Mike Preston: Johns Hopkins lacrosse has problems it can fix

(Geoff Burke-US PRESSWIRE,…)
April 24, 2012|Mike Preston

It was OK when Johns Hopkins lost to Maryland 10 days ago because Maryland versus Hopkins is one of college lacrosse's greatest rivalries.

But then Hopkins lost to Navy, 8-2, on Saturday and you're wondering what is going on? These are the same Mids that were beaten by Army, Lehigh and Bucknell.

Hopkins coach Dave Pietramala was relatively calm after his Blue Jays (9-3) lost to Maryland, but he has to be ripping through the Homewood Campus this week.

Navy? Come on, man.

"This group has to get back to the little details, and I will tell you that it's my job as a coach and our job as a staff to make sure that we continue to preach that," Pietramala said."It's late in the year. This is the time of the year when teams get tired. This is the time of the year when teams get mentally tired and academics begin to pile up. So we want to get out to the practice field and get after it for an hour and a half, do a good solid job in the film room, and get out.

" We want to be very efficient with our time so that we're mentally and physically fresh. But during that time, the expectations are going to be that it's going to be high energy and high tempo and that we do pay attention to those details. That's something that's got to come not just from the coaches, but from the players themselves."

The No. 13 Blue Jays, who were ranked No. 1 earlier this season, have lost three of their last four going back to their horrendous showing in a 13-9 loss to North Carolina on April 1.

As you pore over the statistics to find problem areas, it's obvious that the Blue Jays have to convert more on extra man opportunities (18 of 43), but they have to adjust to the opposition's new strategies and learn how to play from behind.

In the last six quarters, Hopkins has scored only three goals on 47 shots in its losses to Maryland and Navy.

If they are ahead, it's a perfect world for Hopkins because the Blue Jays run a deliberate offense. They like to keep everything tight on both sides of the ball because they are so well-coached.

But once they fall behind, their lack of athleticism gets exposed. They have to run and spread out more on both sides of the ball. They have to freelance more, and they can get isolated and beat one on one.

Navy grinded on the Blue Jays, and forced them to come out and play pressure defense. North Carolina did the same thing as well.

Maryland tried a different strategy against the Blue Jays putting a long pole on midfielder Rob Guida and a short one on fellow midfielder John Ranagan.

It worked so well that Navy did the same thing. Ranagan and Guida each had a goal and zero assists against Maryland. Both were shut out versus Navy.

Pietramala has to make adjustments. Ranagan has a hard shot with great speed and velocity, but he can't control it.

"You have to evaluate things," Pietramala said. "No. 1, are you getting shots? No. 2, what kind of shots are you getting? I'm sure that John, quite honestly, is frustrated. I don't think I'd be speaking out of turn. I don't think I'd be telling you some secret that they're going to use to cover him next week. I think the guy's been frustrated.

"Obviously, when you only score two goals, you've got to take a look and ask, 'What do we have to change here? Is there something that has to change? Do we have to change the offense a little bit? Do we have to generate shots from different spots? Do we have to get more time-and-room shots?' And we'll do all that."

Hopkins is also hurting at attack. They don't have a player who is a threat to score from the back. Zach Palmer and Wells Stanwick are good passers and dodgers, but aren't physical enough to battle defenders and score.

Senior attackman Chris Boland could be that player, but he might not be physically ready because of the shoulder injury suffered earlier in the season.

It sounds like this could be a major crisis for Hopkins, but Pietramala has been through this before. He doesn't know any other way to stop losing except to keep teaching and keep grinding.

"I don't think we're playing great. So does that concern you?," asked Pietramala. "Sure. But do you panic? If you look at Carolina, there was a time when they weren't playing great. I think there's a few teams out there that aren't playing great right now.

"What we've got to do is we've got to get back to playing like the team that won nine games. So there are little things that we have to correct. We have to be more disciplined. We have to be more efficient. We've got to move more on the offensive end. We've got to talk more on the defensive end. But all these things add up. But I think the one thing we have to do — and it is a big thing — is we have to just continue to believe in the things that we're doing and get back to doing them."

mike.preston@baltsun.com

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