It's contained to whispers at Homewood Field. Call it classified information.
Seeking any advantage, No. 6 Johns Hopkins is keeping its defensive plans for tomorrow's lacrosse game against top-ranked and two-time defending-national-champion Princeton under a veil of secrecy.
Which of the Blue Jays will match up against Jesse Hubbard, Jon Hess and Chris Massey, considered the premier attack unit of this decade?
"We're not supposed to tell," Hopkins defenseman John Paleologos said.
OK, what will be the Blue Jays' defensive scheme?
"I'd rather not say, but we're trying to make decisions easier on the guys," first-year defensive coordinator Brian Voelker said.
Few can blame Hopkins for looking for an edge as it prepares for the 2 p.m. home game against Princeton, winner of 28 straight.
The Blue Jays graduated their entire starting close defense, which included two first-team All-Americans, Brian Kuczma and John Gagliardi, as well as veteran Aaron Van Horn. So Hopkins will field only one proven long pole in Rob Doerr, who worked exclusively in the defensive midfield last year.
The other two close defense positions will probably be filled by players making their first career starts: Paleologos, a redshirt sophomore, and someone from the talented freshmen corps of Brendan Shook, Brandon Testa and Patrick Miller, a Loyola High product.
Though Hopkins' inexperience is expected to be a detriment, the flip side is that Princeton has little scouting information and game film on the new defensemen.
"I'd probably like to have three All-Americans coming back, instead," Voelker said. "But it gives us a little of a mystery. I don't think they're going to do many things that are going to surprise us. And they're probably aren't sure who we'll have out there."
Although the anchor, goalkeeper Brian Carcaterra, is back, the rest of Hopkins' defense will feature a different look. Unlike last year's group, which dominated attackmen one-on-one, this year's unit will rely on a sliding, team-oriented style while sometimes displaying individual talents.
Doerr excels with his athleticism, occasionally flashing his stick skills. Show him some stick, and he'll be there, looking for the takeaway, swooping up ground balls and sparking the transition game by single-handedly pushing the ball upfield.
Then there is Paleologos, the physical presence of the group at 6 feet 5, 230 pounds. He broke his hand after one game in 1996 and fractured his leg after three games last year. But he's fully healed and ready to force loose balls by flattening opponents and clearing the ball with a long, arcing passes.
That leaves the sensitive third spot on the close defense. Remember the last time Hopkins started a freshman there? It was 1994 and Princeton's Kevin Lowe abruptly welcomed Brian Kuczma, a future Defenseman of the Year, to college lacrosse by totaling four goals and four assists.
"We told them the story and they just kind of smiled," Hopkins coach Tony Seaman said. "Then Saturday around 4 p.m., they'll go, 'Oh, yeah, you're right.'
"It's going to be 12,000 people, the No. 1 team in the country and Division I lacrosse. It's not high school. No matter what you tell them or no matter what you get them ready for, it just isn't the same."
But don't overlook the Blue Jays when they have the lacrosse world's wild card, a top-notch goalkeeper. An active and emotional player, Carcaterra can equalize some of his defense's mistakes.
And Carcaterra understands what the young defensemen might be feeling, starting college careers against the defending national champion. He did it only a year ago and used that game as a springboard to becoming one of the nation's top goalkeepers.
"It can go one of two ways," said Carcaterra, who made 16 saves and allowed just seven goals in his debut last year. "Fortunately for me, I responded well to it. I could have gone the other way, with the ball being the size of a Ping-Pong [ball]. It all depends whether you start yourself off on the right foot. I think that's the key."
Now it's up to the young defense to find its balance -- to get pumped but play under control, to maintain focus yet stay relaxed.
"We really have nothing to lose," Voelker said. "People are saying we lost all our defensemen, we're really not that good on the defensive end and we're playing the greatest thing since sliced bread. What the heck, we might as well go out there and go get them."
Pub Date: 2/27/98