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Johns Hopkins men's lacrosse in favorable position to lock up berth in Big Ten tournament

Tied with No. 7 Ohio State for second place in the Big Ten, No. 8 Johns Hopkins is in a good spot in the conference race. With a 7-4 overall record and a 2-1 league mark, the team could clinch a berth in the conference tournament with a win against Michigan (8-4, 0-3) on Saturday at 2 p.m. at Homewood Field.

Junior midfielder Joel Tinney said the players are feeling positive about their standing in the Big Ten.

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"Obviously, 3-0 would be ideal, but that's what happens when you play so many ranked opponents and you don't show up week in and week out," he said Wednesday morning. "The Big Ten has proven to be one of the top conferences in the sport of college lacrosse, and just knowing that we have a chance to determine our own fate in conference play is exactly where you want to be at this time. You don't want to be looking over your shoulder and wondering what's going on elsewhere in the country. You want to be able to focus on what your team is doing in the locker room to try to extend your season."

The Blue Jays recently completed a stretch of six straight games against six ranked opponents, going 3-3 over that span. Those games have helped them move from seventh to fourth in the fourth installment of RPI rankings released Monday and get ranked eighth by the NCAA Division I selection committee Saturday.

Coach Dave Pietramala said as difficult as those games were, they were crucial to the team's development.

"There's rhyme and reason to what we do with scheduling," he said. "Year in and year out, people look at you and go, 'Why do you play that schedule?' It's preparation for the Big Ten. We're very blessed here to have what is now a tremendous conference schedule. If you look at the rankings, you're talking about five teams in the Big Ten that are ranked in the top 20. … This is what we all signed up for. We want to play a tremendous schedule. We have a tremendous conference, we have an unbelievable out-of-conference schedule, and we think that it prepares you for the playoffs and selection time for the NCAA tournament."

Although the Wolverines are the first unranked opponent for Johns Hopkins since Princeton on March 3 -- Princeton is now ranked -- and only the third on the program's schedule, Tinney said no one is overlooking Michigan.

"We don't want any easy games, and we're not taking this game this weekend as an easy game," he said. "We know they're capable. They've had a great season, winning more games than they ever have and they beat their first ranked opponent this year. So it's clearly a program that's on the rise. It is definitely to our advantage to play so many good teams week in and week out."

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