Each week, the Baltimore Sun will publish a Q&A with an area college lacrosse player to get you more acquainted with the player and his/her team. Today's guest is Johns Hopkins attacker Taylor D'Amore, a sophomore from Canandaigua in the Finger Lakes region of New York. A second-team All-American Lacrosse Conference selection last season, D'Amore leads the No. 12 Blue Jays (7-2) with 21 goals and 17 assists as they take a four-game winning streak into their conference opener Sunday at Vanderbilt.
Why did you come to Johns Hopkins?
When it came down to it academically and athletically, I thought it was a great fit for me. Academically, I'm pre-med, so this is one of the best places in the world for that. And I just fell in love with the girls on the team and the team atmosphere. I think that's what makes Hopkins unique.
What other programs did you consider?
I looked at Duke, Princeton and Harvard and Northwestern a little bit. Those were my top five.
How much more comfortable is it to be a sophomore and have a year of college lacrosse under your belt?
It's a big difference. The big thing for us is because we return so many players, starters and major contributors from last season, having had that year together allows us to mesh a lot better. There were moments last year when we were like, "Oh, this is perfect. This is what we need to be doing," and this year we're finally able to say, "OK, we've had those experiences. Now it's time to put everything together." I think that's been shown in that four of our last five games have been one-goal games and we've won our last three one-goal games. It's all confidence with each other and building that team chemistry.
Three of the team's last four wins have come by one goal, and last year you lost to three of those four teams by one goal. What enables the team to win those close games now?
I think it all comes down to confidence and having that year, with some of us who played as freshmen last year having that game experience. Our seniors are a huge class. We have, I think, seven of them starting, so that confidence and chemistry all comes together. And the belief that you're a good team, that we should be a ranked team, that we should be in the Top 15, the Top 10. I think it's a different culture this year than it has been in past years, and that is something everyone feels. It's not cockiness by any means, but it's a confidence that we are a good team and that we can play with anybody.
What is your role on this team?
I've made the switch from midfield to attack this year, so it took the fall to get adjusted to that, especially playing crease attack a fair amount of the time. I don't think we have specific roles per se; it's more figuring out during each game what's going to work individually. Some games — Georgetown, for example — I dodged more than I've ever dodged in my life. In other games, it's feeding. It depends on each opponent and what they're trying to do to stop us.
What's been the challenge in switching to attack, especially if you play more crease attack — because you've played more true midfield throughout your career, haven't you?
Yeah. Obviously, as a middie you play attack a large part of the game, so the most part of the games, I feel like I have my legs under me more and I'm able to stay in the flow of the game more. Last year, we ran two middie lines, so you were in and out, but on attack it's more consistent with what's going on. The biggest thing is just changing some of the stuff that I do so that it works as an attacker, playing behind, using the crease to my advantage. One of the biggest challenges is adjusting to our ride because that's something that we put a lot of focus on. Bumping up to an attacker position has a different role than the middie. It's our job to initiate it and slow down the ball.
You open conference play Sunday at Vanderbilt and then face four straight teams ranked ahead of you, including No. 1 Northwestern, which you beat last season. How has your schedule prepared you for the toughest stretch of your season?
I think that we've had a good schedule. We started our first two games with everyone getting used to playing together then building up, starting really with Loyola and Stony Brook, which are two losses that aren't ideal, but how we've responded from that, I think, says a lot about what we're able to do. Again, it all comes back to the mindset. Looking at conference play, it's just learning from out past games, wins and losses, and taking it one game at a time.
You did a lot of community service in high school. What are you doing at Hopkins?
I went in June to Honduras for a week. We did a medical brigade there, so we went to this remote community with a three-hour drive each way every day and set up a field clinic. Everyone in the town came and got medical service for those three days. On campus, I'm involved with a program called SHARE, which stands for Supporting Hospitals Abroad with Resources and Equipment, so we go down to Hopkins hospital, and any supplies that can't be used — whether they're expired sutures or things that have been opened and haven't been used and for whatever reason can't be used here in the U.S. — we sort them, box them up and then they get sent aboard to various places with doctors.
As a pre-med major, what specialty are you considering?
I'm a bio major right now, and I think that I want to go into surgery. I'm not sure exactly what type.
Do you think working with a program such as Doctors Without Borders might be in your future?
I love to travel, and going to Honduras was a great experience and I hope I can go back next year. This year, it's actually during the final four, so I can't schedule it. It's definitely a possibility. Right now I'm just trying to get as many experiences while I'm in college because it's really the last time that you have to be on your own, travel. Then from wherever I go from here, it's all up in the air.