coach Dave Pietramala said the coaches and players looked forward to playing in front of larger crowds at professional venues and showcasing the school to a more expansive fanbase.

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September 30, 2010

A lot of work behind the scenes of the Face-Off Classic and Big City Classic

Thursday’s announcement of the lineup for the Konica Minolta Face-Off Classic and the Konica Minolta Big City Classic next spring is the culmination of a lot of work on the part of Inside Lacrosse.

Inside Lacrosse, which is organizing both events, has had to shuffle teams and weekends to line up the programs taking part in both tripleheaders.

For starters, the Face-Off Classic – which will feature Syracuse-Georgetown, Virginia-Cornell and Johns Hopkins-UMBC at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore on Saturday, March 12 – will take place one week later than its usual place on the lacrosse schedule. Also, the showdown between Johns Hopkins and Princeton is no longer an option as both schools expressed an interest to return the game to their campuses. It’s not that different from when Syracuse and Virginia elected to pull their annual contest from the Face-Off Classic slate after the 2008 season.

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September 29, 2010

Lineups for Face-Off Classic and Big City Classic announced

The lineup for next year’s Konica Minolta Face-Off Classic and the Konica Minolta Big City Classic has been set.

The Face-Off Classic at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore is scheduled for Saturday, March 12 and will feature the return of Syracuse and Virginia, two programs that have captured a combined 14 NCAA championships but hadn’t participated in the event since 2008.

Syracuse, which has collected 10 national titles including in 2008 and 2009, will open the tripleheader with a contest against Big East Conference rival Georgetown at 11 a.m. Virginia, a Final Four team last season, will meet another 2010 national semifinalist in Cornell at 1:30 p.m. And Johns Hopkins and UMBC will meet in a clash of local rivals at 4 p.m.

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June 29, 2010

Review & preview: Premature 2011 poll part 2

Here is the second installment of an attempt at a preseason and premature poll for next season.

The top 20 will be broken up into four installments with Tuesday’s post involving teams ranked from Nos. 15 to 11. Monday featured Nos. 20 to 16. Wednesday will highlight teams ranked Nos. 10 to 6 and Thursday Nos. 5 to 1. Friday will include three schools not mentioned in the poll that could make some waves.

Unless there are confirmed reports about certain players planning to use fifth years of eligibility, this space will assume that seniors in 2010 will not return next year. Unannounced fifth-year seniors and potential transfers will affect the rankings that come out next February, but here’s a spin anyway.

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Categories: Johns Hopkins, Review & preview
        

June 15, 2010

Johns Hopkins opts out of Face-Off Classic and Day of RIvals

Johns Hopkins’ involvement in the Face-Off Classic and the Day of Rivals – both at M&T Bank Stadium – has ended for now.

The Blue Jays have opted to move their games against Princeton and Maryland back to campus, which was first reported by D1scourse.typepad.com and confirmed by a Johns Hopkins school official Tuesday morning. Johns Hopkins is scheduled to travel to Princeton in late February or early March and then take another road trip to College Park in mid-April.

The program had signed a two-year contract prior to 2007 to meet Princeton in the Face-Off Classic and signed another two-year extension. The school had signed a two-year contract to face Maryland in the Day of Rivals. But after this past season, the university elected not to renew both contracts.

Similarly, the Army-Navy contest, which was the second game of the Day of Rivals doubleheader, will return to campus, a Navy school official said Tuesday morning. Army is slated to visit Annapolis in 2011.

Andy Bilello, the director of business development for Inside Lacrosse, which runs both the Face-Off Classic and the Day of Rivals, said he has engaged in initial discussions with Johns Hopkins, Maryland and other schools about their involvement.

"We are still determining dates, match-ups and vernues for IL’s events," Bilello wrote via e-mail. "Nothing is set and anything is possible. We could have the same events with different teams or we could have different events altogether. To be honest, this is the time of year when we are working through all of the variables and trying to develop our plans. I would not expect any announcements to be made before late August or early September."

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June 10, 2010

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.

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June 7, 2010

Locals dot Major Lacrosse League draft

The Major Lacrosse League draft took place Sunday night, and a multitude of players with ties to the Baltimore metropolitan area were selected in the six-team draft.

Johns Hopkins midfielder Michael Kimmel was selected with the second overall pick by the Chesapeake Bayhawks, who capped the first round by taking Virginia midfielder Brian Carroll, a Baltimore native and Gilman graduate, with the sixth overall choice.

The last pick of the second round belonged to the Boston Cannons, who grabbed Johns Hopkins attackman Steven Boyle at No. 12.

Chesapeake had two picks in the fourth round and used No. 19 on UMBC midfielder Kyle Wimer and No. 23 on Maryland goalkeeper Brian Phipps.

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Categories: Johns Hopkins, Loyola, Maryland, Navy, UMBC
        

June 3, 2010

No requests yet for Johns Hopkins' assistant coaches

Much ado has been made about the head coaching vacancies at Maryland and Penn State, and there’s also an opening at Division III Washington College in Chestertown on the Eastern Shore.

Two potential candidates who could be considered are Johns Hopkins associate head coach Bill Dwan and offensive coordinator Bobby Benson. That might be a long shot considering both played collegiately for the Blue Jays and are firmly entrenched at their alma mater.

But interviews with one or both are possible. Still, as of last week, head coach Dave Pietramala had not received requests for Dwan or Benson.

"It’s still early in the process," Pietramala said. "I have the good fortune of working with two wonderful assistant coaches. I’m smart enough to know that at some point in time, they’re going to move on to be head coaches. That’s our goal here at Johns Hopkins. … Our goal here is to help our assistant coaches and associate head coaches to be the best coaches they can be so that they can move on and become head coaches."

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May 29, 2010

Cottle dismissal doesn't sit well with area coaches

More than just being a sympathetic ear, Tony Seaman may understand what Dave Cottle is enduring.

After the 1998 season, Seaman was forced to resign by Johns Hopkins despite a 77-33 record (.700), four seasons of 10 wins or more and four Final Four appearances in eight seasons.

So when Seaman heard on Sunday from Cottle himself that he had decided to take himself out of consideration after Maryland told him it was unlikely to sign him to a new contract, Seaman felt like he was thrown into a time warp.

"I was fortunate enough to start that trend in 1998 when my resume at Hopkins looked very similar to Dave’s," Seaman, the coach at Towson, said with tongue firmly planted in cheek. "When I wasn’t renewed, we were 10-4 and we had gone to the Final Four four out of eight years. You wonder sometimes. And they went seven more years before winning a championship. So sometimes it’s not about changing the program or the leadership. You’ve just got to have a bunch of kids and have a little luck and be good and do a good job of recruiting and it’s all got to mesh and the chemistry has to come together. That’s why only five [active coaches] have ever done it."

The debate over the Terps’ decision to part ways with Cottle has raged since news broke on Sunday, one day after Maryland, as the No. 3 seed, fell to Notre Dame, 7-5, in a NCAA Tournament quarterfinal.

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May 27, 2010

Johns Hopkins' Kimmel named first-team All American

Johns Hopkins senior midfielder Michael Kimmel earned a spot on the All-American first team, the United States Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association announced Thursday.

The Towson native and Loyola graduate ranked second among the Blue Jays in both assists (16) and points (39). Kimmel joined Paul Rabil and Del Dressel as the only midfielders in school history to record at least 30 points in each of his four seasons.

Syracuse led all programs with three players on the first team. They are junior long-stick midfielder and Tewaaraton Award finalist Joel White, junior defenseman John Lade and junior goalkeeper John Galloway.

Virginia and North Carolina each placed two players on the first team. Senior defenseman and Tewaaraton Award finalist Ken Clausen and junior midfielder Shamel Bratton represented the Cavaliers, while junior attackman Billy Bitter and junior defenseman Ryan Flanagan stood in for the Tar Heels.

Two other Tewaaraton finalists in Duke fifth-year senior attackman Ned Crotty and Stony Brook junior midfielder Kevin Crowley made the first team. Cornell sophomore attackman Rob Pannell was the final member of the first team.

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Categories: Johns Hopkins, Loyola, Maryland, Mount St. Mary's, Navy, Towson, UMBC
        

May 26, 2010

Johns Hopkins content to "move forward" despite pair of transfers

Since Inside Lacrosse reported Monday the decision by attackmen Tom and Matt Palasek to transfer from Johns Hopkins, there’s been a sufficient amount of hand-wringing and teeth-gnashing by Blue Jays fans.

True, the loss of Tom Palasek hurts. The sophomore set career highs in goals (13), assists (7) and points (20), ranking fourth on the team in each of those three categories. Palasek was expected to start on an attack unit composed of redshirt senior Chris Boland (torn anterior cruciate ligament in right knee) and senior Kyle Wharton (24, 9). Matt Palasek, a freshman, played sparingly in five contests.

Now freshman Zach Palmer (10, 5) figures to move into what would have been Palasek’s spot. For his part, coach Dave Pietramala wasn’t climbing down from a ledge at the moves.

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May 21, 2010

Part 2 of Q&A with ESPN's Mark Dixon

On Wednesday, ESPN analyst and former Johns Hopkins midfielder Mark Dixon reviewed the first round of the NCAA tournament and previewed the quarterfinals. He also took a moment to speak on a couple of local topics of interest.

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Categories: Johns Hopkins, Loyola
        

Q&A with ESPN's Paul Carcaterra

ESPN analyst and former Syracuse All-America midfielder Paul Carcaterra will be providing commentary for the Toronto Nationals home opener on Saturday against the Chesapeake Bayhawks in the Major Lacrosse League. But Carcaterra will certainly keep track of the NCAA tournament quarterfinal results this weekend. Carcaterra took a look at the impact of Syracuse’s absence in the tournament, Virginia’s first game outside of Charlottesville since the tragic death of women’s lacrosse player Yeardley Love, and the most intriguing game of the quarterfinals.

Question: What does the absence of Syracuse do to the rest of the NCAA tournament bracket?

Paul Carcaterra: "If you look at the bracket and you just look at the hype going into the tournament, it’s really heavy on one side. If you look at the Viriginia side of the bracket, you have Duke, Carolina and Stony Brook. If you look at the other side, you have a couple upsets with Army squeaking in there and Notre Dame. Just looking at it quickly, you’d think it’s all on one side of the bracket. I think Syracuse losing changes the complexity of a potential Virginia-Syracuse national championship matchup, whereas now I think the typical lacrosse fan thinks that Maryland is going to walk into the final. But I don’t see that being the case. Maryland’s a really good team, and I think they’re balanced on offense with very prolific attackmen and a midfield that’s almost a midfield by committee. But an Army team or a Cornell team will scrap, and those are the types of teams that even if they lose, they don’t get blown out – other than Army getting blown out earlier in the season by Hofstra [17-2 on March 30, which is the Black Knights’ last loss]. So I think people need to give a little more credit to those other teams on the other side of the bracket with Maryland, Notre Dame, Cornell and Army. Being an ex-Syracuse player, this might sound a little biased, but it’s always exciting when Syracuse goes deep into the playoffs just because their style of play is exciting to watch. I think they bring the best out in lacrosse, and I think they also bring the best out of their opponents."

Q: Coach Dave Pietramala has been catching some flak after Johns Hopkins bowed out of the first round against No. 5 seed Duke. Is coach John Desko getting similar treatment after Syracuse’s loss?

PC: "No. You have to look at what Coach Desko has done. In a 12-year span, he’s had the most successful coaching run in modern-day lacrosse. He’s won five national championships. He’s not the guy at the end of the game who is shooting low-to-low. He’s not the guy who’s leaving his defenseman on a premature slide. These guys were doing all these things right throughout the year, and they picked the wrong time to make some mental mistakes. But I don’t put one bit of that game on him. He’s done one of his best coaching job this year. Here’s a team that had lost five of its top six midfielders, lost its top attackman, lost its top defenseman, and he put them in a position to threepeat. They were 13-1 heading into the playoffs and a solid No. 2 seed."

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May 20, 2010

Johns Hopkins' Pietramala not worried about criticism

Monday’s blog included a post on Johns Hopkins’ 18-5 loss to No. 5 seed Duke in the first round of the NCAA Tournament – a setback that cemented the program’s first losing season since 1971.

That entry generated 14 reader comments, perhaps the most by a single post this year. While some cited the team’s youth, lack of speed and/or conservative style of play as reasons for the Blue Jays’ troubles, several pinned the blame solely on coach Dave Pietramala.

Let’s review Pietramala’s resume. Under the 10-year coach, Johns Hopkins has advanced to six Final Fours and four tournament finals, capturing the national championship in 2005 and 2007. The team has compiled a 113-38 record, and Pietramala is 45 wins shy of tying Bob Scott for the most victories by a Blue Jays coach.

On the flip side, Johns Hopkins struggled to make its 39th consecutive tournament appearance, defeating Towson and Loyola in its final two regular-season games. The Blue Jays have lost 10 of their past 13 meetings with Virginia, including the past six. Johns Hopkins has lost five of its past six games against Syracuse and dropped annual showdowns with Maryland and Navy, the latter breaking a 36-game losing skid in April.

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May 17, 2010

Postscript from Johns Hopkins at Duke

Johns Hopkins’ regular-season finish with two victories earned the school its 39th consecutive appearance in the NCAA Tournament, but it couldn’t mask the team’s deficiences against a top-tier opponent.

The Blue Jays got pounded by No. 5 seed Duke, 18-5, in the first round on Saturday, absorbing the program’s worst loss in the postseason. And Johns Hopkins’ weaknesses were on full display as the Blue Devils won almost every major statistical category.

"The things that we struggled with throughout the year came back to haunt us, and when you get to the playoffs, you’re playing against very good teams no matter what seed you have or they have," coach Dave Pietramala said. "When you get to this point in the season, teams are capable of exploiting your weaknesses, and the things that we struggled with were exploited in that game. We struggled between the boxes this year. We had difficulty off the ground, off face-offs, off the wings, and all three of those places were detrimental to us in that game."

Pietramala said the team had pointed to five areas for success against Duke: winning face-offs, collecting groundballs, limiting attackmen Ned Crotty, Max Quinzani and Zach Howell, preventing transition, and clearing the ball.

The Blue Devils won 18-of-27 face-offs, scooped up 20 more groundballs, scored goals off transition, and got a combined eight goals and eight assists from Crotty (2, 6), Quinzani (4, 1) and Howell (2, 1). The only area that Johns Hopkins thrived in was clears, where the team succeeded on 19-of-20 attempts.

Pietramala said the re-emegence of the Blue Jays’ flaws was disheartening.

"The outcome is a result of the play, so I’m disappointed by our play," he said. "Early on, I felt like we were hanging around, and I felt like that’s what we needed to do against this team. It was 6-3, and then bang, bang, we gave up two to make 8-4 at the end of the [second] quarter, and then it’s 9-4, 10-4 at the start of the third quarter. I’m disappointed that we kind of reverted back to many of the mistakes that we made throughout the year rather than what we did in the last two games."

Other notes:

Continue reading "Postscript from Johns Hopkins at Duke" »

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May 15, 2010

Johns Hopkins at Duke: Three things to watch

Johns Hopkins is 3-1 against Duke in the NCAA Tournament, winning in the championship final in 2005 and 2007 and ending the Blue Devils’ hopes in 2008. Duke, which earned the No. 5 seed, is 9-3 in the first round, while the Blue Jays have lost just once in the first round, falling to Princeton in 1990. The winner of Saturday’s contest at 12 p.m. at Koskinen Stadium in Durham, N.C., will move onto a quarterfinal game against either No. 4 seed North Carolina (12-2) or Delaware (10-6) on Saturday, May 22 at either 12 or 2:30 p.m. at Princeton.

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May 14, 2010

Underdog role motivates Johns Hopkins

Many have written off Johns Hopkins’ chances of upending No. 5 seed Duke in the first round of the NCAA Tournament this Saturday at 12 p.m., and the Blue Jays’ underdog status has not escaped the attention of the players and coaches.

"Nothing against them because they didn’t say it, but we heard people saying, ‘Well, it looks like Duke is going to have a tough second-round game against North Carolina’ – which immediately writes off us and Delaware," senior midfielder Michael Kimmel said. "I think Delaware is also a great team with some good players. Once you get into the playoffs, anything can happen. … We were relieved to make the playoffs and keep the streak going for 39 straight years at Hopkins, but at the same time, we’re not just satisfied with being in the tournament. That’s not what Hopkins is all about. We expect to battle and see what happens."

Added coach Dave Pietramala: "In the [ESPNU] broadcast, they talked about Duke playing Carolina. That doesn’t slip by players and coaches, but that’s OK. This is a [Blue Devils] team with a really veteran group. They’ve got fifth-year seniors and seniors. It is a very, very talented team. As many seniors they’re playing, we’re playing freshmen. So I understand why people are saying that, and it’s not like we’ve sprinted to the playoffs coming off an undefeated season. But the fact that people are counting you out a little bit, sure, you use that as motivation. Why wouldn’t you?"

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May 13, 2010

Outtakes from interview with Johns Hopkins' Kimmel

Friday’s edition of The Sun will include a feature on Johns Hopkins senior midfielder Michael Kimmel, who is a key cog in the Blue Jays’ first-round game against No. 5 seed Duke in the NCAA Tournament on Saturday. Here are a few nuggets that didn't get into the article.

What surprised me was that Kimmel played attack at Loyola. But the Towson native said he wasn’t shocked when coach Dave Pietramala informed him that he would be moved to the midfield.

"That’s just the way I played in high school," Kimmel said. "I almost always played up top, so it was just fitting that I would come and play midfield here.I played behind the net a little bit when I would invert with the short-stick [defensive midfielder], but other than that, my game was more fitting for playing midfield in college."

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Q&A with ESPN's Mark Dixon

ESPN analyst and former Johns Hopkins midfielder Mark Dixon is pulling double duty this weekend, providing commentary for No. 5 seed Duke’s first-round game against Johns Hopkins at Koskinen Stadium in Durham, N.C., this Saturday at 12 p.m. and for No. 4 seed North Carolina’s showdown with Delaware at Fetzer Field in Chapel Hill, N.C., this Sunday at 5 p.m Dixon addressed the possibility of shifting criteria, the disadvantages of conference tournaments and the one player missing from the list of five finalists for the Tewaaraton Award.

Question: Were there any glaring omissions in the make-up of the 16-team field?

Mark Dixon: "I think every Monday, there’s always great discussion. The bottom line is, there’s only 60 men’s lacrosse teams playing Division I ball, and you’re going to have some hurt feelings. As it is, with 16 teams, I think the ratio is already out of proportion with what the NCAA wants. I think for the most part, they got it right. It looked like the criteria was a little inconsistent. In other words, Hopkins with their strength of schedule and their RPI seemed to really benefit, whereas Georgetown didn’t get the same luxury. I think they applied some different criteria when they looked at Georgetown and – let’s say – Notre Dame. Georgetown had a better strength of schedule and a better RPI than Notre Dame, also a better win-loss record, and they beat them head-to-head. But the criteria applied looked more at significant wins – Notre Dame’s significant wins coming against Duke, Loyola and Denver, while Georgetown didn’t possess those same wins with oomph. They didn’t have a win over Duke. They had a win over Delaware, but they lost to Loyola. What’s frustrating for lacrosse fans is the criteria seemed to be on an as-needed basis. There is uniform criteria, but they’re not used in a particular order. It just seems like this year, the criteria was split, whereas in years past, the strict criteria was strength of schedule and RPI. This year, the strict criteria appeared to be quality wins. But it’s a monumental task, being on the NCAA selection committee. I feel for Georgetown. I think they should have gotten a bid into the NCAA Tournament, but at the end, if you look at the criteria and you look at the metrics that are used, Notre Dame is in."

Q: Did the loss to Delaware in the Colonial Athletic Association Tournament hurt Drexel, while Hofstra failing to qualify for the CAA Tournament help the Pride get into the NCAA Tournament?

MD: "I actually wrote about this in a piece for Inside Lacrosse this week. I thought the conference tournament hurt both UMass and Drexel. It’s a double-edged sword. It can help you or it can hurt you. Had Drexel beaten Delaware and reached the CAA final, we could be talking about Drexel being in the tournament as opposed to Notre Dame because Drexel beat Notre Dame head-to-head. The conference tournament are built to give teams incentives because if you didn’t have a post-league tournament like they did in the Ivy League, teams like Harvard and Yale have been eliminated in mid-April. Hofstra perhaps did benefit from not making their tournament, but they also had some quality wins outside of the conference, and they were helped out in some other conference tournaments. For example, Army winning the Patriot League. Hofstra had a resounding win over the Black Knights. So that definitely hurt Drexel, but it would have gone in the other direction if Drexel had beaten Delaware and gotten to the CAA final."

Q: Any argument with the top eight seeds?

MD: "I have no beef with the top-8 seeds. I thought they got it right. You could have looked at Denver as maybe being a potential first-round site, but when you look at their numbers compared to Stony Brook, it’s virtually dead even. And even though Denver did beat Stony Brook head-to-head, Stony Brook, I believe, had a better strength of schedule. I think they got it right."

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Categories: Johns Hopkins, Loyola, Maryland, Mount St. Mary's, Q&A
        

May 12, 2010

Q&A with ESPN's Paul Carcaterra

ESPN analyst and former Syracuse All-American midfielder Paul Carcaterra will provide commentary for No. 1 seed Virginia’s first-round game at Klockner Stadium in Charlottesville, Va., against Mount St. Mary’s this Saturday at 7:30 p.m. Carcaterra offered his opinion on the omission of Georgetown, the seed with the easiest road to the Final Four, and the local team with the best chance to reach the Final Four.

Question: How would you evaluate the selection committee’s decisions regarding the make-up of the 16-team field?

Paul Carcaterra: "One interesting team that popped out at me was Georgetown. It’s almost unfair to put them head-to-head with another team, but when you look at the Georgetown-Notre Dame situation, it doesn’t make complete sense unless you were in that committee. Georgetown had the better record, a better strength of schedule, a better RPI, and they beat Notre Dame head-to-head. So to me, there’s some kind of discrepancy there. Look, it’s not an easy job because this year – more than ever – so many teams beat each other. For example, Loyola beat Georgetown, Georgetown beat Notre Dame, and Notre Dame beat Loyola. That’s just one example of how it’s so cyclical with all of these teams beating each other. I think there was probably a lot of tension on who should be in and who should be out. If Georgetown got in and Loyola didn’t, then people would be barking that Loyola beat them head-to-head, and something similar could be said for a lot of these situations. It was not an easy situation to be in if you’re on the committee, but that was one team that possibly got a raw deal."

Q: So it sounds like you had Georgetown pegged for the tournament. If that’s the case, which team did you think was out?

PC: "I was kind of debating between four teams for the last two spots, and they were Hopkins, Loyola, Hofstra and Drexel. I thought Drexel had a pretty nice body of work. Drexel beat Notre Dame, beat Hofstra. The other situation that I thought was kind of interesting was that Drexel was almost penalized – in my mind – for going to the conference tournament. Hofstra doesn’t make the conference tournament, but gets in the NCAA Tournament, and Drexel stays home because they lost to Delaware again. When you think about it, Drexel hurt themselves by going to the conference tournament and losing again, whereas Hofstra stayed idle and got to the NCAA Tournament. So those were my four teams, and I felt like it came down to either Hofstra or Drexel and Hopkins or Loyola. I had Georgetown in and Notre Dame in, so it wasn’t necessarily about Georgetown getting in over Notre Dame. Hopkins beat Loyola last weekend, and even though they had a worse record, they also played a much tougher schedule than Loyola. So I thought that Hopkins and Drexel should have gotten in. I think Hofstra’s a better team – top to bottom – than Drexel, but they just didn’t take care of business when they should have. And not making your conference tournament – although that’s not a pre-requisite – to me, that just didn’t add up."

Q: What were your thoughts on Stony Brook getting the No. 8 seed and a home game in the first round?

PC: "I was surprised because when you think of Stony Brook and their body of work – although they have two of the most explosive offensive players in [junior midfielder] Kevin Crowley and [junior attackman] Jordan McBride – what’s their top win? I looked at their schedule, and they had no big wins on that entire schedule. They beat Towson, but Towson’s at home and they’re 7-8. Delaware’s their best win, but you don’t get a No. 8 seed when Delaware’s your best win. I would have given the No. 8 seed to – as crazy as it sounds – Georgetown. Georgetown beat Notre Dame, they played a very difficult schedule, and they didn’t have any bad losses. Georgetown had a top-10 RPI and their strength of schedule was ninth. That’s why when Georgetown didn’t get in, it was like, whoa. With that said, I think Stony Brook can beat Denver because Denver is traveling all the way to the East, and it’s at Stony Brook."

Q: Would you agree or disagree that Virginia has the easist path to the Final Four at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore on Memorial Day weekend?

PC: "Absolutely. Virginia’s path to the Final Four is drastically easier than the other top seeds. They’re playing a Mount St. Mary’s team that is actually pretty good this year. They’re not a poor team by any stretch, but for the No. 1 team in the country, they will be heavily favored and should win that game without too much trouble. And that quarterfinal game, when you think about it, is normally a bear of a game for every top seed. It’s usually a difficult game more times than not. But to face either Stony Brook or Denver as opposed to [No. 4 seed] North Carolina and [No. 5 seed] Duke potentially squaring off, [No. 2 seed] Syracuse possibly playing [No. 7 seed] Cornell, and [No. 6 seed] Princeton playing [No. 3 seed] Maryland, those are much tougher games than Virginia’s. Unless North Carolina gets healthy, I think Duke is a few goals better than North Carolina right now. Syracuse and Cornell, the last two times those teams have played, it’s come down to the last second, so you can’t tell me that’s an easy game."

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May 11, 2010

Q&A with ESPN's Quint Kessenich

ESPN analyst and former Johns Hopkins All-American goalkeeper Quint Kessenich will occupy a spot in ESPNU’s studio in Charlotte, N.C., offering commentary on all eight NCAA Tournament first-round games this weekend. Kessenich broke down his thoughts on the snub of Georgetown, the challenge for Virginia and seed with the toughest path to the Final Four.

Question: What is your assessment of the selection committee’s decisions regarding the make-up of the 16-team field?

Quint Kessenich: "I think in the end, the two teams that were left out were Georgetown and Drexel. I can make a case for both of those teams, and I can make a case for the teams that were selected. So for me, just getting clarity on the selection process – what the mindset was, what the reasoning was – and if the fans are OK with what they’re hearing from [committee chair] Tim Pavlechko and the committee, then I can’t really argue. I thought Georgetown was in. In my mock bracket which we did on Saturday in the studio, I had Georgetown not only in, but I thought they had just as strong a resume as Stony Brook, and I gave them the eighth seed and had them hosting a game. That’s how tight it was in terms of being in and out. There’s not much difference between teams 8 through 16 this year."

Q: So the exclusion of Georgetown was the biggest surprise of Sunday night?

QK: "Yes, that’s the team that has the most to complain about given what they accomplished. One thing that surprised me looking at it this morning is that Mount St. Mary’s moved to 16 in RPI. So Georgetown gets a lot more credit for that Mount St. Mary’s win than I anticipated. I thought their RPI and strength of schedule were tough. They played teams ranked Nos. 2, 3 and 5, so I was surprised when the brackets initially came out. And I thought the Big East was a better conference than the ECAC [Eastern College Athletic Conference]. I think Loyola’s in-conference wins are unimpressive, to say the least. I thought the Big East and the CAA [Colonial Athletic Association] had better years and are much stronger conferences than the ECAC."

Q: So in your mock bracket, which team was out?

QK: "I did not have Loyola in the tournament. Otherwise, the field was the same. The top seven seeds were the same. Most of my match-ups were on. But I had Georgetown in and Loyola not in."

Q: So you had Hofstra in?

QK: "I did. Hofstra and Notre Dame, I thought, were very solid. And if Johns Hopkins got in, I thought Georgetown would get in also."

Q: With Virginia getting the top seed, can returning to lacrosse be cathartic for the Cavaliers?

QK: "I think it is. When we spoke to [coach] Dom Starsia last night, he mentioned meeting with the captains and making sure that they were on board and really willing to do this. I think Dom sat them down and really went over what they’re going to encounter over the next 20 or so days. This is going to be quite a journey for them. The issue is not going to go away. So they’re going to be confronted with it on a daily basis, especially as they near games. Playing lacrosse will be great therapy and will return their lives to – at least for 2½ hours – a little bit of normalcy. When they’re out on the lacrosse field, that will be an oasis away from the off-the-field troubles. That will help get them back to normalcy. They will be surrounded by friends and their teammates in the locker room, traveling to games, through the practices and schedule of their week. I can’t argue with [athletic director] Craig Littlepage and Dom Starsia saying that lacrosse is a vital part of the healing process."

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Categories: Johns Hopkins, Loyola, Maryland, Q&A
        

May 10, 2010

Tournament invitation elicits usual reaction from Johns Hopkins

After 38 consecutive years of earning a berth in the NCAA Tournament, one would think that Johns Hopkins’ reaction to No. 39 would be a little muted.

But when the Blue Jays had to win the last two games of the season to even their record at 7-7 just to be eligible for postseason consideration this spring, a little outpouring of emotion is expected.

"They cheered – like we do every year," coach Dave Pietramala said of his players’ reaction when they saw that they will meet No. 5 seed Duke on Saturday at 12 p.m. "We don’t take things for granted around here. Strange things can happen. Obviously, there have been years when we’ve been certain where we stand that we’ll be in. But it still doesn’t take away from the excitement that you’ve been named to the NCAA Tournament, and that you’re one of 16 teams and now you have an opportunity to compete for a national championship. Was the cheer a little louder today? Probably so and that’s because of the position we put ourselves in and that position was pretty simple. Our destiny was in the hands of others."

Johns Hopkins, which has never lost in the first round of the tournament, didn’t get any favors from the NCAA selection committee, which sent the team to Durham, N.C., for a meeting with the Blue Devils (12-4). Duke has won 10 of its last 11 games – including tagging Virginia with its only loss of the season.

"Listen, we’ve never looked at our match-up and thought, ‘Oh, we’ve got the short end of the stick,’" Pietramala said. "You’ve got to play against great teams in this tournament no matter what and records go out the window. I’m certain right now, everyone’s got Duke moving on. In the broadcast [Sunday night], they had Duke moving on. And that’s OK. Based on the year we had, I understand that. What we’re going to do is we’re going to try to work awful hard and control the things that we can control."

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Categories: Johns Hopkins
        

May 8, 2010

Johns Hopkins at Loyola: Three things to watch

Much ado has already been made about Saturday’s showdown between No. 20 Johns Hopkins (6-7) and No. 12 Loyola (9-3) at Ridley Athletic Complex at 12 p.m. The winner is probably in the NCAA Tournament, while the loser could be watching the tournament at home.

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May 6, 2010

Could Penn State vacancy have an impact locally?

Penn State coach Glenn Thiel announced on Wednesday his decision to step down after 33 years of leading the Nittany Lions.

He compiled a 236-186 record at Penn State and owned a career mark of 313-222, which includes the 1972 national championship as the coach at Virginia.

The school’s web site said that a national search for Thiel’s successor will begin immediately, and I can think of a few local names that could become candidates.

Shawn Nadelen is the associate head coach and defensive coordinator at Towson, while Bobby Benson is the offensive coordinator at Johns Hopkins. Navy assistant coach Stan Ross was the head coach at Butler for two seasons before the school dropped the lacrosse program, and coach Paul Cantabene has Stevenson in line for its second overall No. 1 seed in the Division III Tournament.

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Categories: Johns Hopkins, Navy, Stevenson, Towson
        

May 4, 2010

Revisiting tragedy at Johns Hopkins

While working on an article for Wednesday’s edition on how teams deal with tragedy in the midst of a season, I talked to Johns Hopkins coach Dave Pietramala, who played for an assistant coach afflicted with cancer.

Fred Smith was involved in Johns Hopkins lacrosse for 40 years as both player and coach. Smith and current Denver head coach Bill Tierney served as co-defensive coordinators in 1987 despite Smith battling lung cancer.

Pietramala, who was a sophomore defenseman that year, was part of a unit that helped the Blue Jays upset No. 1 Maryland, 13-8, in the NCAA Tournament semifinals. Smith was present for that game at Rutgers, but he returned home and died shortly after the program captured its seventh national title.

Pietramala, who called Smith "the granddad of Hopkins lacrosse," said Smith was a trusted voice among the players, who gained inspiration from their coach.

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Categories: Johns Hopkins
        

Q&A with ESPN analyst Mark Dixon

ESPN analyst and former Johns Hopkins midfielder Mark Dixon will be providing commentary on Saturday at noon when No. 20 Johns Hopkins (6-7) visits No. 12 Loyola (9-3) in what will be a pivotal game for both teams. Dixon talks about the Johns Hopkins-Loyola showdown, Towson’s berth in the Colonial Athletic Association Tournament and UMBC’s hopes of capturing a third straight America East Tournament crown.

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Categories: Johns Hopkins, Loyola, Navy, Q&A, Towson, UMBC
        

May 3, 2010

Second RPI list is in

The NCAA released its second Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) list on Monday, and top of the list remains the same.

Virginia (14-1), Maryland (10-3), North Carolina (11-2), Syracuse (12-1) and Duke (11-4) are Nos. 1-5 as they were last week.

Cornell (9-4), Princeton (9-4), Loyola (9-3), Stony Brook (10-3) and Georgetown (8-5) round out the top 10. Princeton and Loyola each dropped a spot, while Cornell vaulted over them from No. 8.

Locally, Johns Hopkins (6-7) jumped two places to No. 14, Towson (6-7) fell four spots to No. 14, Mount St. Mary's (10-4) dropped one place to No. 24, and UMBC (4-8) moved down four spots to No. 38.

Navy (7-8) fell two places to No. 26, but since the season is over and the team has a sub-.500 record, the Midshipmen are mathematically eliminated from postseason consideration.

The RPI, a rating that accounts for record and strength of schedule in that stronger opponents yield higher RPIs, is one tool that the NCAA selection committee will evaluate prior to finalizing the field for the NCAA Tournament. The 16-team bracket will be unveiled on Sunday, May 9 at 9 p.m.

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Categories: Johns Hopkins, Loyola, Maryland, Mount St. Mary's, Towson, UMBC
        

April 29, 2010

Postscript from Towson at Johns Hopkins

Moments after Johns Hopkins’ 13-6 rout of No. 19 Towson at Homewood Field on Wednesday night in what amounted to a must-win game for the Blue Jays, one fan could be heard screaming, "We’re alive!"

That’s true, but the players and coaches are well aware that there is no room for error or a mulligan at this late stage of the regular season. A loss to No. 6 Loyola in the season finale on May 8 would doom Johns Hopkins (6-7) to a losing record and automatically take the team out of consideration for making a 39th consecutive appearance in the NCAA Tournament.

"You try not to think about it," senior attackman Steven Boyle said. "You’ve just got to come out and do the things you’ve always done. You’ve got to come out and practice hard and watch film and study the opponent."

For seniors like Boyle, midfielder Michael Kimmel and defensemen Sam DeVore and Matt Drenan, this season has been especially difficult because they don’t want their careers to be remembered for ending "The Streak."

"We won a national championship as freshmen [in 2007], but you’re always remembered for what you do as you go out the door," Kimmel said. "… If we don’t make the playoffs, it’s obviously a huge disappointment, and that hasn’t happened in the last 38 years here at Hopkins. It definitely weighs on us a lot, but it also definitely motivates us."

A victory over the Greyhounds won’t necessarily guarantee Johns Hopkins a spot in the NCAA Tournament, but the Blue Jays hope a resume that includes an RPI of 14 and a schedule that included contests against No. 1 Syracuse, No. 2 Virginia, No. 3 Maryland, No. 4 North Carolina, No. 6 Loyola and No. 7 Princeton will be enough.

"All [Wednesday night’s win] means is that we’ve got another chance to play for something other than pride," coach Dave Pietramala said. "We have a chance to play for something next Saturday. And I truly believe that we are playing for something. If we have the good fortune of winning it, I think we have every right to expect to be considered. Do I think we’ll get in? I have no idea, but we’d have two things which a lot of people don’t have, and that’s two top-10 RPI wins."

Other notes:

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April 28, 2010

Towson at Johns Hopkins: Halftime thoughts

History appears to be safe as Johns Hopkins is basically putting a choke hold on No. 19 Towson’s attempt to keep the Blue Jays out of the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 39 years.

Johns Hopkins is cruising right now, leading by a comfortable 8-0 at halftime here at Homewood Field in Baltimore.

A Tigers victory would have guaranteed the Blue Jays a sub-.500 finish, which would have automatically made them ineligible for consideration for the NCAA Tournament. But Towson (6-5) has appeared lifeless in the first half, committing turnovers on the first three offensive possessions and taking low-percentage shots that freshman goalkeeper Pierce Bassett (nine saves) has stopped easily.

The Tigers, who own a five-game winning streak, have also committed six penalties – four of which were the 1-minute variety – and are in the midst of their worst deficit of the season.

Meanwhile, Johns Hopkins (5-7) is flexing its muscles and quite easily as the offensive players have raced past Towson’s defenders for easy scores, four of which have come from in front of the cage.

Other notes:

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Towson at Johns Hopkins: Three things to watch

Wednesday night’s contest features two teams moving in opposing directions. No. 19 Towson (6-5) has won five straight games and is the top seed in the Colonial Athletic Association Tournament. Johns Hopkins (5-7) has dropped six of its last seven contests and must win its final two games of the regular season to even warrant consideration for the NCAA Tournament. Homewood Field should be the site of some fireworks.

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Categories: Johns Hopkins, Three things to watch, Towson
        

Q&A with ESPN's Paul Carcaterra

ESPN analyst Paul Carcaterra is a former All-American midfielder at Syracuse. In the first of a two-part question-and-answer session, Carcaterra discussed Virginia’s chances for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, Loyola’s resume for an at-large bid, and Johns Hopkins’ diminishing hopes for a tournament berth.

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Categories: Johns Hopkins, Loyola, Maryland
        

April 27, 2010

No time for celebration for Towson

Towson’s 10-9 victory over Penn State last Saturday capped a long journey where the Tigers overcame a 1-5 start with five consecutive wins to capture the Colonial Athletic Association regular-season championship and the top seed in the league tournament next week.

But as coach Tony Seaman pointed out, there’s no time to rest or celebrate with upcoming contests against local rival Johns Hopkins on Wednesday night and CAA opponent Hofstra on Saturday night.

"It feels very good," Seaman said of the CAA crown. "It’s just that maybe the two biggest games of the year are this week – certainly as far as NCAA implications are concerned. If we could find a way to win both of these games, then I don’t think we would have to go into the CAA Tournament as stressed out as we probably will be."

Towson’s five-game streak has been highlighted by one-goal victories in each of the last three contests. Seaman said that’s a testament to a strong league.

He pointed out that three of No. 16 Hofstra’s losses are to CAA foes, that No. 9 Massachusetts upended No. 10 and Big East power Georgetown last Saturday, and that a 2-10 Penn State knocked off Hofstra and has lost to Towson and Massachusetts by a combined three goals.

Seaman said the team’s perseverance in the one-goal decisions can be traced to its 1-5 start.

"There is where we got a huge benefit from going 1-5 at the beginning of the season – how important it is to stay focused and make good decisions and be there at the end," he said. "It’s gratifying that every time the weight has been placed on our defense, they have stepped up and come through."

Other notes:

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Categories: Johns Hopkins, Towson
        

April 26, 2010

NCAA releases first RPI list

The NCAA released its first Ratings Percentage Index -- aka RPI -- and four of the top five spots are occupied by teams from the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Virginia (13-1), North Carolina (11-2), Maryland (9-3) and Duke (11-4) are Nos. 1, 2, 3 and 5 on the list. Only Syracuse (11-1) at No. 4 breaks up the monopoly.

Princeton (9-3), Loyola (9-2), Cornell (8-4), Stony Brook (9-3) and Towson (6-5) round out the top 10. Locally, Johns Hopkins (5-7) sits at No. 14, Mount St. Mary's (8-4) at No. 23,  Navy (6-7) at No. 24 and UMBC (4-7) at No. 34.

The RPI, a rating that accounts for record and strength of schedule in that stronger opponents yield higher RPIs, is one tool that the NCAA selection committee will evaluate prior to finalizing the field for the NCAA Tournament. The 16-team bracket will be unveiled on Sunday, May 9 at 9 p.m.

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Categories: Johns Hopkins, Loyola, Maryland, Mount St. Mary's, Navy, Towson, UMBC
        

April 25, 2010

Postscript from Johns Hopkins at Navy

I enjoy talking to Richie Meade, and one thing I like about the Navy coach is that underneath his gruff demeanor, it's obvious that he cares deeply about the young men that their parents have entrusted to him. Even still, I have to admit that I was a little surprised to see Meade well up with emotion after the Midshipmen’s 9-8 overtime victory over No. 15 Johns Hopkins at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis on Saturday.

I was aware that the outcome snapped Navy’s 36-game losing skid to the Blue Jays, but as an outsider, I had no idea the impact that slide had on the players, coaches and supporters who had endured each loss that seemed to compound the frustration and heartache.

When asked about walking off the field after previous losses to Johns Hopkins, Meade took a few moments during his response to compose himself and when he did talk, you could clearly hear the emotion in his voice. I’ve tried to add some of that emotion in the transcript below.

"When we’ve played Hopkins in the past, there have been a lot of times [pause and sigh] I’ve walked off this field and have to [pause] walk into the locker room and deal with my kids and knew that they played their hearts out and they didn’t win," Meade said. "We’re not talking about once in a while here. We’re talking about a cumulative time. I mean, I remember 1985 [when Johns Hopkins won, 24-10]. I remember that game, I remember other games, I remember games where we played great and we didn’t win. And the reason why we didn’t win was because we were playing Johns Hopkins. If we had played anybody else that day, we would’ve beat them. … That’s all I really care about, to be honest with you. I’m the same coach I was yesterday. This doesn’t mean anything to me personally except that we won this game and I’m happy about it. But to our players and the players that weren’t successful when they played their guts out and to have them have to deal with that time and time again, that’s really the thing that has bothered me the most. So I think it’s important for our alumni. There are a lot of guys in that locker room that were great players here, that kind of built what we have become here over the last seven or eight years. A lot of guys are in the locker room, and that means so much to me. That means so much to me that this game means so much to them. That’s what I’m thankful for."

Meade choked up again when commenting on the team’s rally from a 5-0 deficit after the first quarter.

"It’s been a tough year, but it’s been a year that I’ve enjoyed a lot because we really have had to look inside of ourselves," he said. "We’ve had to just keep fighting. The only thing [pause] I really hope I teach these guys is to keep fighting, to believe in themselves and to be good leaders. That’s it. That’s a trait I think this team has."

Other notes:

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April 24, 2010

Johns Hopkins at Navy: Halftime thoughts

Navy leads No. 15 Johns Hopkins, 6-5, at halftime before an announced 10,128 at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis Saturday, and if the Blue Jays end up losing this game, they will be kicking themselves for squandering the 5-0 advantage they had built in the first quarter.

Johns Hopkins (5-6) opened the game with five unanswered goals – including three in a span of 3 minutes, 22 seconds – and appeared to have its 37th consecutive win against the Midshipmen in hand.

But the Blue Jays got sloppy in the second quarter. Despite winning 4-of-7 face-offs, the team committed six turnovers in the period and maintained possession long enough to take just four shots.

It is believed that Johns Hopkins, which has lost five of its last six contests, must win the final three games of the regular season – against Navy, Towson on Wednesday night and No. 7 Loyola on May 8 – to grab one of 10 at-large bids to the NCAA Tournament.

One more setback, and Johns Hopkins’ streak of 38 straight tournament appearances would rest in the hands of the NCAA selection committee, which is the least reliable option.

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Johns Hopkins at Navy: Three things to watch

Saturday’s annual showdown between No. 15 Johns Hopkins and Navy at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis at 12 p.m. will have even greater implications on the postseason picture as both teams are struggling to bolster their resume for the NCAA selection committee. Oh, and there’s the little matter of a 36-game winning streak that the Blue Jays own over the Midshipmen.

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April 23, 2010

Johns Hopkins and Navy: mirror images of each other?

When No. 15 Johns Hopkins and Navy meet at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis on Saturday, it would not be a surprise for players and coaches on both sides to react with a slight double-take.

Both teams enter the game with losing records, dwindling postseason hopes and a sense of desperation.

Both sides have also suffered significant injuries, especially those of the season-ending variety. The Blue Jays lost senior attackman Chris Boland, last year’s leading scorer, to a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in his right knee and has recently welcomed back junior long-stick midfielder Orry Michael and sophomore midfielder Marshall Burkhardt from a fractured patella and compartment syndrome, respectively.

Meanwhile, the Midshipmen were forced to bid farewell to senior attackman Tim Paul after he tore the ACL in his right knee in the team’s second game of the season. And senior long-stick midfielder Jaren Woeppel, the Patriot League’s Preseason Defensive Player of the Year has missed four games because of a nagging right hamstring injury.

When asked about the eerie similarities between both teams, Johns Hopkins coach Dave Pietramala chuckled.

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Categories: Johns Hopkins, Navy
        

April 22, 2010

Maryland's Cottle addresses ending to win vs. Johns Hopkins

There’s a lot to be happy about if you’re a Terp or a supporter. Maryland is ranked fifth in The Sun’s latest poll, owns an 8-2 record, and is routinely cited by experts as one of the favorites to advance to the Final Four at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore on Memorial Day weekend.

But coach Dave Cottle took a minute to address the team’s tactic of holding the ball and playing keep-away in the final minutes of Saturday’s 10-9 victory over No. 15 Johns Hopkins in the second game of the Smartlink Day of Rivals doubleheader at M&T Bank Stadium.

While refraining from second-guessing that strategy, Cottle said the coaching staff may have been too conservative in directing the players not to shoot the ball even when opportunities to score presented themselves.

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Categories: Johns Hopkins, Maryland
        

Nothing 'definite' on return of Navy's Woeppel

When Navy plays host to No. 15 Johns Hopkins Saturday, one of the Midshipmen’s defensive priorities will involve containing Blue Jays senior midfielder Michael Kimmel, who has totaled five goals and three assists in four career meetings with Navy.

Kimmel would likely draw the attention of senior long-stick midfielder Jaren Woeppel, but Woeppel’s status is still up in the air due to an injured right hamstring.

Woeppel, who is believed to be the first long-stick midfielder to be voted as the Patriot League’s Preseason Defensive Player of the Year, missed the Midshipmen’s losses to No. 5 Maryland and Army and has sat out four contests this season.

Coach Richie Meade was non-committal about Woeppel’s availability for Saturday.

"He ran around [Tuesday]," Meade said. "Like I said last week, he’s very, very close, but I can’t get a definite answer, and I don’t think there is one. Our position has been that he’s not going to play until we feel like he’s close to 100 percent and he can be effective. My feeling is that he’s close, but it’s not something that you can get a definite time frame on. He’s working at it and he’s much better than he was. Whether or not he plays this weekend, if he’s 100 percent, he will play."

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Categories: Johns Hopkins, Navy
        

April 20, 2010

Q&A with ESPN's Matt Ward

Matt Ward is a former All-American attackman who helped Virginia capture NCAA championships in 2003 and 2006 and won the Tewaaraton Trophy in 2006 as the sport’s top player. In the first of a two-part interview, Ward, an analyst for ESPN, discusses – among other topics – No. 5 Maryland’s shelf life, No. 7 Loyola’s at-large resume and No. 20 Towson’s postseason chances.

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Categories: Johns Hopkins, Loyola, Maryland, Mount St. Mary's, Navy, Towson, UMBC
        

April 18, 2010

Postscript from Maryland vs. Johns Hopkins

No. 15 Johns Hopkins' 10-9 loss to No. 5 Maryland at the Smartlink Day of Rivals event at M&T Bank Stadium Saturday night begs the question: where does this leave the Blue Jays (5-6) in terms of making their 39th consecutive appearance in the NCAA Tournament?

Johns Hopkins hasn’t absorbed six losses in the regular season since 1971 when that squad went 3-7. That was also the last time the school did not play in the NCAA Tournament.

With just three games left on the schedule before Selection Sunday on May 9, it would seem that the Blue Jays must win all three, which would entail beating Navy next Saturday, Towson on April 28 and No. 7 Loyola on May 8.

A defiant Dave Pietramala vowed that this team would aim at making the postseason.

"We’re going to make a run at this," the head coach said. "There are no ifs, ands or buts. We’re going to do everything we can to make a run at this. This isn’t over yet."

Senior midfielder Michael Kimmel echoed Pietramala’s feelings.

"Obviously, we’re not happy with the loss," the Towson native and Loyola graduate said. "But like Coach said, this thing’s not over yet. We’ve played the toughest schedule in the country and we obviously have to win out now, but we just have to learn from our mistakes. … Obviously, everyone’s down right now, but I’m a captain, and [attackman] Steve [Boyle] is a senior leader, and we’ve got to have our heads up and tell the guys that this thing isn’t over yet."

Other notes:

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April 17, 2010

Maryland vs. Johns Hopkins: Halftime thoughts

Maryland’s start was a lot worse than its finish as the No. 5 Terps trail No. 15 Johns Hopkins, 4-3, at halftime in the second game of the Smartlink Day of Rivals doubleheader at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore Saturday night.

Maryland (7-2), which has dropped the last three meetings and 12 of the last 15, got off to a lethargic start, killing possessions with costly turnovers.

Meanwhile, the Blue Jays (5-5) took advantage by scoring three unanswered goals. The first two came from freshmen midfielders as John Greeley scored with 12:13 left in the first quarter and Greeley connected with John Ranagan with 6:53 left. Senior attackman Steven Boyle capped the run by converting a pass from senior midfielder Michael Kimmel with 4:54 left.

After both teams traded goals, junior attackman Ryan Young converted a feed from sophomore midfielder Jake Bernhardt, and senior midfielder Adam Sear scored on a two-man advantage as the Terps closed to within one before halftime.

If Maryland harbors any hope of ending its recent hex against Johns Hopkins, the team will need a hotter start in the third quarter. The good news is that the Blue Jays have surrendered 28 goals in the third period – the most of any quarter this season.

Other notes:

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April 16, 2010

Where's the love for long-stick midfielders?

Despite the position’s importance, there is no designated spot on All-American teams for long-stick midfielders. They’re usually grouped with close defensemen even tough many people would agree that their responsibilities are somewhat different.

Here’s what each of the four long-stick midfielders participating in the Smartlink Day of Rivals doubleheader at M&T Bank Stadium on Saturday had to say about the lack of recognition.

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Categories: Johns Hopkins, Maryland, Navy
        

Long-stick midfielders try their hands at scoring

Friday’s edition of The Sun included an article highlighting each of the long-stick midfielders playing for the four teams involved in Saturday’s Smartlink Day of Rivals doubleheader at M&T Bank Stadium.

A significant task associated with playing the long-stick midfielder position is helping the team move the ball from defense to offense. The dilemma for these players is what to do if the opposing defense doesn’t try to stop the ball carrier.

Ever since he scored two goals in his first game as a freshman in 2007, Maryland redshirt junior Brian Farrell has had the green light to shoot the ball if necessary.

"I was scared in the beginning because I never knew what the reaction was going to be from Coach [Dave] Cottle," recalled Farrell, who has scored 17 goals and assisted on 12 others in his career. "But the first game I ever played in, I scored two goals, and I was like, ‘OK, I don’t think he cares as long as I score.’ There’s been times when I’ve gotten yelled at for shooting. For example, last week [in an 11-9 victory over then-No. 20 Navy], I got yelled at for taking – I don’t think it was a bad shot – what they thought was a bad shot. Not the right time, I guess. … It’s part of the game. You need transition in order to win games."

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Categories: Johns Hopkins, Maryland, Navy
        

April 14, 2010

Maryland's Yeatman either "probable" or "game-time decision" for Saturday

When No. 5 Maryland takes the field at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore on Saturday evening against No. 15 Johns Hopkins in the second game of the Smartlink Day of Rivals doubleheader, it's unclear whether the Terps (7-2) will have senior Will Yeatman in the fold.

Yeatman, who sat out last Saturday's 11-9 victory over then-No. 20 Navy because of a broken left thumb, is scheduled to have the stitches in that thumb removed Thursday, and there's a chance that he could practice later that day and Friday, according to coach Dave Cottle.

"If he practices Thursday, I'm probably going to play him Saturday," Cottle said, adding, "I'd go [with] probable [as Yeatman's official designation]. If he's practicing, he's playing."

Seconds later, however, Cottle reminded two reporters that the biggest priority is Yeatman's health, and that will play a significant role in his availability against the Blue Jays (5-5).

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April 9, 2010

Johns Hopkins' Kimmel's troubles mirror team's slump

Johns Hopkins has leaned on the services of senior attackman Steven Boyle and senior midfielder Michael Kimmel to jump-start the offense, and opposing defenses have taken notice.

 

Opponents have paid special attention to Kimmel. After recording 10 goals and nine assists in the team’s first five games, the Towson native and Loyola graduate has scored just two goals and assisted on zero in the Blue Jays’ last four contests – all losses.

 

Coach Dave Pietramala said opposing defenses haven’t done anything special to shut off Kimmel. Rather, he thinks Kimmel is trying to do too much.

"I think you’re seeing a guy who’s pressing a little too much, and I think more than other teams defending him, I think Michael’s kind of having difficulty getting out of his own way,” Pietramala said. “He’s just trying so hard, and I think he feels like he has to make a play every time he has the ball. You want your seniors to want to absorb that burden and you want your seniors to want to make plays, but they also have to let the game come to them. I think what you’re seeing is Michael is just pressing so hard and feels like he has to carry the whole load himself when he doesn’t. He’s got [junior attackman] Kyle Wharton, he’s got [senior attackman] Steven Boyle, he’s got [sophomore attackman] Tommy Palasek. He does have young guys, but it’s that group of older guys that has to carry the load, not just one guy.”

 
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Categories: Johns Hopkins
        

Q&A with ESPN's Mark Dixon

ESPN analyst Mark Dixon, a former midfielder at Johns Hopkins, will provide commentary for Saturday's game between No. 20 Navy and No. 5 Maryland and Sunday's contest between No. 14 Notre Dame and No. 10 Georgetown. This is the first of a two-part interview with Dixon, who discussed Maryland's inconsistent midfield, Loyola’s big game against Eastern College Athletic Conference rival Fairfield, and Johns Hopkins’ and Navy’s NCAA Tournament chances.

Question: If you're Maryland coach Dave Cottle, what are you most pleased with about your No. 5 Terps at this point in the season?

Mark Dixon: If I'm Dave Cottle, the thing I'm most pleased with is their energy and level of intensity. I think Maryland is a team that really gets after it. They get up and down the field, they fight and contest every groundball, they fall behind 6-0 to Virginia, the No. 1 team in the country and they fight back.

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Categories: Johns Hopkins, Loyola, Maryland, Mount St. Mary's, Navy, Q&A
        

April 8, 2010

Johns Hopkins tabs freshman goalie for second straight start

Pierce Bassett, who got the start in goal in last Saturday’s 11-7 loss to No. 3 North Carolina, will start this Saturday against visiting Albany.

 

Bassett, who became only the fifth true freshman to start in the cage since 1972, finished with six saves, and coach Dave Pietramala confirmed that Bassett will remain the starter.

“I don’t think we can afford to keep going back and forth and keep these guys in limbo each week. I think that would be unfair to all of them,” Pietramala said. “Pierce did a solid job. I’m sure if you asked him, he’d probably say, ‘Gosh, I wish I had a couple of those back.’ … I thought he showed some poise and composure, and he did a good job. Can he play better? I absolutely think Pierce is capable of playing better. But was he the reason why we lost? No, absolutely not. I thought he did a solid job.”

Bassett replaced senior Michael Gvozden, who had been the team’s undisputed starter since he succeeded Jesse Schwartzman prior to the 2008 season. Pietramala said Gvozden, a Severna Park native and graduate, has been a model teammate.

“I’m sure he’s very disappointed, but it’s a decision that we’ve made and one that we think is in the best interest of the team,” Pietramala said. “Michael, while very disappointed and wishing that the situation was different, has been extremely supportive of not just Pierce, but of all the other goalies. He’s the first to greet Pierce when Pierce walks off the field, and as I told Michael, Pierce looks up to him. … He’s still a freshman, and he still looks up to the senior. So the support of that senior is critical, and Michael – in practices and in games – has done what you hope a good teammate would do.”

 

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Categories: Johns Hopkins
        

Johns Hopkins not worrying about past or future

A four-game losing streak can be fatal to a team’s hopes for an invitation to the NCAA Tournament. For No. 20 Johns Hopkins, it’s treated as a minor hiccup.

The Blue Jays (4-5) haven’t won since beating UMBC, 16-10, on March 9, dropping decisions to No. 13 Hofstra, No. 2 Syracuse, No. 1 Virginia and No. 3 North Carolina in consecutive weeks.

But Johns Hopkins lost five straight two years before reeling off five consecutive wins, qualifying for the tournament, and reaching the championship final. That’s why coach Dave Pietramala isn’t stressing over speculation that the program might not make its 39th straight appearance in the NCAA Tournament this spring.

“There’s always concern when you’re not winning, when you hit a skid like this,” he said. “But we’ve always taken everything one game at a time, and there’s still a lot of lacrosse left for us. So you can’t hit the panic button. You’ve got to  just continue to work hard. Our focus is on the areas of concern, addressing the areas that will help us win.”

The Blue Jays get a chance to reverse their fortunes this Saturday when Albany visits Homewood Field at 2 p.m. The Great Danes opened the season with six consecutive losses and are 2-7 overall. Despite those numbers, however, Pietramala dismissed the notion that Albany is a team ripe for Johns Hopkins.

“In the end, I don’t think the remedy for our situation lies in the teams that we’re playing or the next team that we’re playing,” he said. “I think it lies within our team. Part of it is we need to play with a greater sense of urgency. I thought we took a step on Saturday in doing that. … Is Albany the cure for that? No, because we still have to make those plays, and we still have to make the appropriate decisions, pass or slide. Albany might feel like we’re the antidote for them. So we’re not looking at it like that.”
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April 7, 2010

Q&A with CBS College Sports' Matt Danowski

Matt Danowski is a former four-time All-American attackman at Duke who won the 2007 Tewaaraton Trophy. The newest lacrosse analyst for CBS College Sports, Danowski shared his opinion on a variety of topics. Here is the first of a two-part interview.

 

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Categories: Johns Hopkins, Loyola, Maryland
        

April 2, 2010

North Carolina at Johns Hopkins: Three things to watch

No. 12 Johns Hopkins (4-4) is 64-10 at Homewood Field under coach Dave Pietramala, but will that translate into a victory against No. 3 North Carolina (9-0) on Saturday at noon? Here are a few factors that could account for the final score.

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No decision yet regarding Johns Hopkins goalie

The better part of this past week has been spent evaluating the goalie position, and No. 12 Johns Hopkins (4-4) is prepared to name the starter for Saturday’s home contest against No. 3 North Carolina (9-0).

Blue Jays coach Dave Pietramala said he won’t make that decision until practice later on Friday and therefore, he declined to disclose the starter’s identity during an interview Friday morning. Whatever the decision, Pietramala said the difficulty is not making a change if it gives the team the best chance to snap a three-game losing skid.

"The hard part is that it affects a kid – one way or the other," he said. "You’ve got a kid who’s been practicing hard who may not have played a lot yet but has seen some action and he’s going, ‘Wow, I hope I get an opportunity.’ And then you have another young man who’s been your goalie and you say, ‘He’s been our goalie, and we’ve been loyal to him. Do we make that change?" That’s the hard part about these decisions as coaches. To the coaches, it’s not important who plays. You want to put the best guy in there. But the struggles at times is that your decision affects a young man, and that’s something you’ve got to take into consideration."

Senior Michael Gvozden has been the team’s three-year starter in the net, and he is 25-15 over the last three seasons. But he was pulled in favor of sophomore Steven Burke just eight minutes into an eventual 14-6 loss to No. 10 Hofstra on March 13, and freshman Pierce Bassett replaced Gvozden midway through the third quarter of a 15-6 setback to No. 1 Virginia last Saturday.

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Categories: Johns Hopkins
        

March 31, 2010

North Carolina could play Saturday without two offensive starters

There is a very real possibility that No. 3 North Carolina will visit No. 12 Johns Hopkins without its best attackman and midfielder.

Junior Billy Bitter, who leads the Tar Heels (9-0) in assists (16) and is tied for second in points (27), did not play in last Saturday’s 9-7 victory over No. 5 Maryland because of a leg injury suffered in a 12-11 win against No. 4 Princeton on March 16. Senior Sean DeLaney, who leads the team in goals (20) and is tied for second in points (27), injured his left shoulder in the third quarter of the game against the Terps and did not return.

Both Bitter and DeLaney – whom coach Joe Breschi termed as "day-to-day" – have yet to practice, and Breschi said both players need to practice before they could get cleared to play in a game.

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Categories: Johns Hopkins
        

Q&A with ESPN's Paul Carcaterra

Paul Carcaterra, a former All-American midfielder at Syracuse, has made the move to ESPN after working for CBS College Sports. This is the first of a two-part conversation in which Carcaterra shared his thoughts on Johns Hopkins’ troubles, Maryland’s legitimacy and Loyola’s potential.

Question: What is wrong with Johns Hopkins, which has lost three straight and four of its last five?

Paul Carcaterra: "I don’t know if I would necessarily say that something is wrong with them, but last week, watching them play Virginia, they had seven freshmen on the field at one time. That’s a good sign for the future, but in Division I lacrosse, success coincides with seasoned veterans and a core group of leaders. I think they have some nice seniors in [midfielder] Michael Kimmel and [attackman] Steven Boyle, but there seems to be a big drop between that senior class and that freshmen group. There’s not a ton of huge contributors in the sophomore and junior classes, and they’re asking a lot of the freshmen. I think in a few years, you’re not going to want to play Johns Hopkins, but speaking specifically about 2010, it’s going to take some time for those young guys to really catch up to the speed of Division I lacrosse and feel comfortable with what they’re doing. You’re seeing some glimpses of that. I think they have two incredible defenders in [long-stick midfielder Chris] Lightner and [defenseman Tucker] Durkin. Those kids are going to be complete studs. I think they’re catching up to that level a little bit quicker than some of the offensive guys."

Q: So it sounds like you’re saying it’s a case of growing pains.

PC: "It’s growing pains, yes. And I think for this year, they don’t have a ton of speed in the midfield. That was one thing I saw. But they have a couple young freshmen that I was impressed with. I think [Lee] Coppersmith has great speed, and [John] Ranagan can get up and down the field."

Q: What should the Blue Jays do with their goalkeeper situation?

PC: "They’re 4-4, and they’ve been in situations like this. They have one of the best coaching staffs in the country, and they’re going to tap everything they can out of this team. They’re going to get what they can get out of this team. From a goaltending standpoint, I think they just have to go in one direction. You can’t continue to play [senior Michael] Gvozden and then pull him, play Gvozden and pull him. at this point, you might want to ride your future a little bit and go with one of these young guys. But Gvozden is not the reason for them being 4-4. I don’t necessarily think he’s won any games for them, but I don’t think he’s been the reason they’ve lost either. At some point, a spark might be needed and going with one of these young kids, I don’t think you would lose a ton and you could also get in position for some experience in the future."

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Categories: Johns Hopkins, Loyola, Maryland, Q&A
        

March 28, 2010

Postscript from Johns Hopkins at Virginia

Among the myriad of concerns swirling around No. 8 Johns Hopkins, the team has an additional worry: who will start in the cage when No. 3 North Carolina visits Homewood Field in Baltimore Saturday afternoon?

Trying to end a three-game skid against an undefeated Tar Heels squad (9-0) could be even more arduous as the Blue Jays debate whether to start senior Michael Gvozden, sophomore Steven Burke or freshman Pierce Bassett in the net.

After Saturday’s 15-6 setback to No. 1 Virginia, Johns Hopkins coach Dave Pietramala had not made up his mind.

"I need some time to think about that," he said. "Out here on the field probably isn’t the time. My job is to make the best decision for this team, and I’ll do that."

For the second time in three games, Gvozden was pulled. In a 14-6 loss to No. 6 Hofstra on March 13, Burke replaced Gvozden after the latter surrendered three goals just eight minutes into the first quarter. On Saturday, Bassett filled in for Gvozden with 3:41 left in the third quarter after he allowed 10 goals.

As in the contest against the Pride, Pietramala said he benched Gvozden against the Cavaliers because the team looked lethargic and because Gvozden wasn’t clearing the ball according to the game plan.

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Categories: Johns Hopkins, Postscript
        

March 27, 2010

Johns Hopkins at Virginia: Halftime thoughts

No. 8 Johns Hopkins trails No. 1 Virginia, 7-4, at halftime, here at Klockner Stadium in Charlottesville, Va., and the Blue Jays had kept pace with the Cavaliers until midway through the second quarter.

Johns Hopkins (4-3) got off to a terrible start as the team lost the first two face-offs, wasted two possessions (including an extra-man opportunity) with turnovers, and failed to clear once. Meanwhile, Virginia (8-0) scored three goals in a span of 5 minutes, 29 seconds.

Senior midfielder Michael Kimmel finally got the Blue Jays on the board with a goal with 11.9 seconds left in the first quarter.

After the Cavaliers scored the first goal of the second period, Johns Hopkins scored three straight with the first two coming from the stick of sophomore attackman Tom Palasek in a 39-second span. Freshman midfielder John Ranagan capped the run with a goal with 8:29 left in the quarter.

But after winning the ensuing face-off, senior face-off specialist Michael Powers missed a centering pass from Palasek, and Virginia scored three times to take a three-goal advantage into the break.

Other notes:

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March 25, 2010

Johns Hopkins' Palasek to remain as fourth attackman

One of the few bright spots from No. 8 Johns Hopkins’ 10-7 loss to No. 2 Syracuse last Saturday was the play of sophomore attackman Tom Palasek, who scored two goals in a span of 4 minutes, 54 seconds in the fourth quarter and added an assist.

But for now, it doesn’t sound like Palasek will be replacing either fifth-year senior Tom Duerr or junior Kyle Wharton in the starting lineup.

"There’s been that consideration since the beginning of the year," coach Dave Pietramala said. "We just felt at the time that Tommy Duerr, a fifth-year senior and a captain, had earned that right. We were very excited to see Tom Palasek step up at critical moments in the game when we really needed a spark and give us that spark. The decision you have to make is, do you want to start him and guarantee him a pole? Or do you want to keep doing what you’ve been doing and at least occasionally – if a team doesn’t get a pole to him – take advantage of that opportunity that we’ve created by running him through the box?"

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March 23, 2010

Gilman grad in line to start for Virginia vs. Johns Hopkins

As No. 1 Virginia prepares to play host to No. 8 Johns Hopkins at Klockner Stadium in Charlottesville, Va., this Saturday at noon, the 8-0 Cavaliers are hoping to take the field with one of their starting defensmen,

Senior Ryan Nizolek suffered a chest contusion in a 12-4 win against Cornell on March 13, and Nizolek sat out victories over Vermont and Towson. Virginia coach Dom Starsia said he is hopeful that Nizolek will return against the Blue Jays (4-3).

"If all things go according to plan, we’ll get him back to practice this week and have him available for the weekend," Starsia said.

Nizolek’s absence has been filled by freshman Harry Prevas, a Towson native and Gilman graduate who has collected three groundballs and caused one turnover in his last two starts.

"Harry’s filled in and played every minute of the last two games and played admirably," Starsia said. "For a young guy, he’s done a nice job for us. He’s played a lot. Even when he wasn’t starting, he still got out there and has played some meaningful minutes for us."

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March 21, 2010

Postscript from Syracuse at Johns Hopkins

Michael Gvozden has had performances like the 14-save effort he posted in No. 8 Johns Hopkins’ 10-7 loss to No. 2 Syracuse on Saturday night at Homewood Field in Baltimore.

But it was still nice to see the senior goalkeeper pull through after being benched for sophomore Steven Burke in last Saturday’s 14-6 loss to No. 6 Hofstra.

"I think the only person I needed to answer to was myself," Gvozden said after the loss to the reigning national champion Orange. "I think for the first time in nearly two years, I played really inspired tonight and I think I found my niche again. That’s something I’ve got to build on."

Gvozden, a Severna Park native and graduate, who surrendered three goals in eight minutes to the Pride before being pulled by coach Dave Pietramala, had to compete with Burke and freshman Pierce Bassett for the right to start Saturday night. It wasn’t the kind of psychologically relaxing week you'd want prior to one of the biggest games on the Blue Jays’ schedule.

"It was pretty mentally tough and rightfully so," Gvozden said. "I don’t think my play was anything to write home about earlier in the season."

Pietramala, who has leaned on Gvozden for the past three seasons, was pleased with Gvozden’s display.

"I expect to see more of that as we move forward," Pietramala said. "That’s been the expectation all the time. That’s why we wound up where we were going into this game. I give Michael a lot of credit. He answered the bell. I hope that he sees the confidence that we still have in him and the loyalty we have shown to him, and I hope he’ll continue to play that way because it’s going to be important for us as we move forward that he do just that."

Other notes:

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March 20, 2010

Syracuse at Johns Hopkins: Halftime thoughts

No. 8 Johns Hopkins trails No. 2 Syracuse, 5-1, at halftime Saturday night, and someone needs to find out if the offense got a wake-up call for the game.

The Blue Jays have been outshot, 19-9, and only three of those attempts landed on net. Orange junior goalkeeper John Galloway wasn’t forced to make his first save until there was 3:44 left in the second quarter.

A microcosm of the Blue Jays’ struggles: junior attackman Kyle Wharton intercepted a clearing pass late in the second period and had only Galloway to beat. But Wharton missed the net completely and possession reverted back to Syracuse. And Wharton and senior midfielder Michael Kimmel have rung the posts with shots.

 

Johns Hopkins was especially lethargic in the first quarter, taking only three shots to the Orange’s 10 and getting none on Galloway. And the Blue Jays had two 30-second extra-man opportunities, but couldn’t take advantage.

On the heels of just a six-goal display against No. 6 Hofstra a week ago, Johns Hopkins needs to figure things out on offense – and fast.

Other notes:

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Johns Hopkins' waiting game

For all of the hoopla surrounding Saturday night’s tilt between No. 2 Syracuse and No. 8 Johns Hopkins at Homewood Field in Baltimore, that excitement can sometimes be too much to bear.

Senior midfielder Michael Kimmel acknowledged that bypassing Saturday afternoons to play that night can be taxing on one’s reservoir of patience.

"As a player, it’s tough to sit around all day and wait," he said. "You get anxious. But playing a night game against Syracuse on Saturday is pretty special. So while you have to wait around for a while, it’ll be pretty cool to play under the lights at Homewood Field."

Even coaches get a little antsy.

"I hate playing at night," Blue Jays coach Dave Pietramala said. "I just want to get the games over. To sit around and wait all day, that’s not good for me. So no, I don’t enjoy that at all. Now, I enjoy the environment that it brings to the game. I enjoy the fact that it brings a large crowd to the Hopkins campus and that it’s enjoyable, and that it provides an electric feeling for our guys and for our team. I enjoy the fact that it brings a really positive experience to our lacrosse players and to our fans and to our alumni. And I think it’s a great recruiting tool to be on TV, on primetime on a Saturday night at 8 o’clock. It’s pretty spectacular. But from a personal standpoint, no, I don’t enjoy it at all. I don’t enjoy sitting in here and staring at the walls. Too much time is not good for me. I’d rather get up in the morning, get here, get into my routine, and play."

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Syracuse at Johns Hopkins: Three things to watch

Two teams that have combined to capture 20 of 39 all-time NCAA championships and made 34 appearances in the tournament final clash Saturday night at 8 p.m. when No. 2 Syracuse (3-1) visits No. 8 Johns Hopkins (4-2). Here are a few developments I will be interested in following from the press box at Homewood Field in Baltimore.

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Posted by Edward Lee at 7:00 AM | | Comments (0)
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March 19, 2010

Johns Hopkins' Boyle accustomed to pressure

Friday’s edition of The Sun included a profile of Johns Hopkins senior attackman Steven Boyle, who leads the team in goals (19), assists (10) and points (29).

The first player from New Hampshire to play for the Blue Jays, Boyle said he joined the program for the 2007 season with an open mind.

"When I came in, I didn’t really know what to expect, coming into Division I lacrosse from New Hampshire," he said. "Now I realize what it’s like to play at Johns Hopkins and the tradition that comes with it and how different the game is. You really have to be on top of everything right from the get-go."

Even though his older brother Brian played lacrosse at Penn State, Boyle’s commitment to Johns Hopkins was huge news in his home state. But Boyle said he didn’t feel the weight of the state on his shoulders.

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March 18, 2010

Johns Hopkins facing question mark at goalie

Two days prior to Johns Hopkins’ annual showdown with Syracuse, the Blue Jays have a dilemma to solve: who to start at goalkeeper Saturday night at 8 p.m. at Homewood Field.

Senior Michael Gvozden has started all six games thus far, ranking ninth in Division I in goals-against average (7.71) and 16th in save percentage (.558). But he was pulled after surrendering three goals in the first 8 minutes, 5 seconds of the first quarter against No. 6 Hofstra last Saturday night. Sophomore Steven Burke finished up in an eventual 14-6 loss.

Coach Dave Pietramala said he has not made up his mind on who will start against the 11-time, reigning national champion Orange.

"They’ve all been told that there’s an opportunity right now – including Michael," Pietramala said. "They’ve all been told that we want to see how everybody performs in practice, we want to see some consistency, we want to see goalies reacting to the ball, we want to see how the defense reacts to them, we want to evaluate how they handle communicating and those sorts of things. Quite honestly, I’ve seen Michael do those things, so I know what he can do there. The issue is I have not seen a lot of the other guys do that. So now, I’ve taken the time to watch more closely what Steven Burke is doing and what [freshman] Pierce Bassett is doing. But the decision has not been made. I actually will be speaking with all three of them today, and I won’t make that decision and I won’t share it with them until I cam 100 percent certain and comfortable that I am doing what is best for my team."

Pietramala said there are four reasons for removing a goalie: poor performance in a game, sloppy play over a span of several games, slow response time to shots or a desire to shake up the team.

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Posted by Edward Lee at 11:44 AM | | Comments (0)
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March 11, 2010

Available tickets for Syracuse-Johns Hopkins primetime tilt dwindling

The first primetime game between No. 2 Syracuse and No. 7 Johns Hopkins -- two programs with a combined 20 NCAA championships -- is driving up ticket sales.

Less than 200 reserved-section seats are available for the Saturday, March 20 contest at Homewood Field at 8 p.m., and school officials are encouraging fans to purchase their tickets before they run out.

Tickets can be bought at the Johns Hopkins Department of Athletics between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday or by calling 410-516-7490. All tickets ordered over the phone will be left at Will Call on gameday.

Gates and ticket booths will open 90 minutes prior to face-off, and fans are encouraged to arrive early.

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March 10, 2010

Postscript from UMBC at Johns Hopkins

No. 7 Johns Hopkins got a combined nine goals and eight assists from attackmen Steven Boyle and Kyle Wharton and midfielder Michael Kimmel in a 16-10 shellacking of No. 19 UMBC Tuesday night at Homewood Field.

But nearly as significant were the contributions the Blue Jays got from their other midfielders.

Freshman Zach Palmer contributed three goals and two assists, and senior Max Chautin and freshman John Ranagan each scored once. The seven points from midfielders without the last name of Kimmel tie a season-high set in the season-opening 14-3 victory over Manhattan.

Coach Dave Pietramala said the offense needs that kind of production from its midfielders.

"It’s not going to be one guy that does it," Pietramala said. "It needs to be all of them that get one. And tonight, we got three from Palmer and one from Ranagan and one from Chautin. That’s a big deal to alleviate the pressure on Michael."

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March 9, 2010

UMBC vs. Johns Hopkins: Halftime thoughts

No. 7 Johns Hopkins leads No. 19 UMBC, 8-6, at halftime at Homewood Field, and the advantage could have been much bigger for the host Blue Jays if they hadn’t been flagged for four penalties in the first quarter.

Senior attackman Steven Boyle, senior long-stick midfielder Greg Harrington, snioe short-stick defensive midfielder Dave Spaulding and senior defenseman Matt Drenan each committed slashing penalties, and the Retrievers converted on three of those four extra-man opportunities.

A few of the penalties seemed iffy, and Johns Hopkins coach Dave Pietramala gave the officials quite an earful for much of the period, but the Blue Jays just need to turn down the volume on the aggression button and stay disciplined.

Other notes:

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Posted by Edward Lee at 8:11 PM | | Comments (0)
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UMBC at Johns Hopkins: Three things to watch

We’re going to alter the content of this series a little bit – just in time for No. 19 UMBC’s visit to Homewood Field to take on No. 7 Johns Hopkins on Tuesday night. Here are a few things I will be watching.

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Posted by Edward Lee at 10:00 AM | | Comments (0)
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March 6, 2010

Hopkins' Boland returns from suspension