The sign atop the lacrosse locker room door tells all.

"FINISH THE DRILL," it reads, in bold block letters, for all of the Johns Hopkins players to see. That terse message is the team's season mantra, as the Blue Jays play host to Towson (1-0) in their opener at 5 p.m. Friday at Homewood Field (ESPNU).

Coach Dave Pietramala posted the sign last month — a not-so-subtle reminder of Hopkins' unexpected exit from the playoffs last year. The Jays (13-3) fell to Denver, 14-9, in the NCAA quarterfinals.

The loss has gnawed at Hopkins ever since.

"We didn't finish what we wanted to accomplish," said Chris Boland, a senior attackman and the team's top scorer. "We had a great regular season, but we choked in the tournament. Denver beat us, from the moment they stepped on the field — and coach has reminded us of it.

"Every day, as practice winds down, we're screaming, 'Finish the drill! Finish the drill!' If we don't let up in practice, then we won't let up in games."

Certainly, Hopkins — which returns nine starters — is hyped for its opener.

"If we're not foaming at the mouth to get back on the field, after the way last season ended, then we've got bigger problems that need to be addressed," Pietramala said.

Never mind that the Jays have defeated Towson 16 straight times, including a 10-6 victory last season. Towson's new head coach, Shawn Nadelen, is a 2001 Hopkins alum who played for Pietramala in the latter's first year there.

It marks the first time in his 14 years at the helm that Pietramala, 44, has squared off against a head coach who once played for him.

"That will have an emotional impact," the Hopkins coach said. "On a personal level, I'll feel a great sense of pride, seeing one of our guys come back to Homewood Field. But that also means I want to beat him all the more.

"The last thing you want to do is give an inch to a competitor who's a stranger, let alone someone whom you are really close with. And Shawn will echo those sentiments, if I've taught him well."

On paper, Hopkins is stacked, front to back, though the coach remains cautious.

"Talent alone doesn't win games," Pietramala said. "Right now, all I want is to be 1-0."

Boland (Boys' Latin), a sixth-year senior who'll turn 25 in April, scored 54 points last year. Pierce Bassett, the goalie, made All-America (second team) as a sophomore. Both are keys in Hopkins' march toward a crown it last won in 2007.

Boland was a freshman then, and the fact that he's the lone Jay to have won a championship makes him the touchstone for a title-starved team.

"Chris' experience is invaluable to a team that needs leadership," Pietramala said. "He's the one guy who understands what it takes to win it all."

Players recognize Boland's worth and follow suit.

"Chris is setting the standard from the old days," said Bassett, the goalie, adding: "Well, not that old."