Hopkins hopes to improve on defense

No. 5 Jays stress fundamentals again

February 19, 2010|By Edward Lee | edward.lee@baltsun.com

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, too.

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

Tough tests for Tigers
A year after playing the nation's fourth-toughest schedule, Towson's 2010 slate 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."

Lofty 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."

Et cetera
With the season opener against visiting No. 20 Delaware taking place Saturday, the No. 17 UMBC Retrievers are still reviewing the play of four players trying to become the starting goalkeeper. Senior Kevin Kohri (Century), sophomores Brian McCullough and Matt Holman (Gilman) and freshman Adam Cohen (Severn) are competing for the right to succeed four-year starter Jeremy Blevins (Calvert Hall), and the team is willing to wait until Saturday before making a decision. "It's going to be an 11th-hour situation," coach Don Zimmerman said Thursday afternoon. "What really hurt us was the fact that we were indoors for a week." ... Scott Rodgers led the country in goals-against average (6.14) and save percentage (.663), but the Notre Dame senior goalie was not named a first-team All-American. "No one can ever explain to me how a guy who leads the country in goals-against and save percentage and his team is undefeated is still not a first-team All-American goalie," Fighting Irish coach Kevin Corrigan said.

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