During the past three years, Princeton coach Bill Tierney has felt a special chill whenever he returned to Johns Hopkins, where he was an assistant before taking his current job.
But when the No. 8 Tigers play at No. 4 Johns Hopkins tomorrow at 2 p.m., Tierney's emotions may hit a new level.
"I've always felt special going back because of my friendships there," said Tierney, whose team knocked the Blue Jays out of the first round of the National Collegiate Athletic Association Division I tournament a year ago.
"I recruited a lot of their senior players. But after the recent situation and with the hiring of Tony [Seaman, Johns Hopkins coach], a visit there becomes even more interesting."
Tierney was the Blue Jays' first choice to replace former coach Don Zimmerman, who resigned in June. Tierney decided to stay at Princeton, preferring to finish a rebuilding job after leading the Tigers to their first playoff appearance a year ago.
Minutes after Tierney turned down the job, Johns Hopkins athletic director Bob Scott offered the vacancy to Seaman, Penn's highly successful coach and one of Tierney's best friends.
"Bill and I go back at least eight years, when we coached against each other in high school [in New York]," Seaman said. "We've had some pretty memorable games."
"Bill, [Loyola coach] Dave Cottle and I work a lot of camps together," said Seaman. "We talk and listen a lot about each other's general philosophies and strategies. Actually, we talk pretty regularly until this week."
Tierney said: "I saw a number of scenarios involving Tony at other places, but never at Hopkins. It's amazing how things have worked out."
Both coaches have downplayed the game, the season opener for both teams. But most of the pressure seems to be on Seaman.
"I've slept well the last seven or eight days," said Seaman, smiling. "I haven't mentioned the revenge factor or any of the other elements to try and motivate my team. I'm more of a preparer than a motivator. That emotion stuff is for the kids that can't get it done on the field. Plus, that stuff wears off in a few minutes after the first faceoff.
"I know that Bill prepares his team well, and we'll try to push the ball when the opportunity presents itself. We're going to try and get a good number of people in the game and see what happens. Remember, Bill knows the personnel of this team as well as anybody except for Zimmerman."
This should be a Blue Jays team that is strong on defense, led by seniors Bill Dwan and Brian Voelker. Johns Hopkins also has adequate talent at midfield with seniors Seth Tierney (9 goals, 8 assists a year ago), the nephew of the Princeton coach, and juniors Adam Wright (19,1) and Brian Lukacz (11, 2). The attack, though, is suspect and became even more questionable nearly two weeks ago when senior attackman Matt Panetta (20, 16) separated his shoulder. He is questionable for tomorrow's game.
"We'll have to wait and see," said Seaman. "I don't want to risk playing him too early and then lose him for five more weeks."
Princeton had one of the best recruiting seasons in lacrosse, and the Tigers are expected to start slow, but finish strong. Princeton will start three freshmen, and seven will play on regular shifts.
But Johns Hopkins cannot afford to take Princeton lightly. Junior Justin Tortolani (33, 16) and senior Chris McHugh (21, 31) are fine attackmen, and the Tigers are sound at midfield. Plus Tierney came up with a solid game plan a year ago when the Tigers defeated Johns Hopkins, 9-8, in tournament play after the Blue Jays had routed Princeton, 20-8, in the 1990 season opener.
"This games makes us grow up in a hurry," Tierney said. "We've always been able to make significant progress after this game. I've told my kids to go up there, play hard and enjoy the game. Playing at Homewood Field is always a unique experience."
And an emotional one for Tierney.