Time is running out on Hopkins

It's the last chance for Blue Jays to win national title in '90s

May 29, 1999|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,SUN STAFF

As Brian Voelker reluctantly sat through his classes at Gilman School on Memorial Day 1987, his attention became fixed on the radio as he listened to the NCAA men's lacrosse championship game. Unbeknownest to the current Blue Jays assistant or the lacrosse world, that would be the last time anyone would hear this phrase: national champion Johns Hopkins.

The Blue Jays won their first national title as Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association champions in 1891, which was 25 years before fellow final four participants Syracuse, Virginia and Georgetown even picked up sticks.

As the century changed, Hopkins won national championships. As U.S presidents changed, Hopkins won national championships. As the NCAA changed the championship format, Hopkins still won national championships.

For the previous 10 decades, Hopkins has won an unprecedented 42 national championships. That is, every decade except the 1990s.

Did anyone say last call?

"You don't dwell on the past," said goalkeepers coach Brian Holman, who held the same position in 1987 and remains the only link to the Blue Jays' last championship team. "There's nothing you can do about the past. We don't even talk about it."

The numbers speak for themselves.

From 1972 to 1987, Hopkins captured seven NCAA titles and the rest of the nation won nine. In those 16 years, the Blue Jays failed to play in the national championship game only three times.

Now jump back to the present, where the storied legacy has transformed into The Drought.

"When you think of Hopkins, you think of the tradition," said Voelker, who played in Hopkins' last championship game appearance in 1989. "Kids go here because they want to win a national championship. It is amazing that we haven't won since then."

It's the 10-year anniversary since the Blue Jays last played for a national title, but there wasn't a special reunion celebrating that fact. And how many alumni would actually believe that a Hopkins team would only have five players on its roster with final four experience?

But the Blue Jays aren't alone. For the first time since the second year of the NCAA tournament in 1972, none of the players on any of the national semifinalists wear a championship ring.

Syracuse has advanced to 17 straight final fours, but its senior class is 0-3 in semifinal games. Virginia has only four players with national-semifinal exposure. And no one from Georgetown has seen a final four unless they bought a ticket.

Still, no excuses are accepted at Homewood. Not when the Lacrosse Hall of Fame stands behind your home-field scoreboard.

"I think with the tradition we have here and the great players that have come through here, we should be competing for national championships every year," said first-year Hopkins coach John Haus, who was a Loyola High School assistant coach in 1987. "We're going to try our best."

Ah, the players.

Since 1987, there have been 22 first-team All-Americans to wear a Hopkins uniform. Blue Jays fans have cheered for three Goalkeepers of the Year and Defensemen of the Year as well as one Attackman of the Year during that span, but Hopkins has missed the final four as many times (five) as it has participated in lacrosse's premier showcase this decade.

So, as much as the coaches try to deflect the pressure, the players admit feeling the weight of the tradition.

"It's a shame because we've had so many great players that haven't gotten a chance to play for a national championship," goalkeeper Brian Carcaterra said. "You just don't want to fall into that category. I'd do it all just to get one of those rings."

Does that mean anything but a national title would be considered a failure?

"Yes," attackman Dan Denihan said without hesitation. "You go to a school as a competitive lacrosse player with one goal. If we don't win it, I won't look on the season as a bad season, but we didn't achieve our goal."

NCAA lacrosse

Men's final four

At College Park

Today's semifinals

Syracuse (11-4) vs.

Georgetown (13-2), noon

Johns Hopkins (11-2) vs.

Virginia (11-3), 3 p.m. TV: Both games on ESPN2

Monday's championship 10: 55 a.m., ESPN


Tickets can be purchased by calling 800-462-8377. For entire weekend: $35; for today's Division I semifinals: $20; for Monday's Division I final: $15.

What a century

Johns Hopkins has won a national title in every decade since the 1890s -- except the 1990s. A look at the national championships and undefeated seasons recorded by the Blue Jays by decade:

Decade -- Titles -- Undef.

1890s ------ 3 --------- 0

1900s ------ 7 --------- 1

1910s ------ 5 --------- 1

1920s ------ 6 --------- 2

1930s ------ 3 --------- 2

1940s ------ 4 --------- 1

1950s ------ 3 --------- 1

1960s ------ 3 --------- 0

1970s ------ 4 --------- 1

1980s ------ 4 --------- 1

1990s ------ 0 --------- 0

Pub Date: 5/29/99

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