Men’s lacrosse notes: Johns Hopkins has 'something to prove' after back-to-back first-round exits

Coach Dave Pietramala and the rest of the Johns Hopkins men's lacrosse team are fully aware of the program's premature finishes in the past two NCAA tournaments. Sunday against Georgetown will be the No. 5 seed Blue Jays' chance to end the skid. Kim Hairston/Baltimore Sun Staff.
Coach Dave Pietramala and the rest of the Johns Hopkins men's lacrosse team are fully aware of the program's premature finishes in the past two NCAA tournaments. Sunday against Georgetown will be the No. 5 seed Blue Jays' chance to end the skid. Kim Hairston/Baltimore Sun Staff. (Kim Hairston / Baltimore Sun)

For all the postseason success the Johns Hopkins men's lacrosse program has enjoyed in its lengthy history, the team was bounced from the first round of the NCAA Division I tournament in 2016 and 2017.

Two years ago, Brown sent the Blue Jays home via a 17-8 rout. Last spring, Duke waltzed to a 19-6 walloping at Homewood Field. The back-to-back early exits have not been lost on the players or coach Dave Pietramala, who acknowledged discussing the troubling pattern with the players after capturing the Big Ten tournament crown in a 13-10 upset of Maryland on Saturday.


"We have something to prove to ourselves," he said as No. 5 seed Johns Hopkins (11-4) prepares for Sunday's first-round game against Georgetown (12-4) at 5 p.m. at Homewood Field. "We hadn't gotten to the Big Ten championship game since our first year [in 2015]. For most programs, winning 50 percent of the championships is pretty good, but we set goals for ourselves this year, and one of the goals was to win the first game in the Big Ten playoffs, and the next goal was to win the championship game. The next goal was to get a home game in the NCAA, which we've done, and the next goal is to win that home game and be playing better lacrosse at the end of the year than at the beginning of the year, and that's to be determined still."

On April 10, the Cornell men’s lacrosse team defeated Syracuse, 13-8. Can the Big Red repeat that effort in Sunday night’s NCAA Division I tournament first-round game?

While the Blue Jays are seeking to get to the quarterfinals for the first time since 2015, Georgetown will make its first appearance in the NCAA tournament since 2007. But Pietramala does not view that unfamiliarity as a disadvantage for the Hoyas, who won their first Big East title by upending Denver, 8-3, on Saturday.

"You hope that our experience helps us, but at the end of the day, we still need to go play the game, and we can't bank on saying, 'Well, this is their first playoff game,' " he said. "That was their first Big East championship game, and look what they accomplished. So our view of this is, what happened to Georgetown in the past is irrelevant to us. What's relevant to us is what they've accomplished this year. They have a very good record, they've just beaten two playoff teams, and they've just handedly won a Big East championship. So from our perspective, that's what we see."

Maryland prepping for two Robert Morris goalies

The Colonials doubled up Canisius, 12-6, in Wednesday's NCAA tournament play-in game despite not having starting junior goalkeeper Alex Heger. The first-team All-Northeast Conference selection reportedly suffered a lower-body injury two days before the game and was replaced by sophomore Chris Reynolds, who made six saves in the win.

It is uncertain whether Robert Morris (13-4) will have Heger for Sunday's first-round game against the top-seeded Terps (12-3) at noon at Maryland Stadium in College Park, but coach John Tillman said it makes sense to prepare for both the 5-foot-10, 175-pound Heger and the 6-2, 265-pound Reynolds.

"And going with that, one's a lefty and one's a righty," Tillman said of Heger and Reynolds. "Luckily, at this time of the year, we've seen a number of different styles. So the kids are used to shooting on different types of goalies. And candidly within our team, we have a number of different sized and handed goalies. So our guys see that every day."

Second chance for Loyola Maryland

The No. 6 seed Greyhounds (12-3) will face Virginia (12-4) in an NCAA tournament first-round game Saturday at 7:15 p.m. at Ridley Athletic Complex, a little more than three months after dropping the season opener to the Cavaliers, 13-12, in double overtime.

The last time Loyola faced a regular-season opponent in the postseason, the 2015 squad made amends for a 15-6 loss to Duke by defeating the Blue Devils, 16-11, in the first round. Senior short-stick defensive midfielder Jared Mintzlaff, who was a member of that team, referenced the series against Duke when asked about tangling with Virginia again.

"I think that it's definitely more motivation because we have an opportunity against a team where we feel like we let one get away," he said. "It was a great game, but we felt like it was tough to lose in a double-overtime game like that. So there's definitely been that stinging feeling throughout the season, and now we have a chance, and not a lot of people get that chance to get it back."

Third time a charm for Salisbury?

The No. 7 Sea Gulls' 19-5 rout of Morrisville State on Wednesday sent them to the NCAA Division III tournament's third round, where they will face a familiar opponent in Capital Athletic Conference rival Christopher Newport (15-4).

Salisbury (17-3) edged the Captains, 6-5, on April 4 before cruising to a 14-3 thrashing May 1 in a conference tournament semifinal. But coach Jim Berkman said he and his staff have already talked to the players about avoiding any temptation to overlook Christopher Newport.

"We know what we've got to do and who we have to defend, and now you've got to go out and execute for 60 minutes," he said. "I think our biggest challenge in this game is respecting all opponents and fearing none in lieu of what happened last time, and we've already planted those seeds after the game last night. It doesn't matter how many times you play an opponent. Saturday is the one-day game, and the winner moves on, and our total concentration has to be put forward."

Recommended on Baltimore Sun