Hopkins hopes defense bounces back

Men's lacrosse notebook

Unit coming off uncharacteristic down year

February 18, 2010|By Edward Lee | Baltimore Sun reporter

While the potent attack of the Johns Hopkins men's lacrosse team has garnered headlines this preseason, the defense is hoping to deliver some good news of its own.

Traditionally an area of strength, the No. 5 Blue Jays' defense was a vulnerability last season as the team surrendered at least 10 goals to nine of 15 opponents. The 10.3 goals average was the most allowed by a Dave Pietramala-coached Johns Hopkins squad.

"After last year when the offense really took care of their end of the field and kind of carried the defense a little bit, we just want to live up to our end of the bargain and make sure that we're doing our jobs so that they can do theirs," senior defenseman Matt Drenan said. "We definitely have a chip on our shoulders and feel like we have something to prove to everyone, that we can do the job, and help out our offense."

Pietramala and Drenan said coaches and players placed a re-emphasis on fundamentals, such as forcing opponents down the alleys for offensive opportunities and improving communication.

Even though Drenan, senior defenseman Sam DeVore and senior goalkeeper Michael Gvozden return, Pietramala vowed to give playing time to defensemen such as sophomores Gavin Crisafulli and Andrew Cote and freshman Tucker Durkin, and goalies such as sophomores Steven Burke and Guy Van Syckle.

"It's very clear to the guys who have returned how we performed defensively last year," Pietramala said. "We have not hid from that. We have embraced the fact that we under-performed and that we under-achieved. We've embraced it from the head coach onto the players, and we've changed a few things. We've gone back to doing the things that we traditionally have believed are very important to producing a sound defensive unit. ... But nonetheless, you're going to have a couple news faces there, I can tell you that."

Drenan said the veterans welcome the competition in practices and scrimmages and are intent on retooling the defense.

"After last year, we went home last summer and took a good, hard look in the mirror," he said. "We've kind of used it as motivation to come back and smooth things out and get back to basics and, hopefully, put together a good defense this year."

Tough tests for Tigers

A year after playing the nation's fourth-toughest schedule, Towson's 2010 schedule is tied for third with Syracuse, according to Inside Lacrosse's Face-Off Yearbook. The Tigers will face seven NCAA tournament qualifiers (Hofstra, Johns Hopkins, Maryland, Massachusetts, Navy, UMBC and Virginia) and three teams that finished second in their leagues (Loyola in the Eastern College Athletic Conference, Stony Brook in the America East and Bucknell in the Patriot League).

"It's a hell of a measuring stick," Towson coach Tony Seaman said. "I want our schedule to be as challenging as it can get. You've got a big-time facility, you're in a big-time area for lacrosse, and all of our games kind of make sense. ... There's just no Saturdays off."

Lofy ranking for Stevenson

Stevenson's preseason No. 2 ranking by Inside Lacrosse is the program's highest in history.

The Mustangs, who entered last season ranked No. 3, trail only reigning Division III national champion SUNY Cortland. But coach Paul Cantabene said the players and coaches try not to distract themselves with the ranking.

"We really don't talk about it at all," he said. "The way we operate, we don't really concern ourselves with what everybody else is thinking. We just go about our business. That's not something we talk about a whole lot. We're just looking forward to our first game. The rankings really don't mean a whole lot. You've got to play the game."

Et cetera

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