At a similar point last year, the Johns Hopkins men’s lacrosse team was beset by defensive problems, especially at the short-stick defensive midfield position. After the 2018 season, coach Dave Pietramala feels better about the direction of the defense because of the progress made at that position.
“You’re looking at the commitment that these guys made, and I was impressed with their commitment to each other to doing the things we wanted them to do,” he said. “That was an area where we needed more improvement, and we did get it, and I think we will again next year.”
The Blue Jays did graduate Christopher Hubler (eight ground balls, five caused turnovers, two goals, one assist) and Tal Bruno (5 GB, 3 CT in five fewer games because of a broken collarbone). But they do return junior Daniel Jones and sophomore Matt Hubler.
Jones amassed 10 ground balls and 14 caused turnovers as the team’s top short-stick defensive midfielder, and Pietramala called him the team’s most improved player from last spring.
“His understanding of our defense and his commitment to knowing it and being able to communicate was much greater,” Pietramala said. “Quite frankly, his level of intensity daily was his greatest difference. You could tell that he loved practicing. We would text back and forth, and he would say, ‘Can’t wait for practice. Can’t wait to get back out there tomorrow.’ If we didn’t have a good day in practice or defensively, he would say, ‘We’re back at it tomorrow.’ His level of intensity, his positive attitude and his excitement to be out there and compete was, I thought, contagious.”
Matt Hubler, Christopher’s younger brother, earned more playing time when Bruno suffered his collarbone injury during Johns Hopkins’ 15-13 win at Virginia on March 24. Pietramala said Hubler has potential.
“I think Matt is just scratching the surface,” he said. “I think he’s got a chance physically to play the position well. It was his first year of significant playing time. So I think hopefully, he’ll continue to grow and develop.”
Sophomore Marc Pion traded his long pole for a short stick and is expected to fortify the position with Jones and Hubler, according to Pietramala.
“He did a good job,” Pietramala said. “It was his first time, but he handled the ball well. Obviously, there are things to learn. It’s a different position from having a pole in your hands.”
The short-stick defensive midfielders contributed to the defense trimming its goals-per-game average from 11.5 in 2017 to 9.7 in 2018. Their continued development could be a key to the Blue Jays continuing that positive turn.