On the Johns Hopkins men

The Baltimore Sun

The 12 seniors on Johns Hopkins men's lacrosse team met this week to figure out how to end the Blue Jays' first four-game losing streak since 1990.

After about an hour and a half of airing their frustrations, the seniors were joined by the rest of the squad for another open forum that lasted nearly two hours. All this occurred before a team barbecue Sunday.

"We're trying to fix our team. That's the most important thing right now," senior midfielder Stephen Peyser said. "We're not trying to make guys feel bad for what's been going on. It's not one specific guy. It's a lot of different guys. It was mutually understood within our team that we had issues, and everyone was willing to put their egos aside in order to address our problems."

Whether the meeting accomplished its purpose will depend on how No. 12 Johns Hopkins (3-4) fares against No. 1 Duke (10-1) on the road today. The 6 p.m. showdown at Koskinen Stadium is a rematch of the 2005 and 2007 national championship games, both of which ended in titles for the Blue Jays.

But unlike previous years, the Blue Devils are clearly favored in tonight's meeting.

"We understand that this is going to be a big game, and they're going to want their pound of flesh, so to speak," Johns Hopkins coach Dave Pietramala said. "But we really can't concern ourselves with that right now. We have to concern ourselves with making sure that what we're doing is right."

Trying to figure out what's wrong with the Blue Jays is nearly as complex as trying to contain Duke's top-ranked offense. Observers and analysts have pointed at Johns Hopkins' inability to consistently win faceoffs and maintain possession as two factors.

But the Blue Jays' faceoff success rate of 52.1 percent is just a shade below last season's mark of 53 percent. And the team's 14.4 turnover average is actually less than last year's 14.6 average.

Others have said Johns Hopkins misses the presence of goalkeeper Jesse Schwartzman and note that Pietramala pulled sophomore Michael Gvozden twice in last week's 13-8 loss to No. 9 North Carolina at Homewood Field.

But Pietramala re-emphasized his commitment to Gvozden (Severna Park), who has already forgotten about last week's performance.

"I've just got to put that one behind me, and Coach has helped me with that," Gvozden said. "It was just one of those days where I wasn't seeing the ball. I just need to re-collect my thoughts and get excited about Duke and play with confidence."

That path began Sunday after the meeting. Pietramala and Peyser said this week's practices have been more spirited and diagnostic than previous sessions this season. And senior long-stick midfielder Matt Bocklet said the players have maintained their emotional stability.

"I wouldn't say there's a panic," he said. "I guess a lot of that had to do with the meeting on Sunday, making sure that we were not panicked and that we stick to playing the way we're capable of playing. I would say there's definitely some urgency amongst the team. We're definitely anxious and excited to play this game [today]."

If there is a silver lining, the Blue Jays have won five of the past six meetings with the Blue Devils, and the program is 32-3 in April under Pietramala. ESPN analyst and 2006 Tewaaraton Trophy winner Matt Ward said Johns Hopkins has the tools to change its season.

"It's not talent. That's definitely not the issue," Ward said. "This is a team that won the national championship the year before, and almost every person's back except for maybe a goalie and couple role players here and there. So they definitely have the skills to make a run again, and what better opportunity to get the season back on the right track playing probably the best team in the country in Duke?"


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