Don't worry

The Baltimore Sun

It's the question everyone asks when it comes to college lacrosse: What's wrong with Johns Hopkins? The answer is nothing, not a thing. If Hopkins is having problems, then most of the other Division I teams would like to be in the same situation.

It's understandable why some people have hit the panic button. It has been quite a while since the Blue Jays (3-3) lost three consecutive games. But things need to be put in perspective.

All three losses were in overtime. Two of those came against Syracuse and Virginia, whose names are just as synonymous with lacrosse as Hopkins'. The other loss, to Hofstra, was a little alarming, but that came before the Blue Jays played perhaps their best game of the year Saturday against Virginia.

So, what's wrong with Hopkins? Nothing.

"When people ask those questions, it shows two things," Blue Jays coach Dave Pietramala said. "It shows that they care, and it tells you about the expectations at Hopkins."

Certainly, none of the Blue Jays' competitors are willing to write them off yet. Two years ago, Hopkins was 3-3 and finished 9-5.

A year ago, the Blue Jays were 4-4 before winning nine straight and the national title. So this little drought is really nothing new. And when you consider that the Blue Jays play perhaps the toughest schedule in the country, ducking no one, their record could be worse.

"We're right there, but at the same time, we have earned our record. We are a .500 team," Pietramala said. "We played as hard and with as much energy as we've ever played down in Virginia, and that's a place where we've struggled. The important thing is that we have learned from our mistakes."

But there is still room for improvement. A year ago, the Blue Jays allowed 7.8 goals a game. With the exception of a long-stick midfielder, the entire group returned in 2008, but Hopkins is allowing 9.5 this season.

Another area that needs improvement is winning faceoffs late in the game when the Blue Jays have a lead. They could also improve in ball control and decision-making, but nothing that can't be fixed, or hasn't been addressed already.

"Part of you wants to jump up and down and scream," Pietramala said. "But for me to negatively reinforce those things probably would not be the best thing for this team right now. As a staff, we have constantly gone over those things."

It's a tough and sensitive situation for the Blue Jays, but they seem to be handling it well. The Blue Jays have had good, upbeat practices, and players are putting in extra time to watch film.

There is no finger-pointing, which would be a sign that this team was about to fall apart.

"I think we all know that we have a ton of lacrosse left to play," Hopkins sophomore goalkeeper Michael Gvozden said. "The season is only half over, and we still have six or seven more games. So we're not done. No way."

It would be ridiculous to dismiss Hopkins at this point. It might be different if this school didn't have such a storied tradition. But Hopkins' roster is loaded with blue-chip players because every high school player has probably envisioned himself playing for the Blue Jays.

They still have great players such as attackman Kevin Huntley, midfielders Paul Rabil, Michael Kimmel and Stephen Peyser, and defensemen Eric Zerrlaut, Matt Bocklet and Michael Evans.

If you look at Hopkins' schedule, there is a chance the Blue Jays could win their seven remaining games even though Maryland, Navy and Duke are left to play.

There won't be any letdowns. Pietramala will make sure of that.

"What this proves is that if you don't play well on game day, regardless of who you are, you can get beat," he said. "Look at Duke. They were supposed to be better than everyone else, and they got beat. Well, what's wrong with Duke? Is there something wrong with Duke?"

Nope. And there isn't anything wrong with Hopkins, either.

mike.preston@baltsun.com

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