Johns Hopkins-Maryland men's lacrosse a 'personal' clash

Johns Hopkins-Maryland men's lacrosse a 'personal' clash

This weekend's quarterfinal round of the NCAA men's lacrosse tournament features several compelling contests. No. 1 seed Loyola must try to beat Eastern College Athletic Conference rival Denver for the third time this season, No. 3 seed Duke and Colgate will feature Tewaaraton Award finalists in senior long-stick midfielder C.J. Costabile and junior attackman Peter Baum respectively, and No. 5 seed Virginia's high-powered offense will take on No. 4 seed Notre Dame's top-ranked defense.

But perhaps none is more highly anticipated than the opening game at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis, where No. 2 seed Johns Hopkins and Maryland meet at noon Saturday.


Two programs immersed in tradition and pride will attempt to batter, bruise and badger the other side into submission for a berth in championship weekend at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass. And it's a fitting matchup, according to two of the participants.

"I would say that it's unlike anything that I've been a part of," Terps senior attackman Joe Cummings said of the in-state rivalry. "I don't think you can really put into words the magnitude of the game, the magnitude of the rivalry. The fact that we get another opportunity to play them in the playoffs, I think it's only going to turn it up a notch."

Added Blue Jays senior attackman Chris Boland: "We certainly have rivalries with other teams that have built over the years, but when you look at Maryland-Hopkins, it goes back over 100 years. So that's something pretty special."

Adding to Saturday's contest is the 9-6 victory at Homewood Field that the Terps claimed April 14. Maryland used a 6-0 run in the second half to tag the Blue Jays with their second loss in three games.

ESPN analyst Mark Dixon is quite familiar with the Johns Hopkins-Maryland series. As a former Johns Hopkins midfielder, Dixon recalled former Maryland coach Dick Edell telling his players, "Beat them today, fellas, because you're going to be working for them tomorrow.'

"It's personal, and that just ratchets up the intensity," said Dixon, who will be commenting on the quarterfinals from the network's studio in Charlotte, N.C. "Now you have a spot to NCAA championship weekend on the line. And then you've got the backdrop of Maryland coming into Johns Hopkins on their home field and earning that win after being down 6-3. Let me tell you something, the alums were upset after that Maryland-Hopkins game. They were upset about the offense, about how it sputtered in the second half. And Maryland, anytime they get together with Hopkins, they want to beat the Blue Jays. Hopkins' [motto] is, 'Eat, drink and beat Maryland.' Maryland feels the same way. So it's going to be intense."

For their part, Johns Hopkins coach Dave Pietramala and Terps coach John Tillman did their best to leak some of the air out of the balloon. Tillman, who was an assistant coach at Navy for 12 seasons, likened the simmering emotions to those of the Army-Navy rivalry.

"Both teams are going to do everything they can to win," Tillman said. "It may be in the back of their minds a little extra juice when you don't get the first one. Yet, we're obviously the underdog. They're the favorite, we're not. Now there's a little more emphasis on that point and having that mindset going in. I think all coaches are going to kind of look [at], 'How do you approach the game? What's going to get your kids the most focus?'"

Pietramala echoed his counterpart's sentiment but also sought to shift the focus from revenge to opportunity.

"Our guys are tremendously excited to play for the privilege of earning our way to the final four if we have the good fortune to win," he said. "This isn't about Maryland. This has nothing to do with the University of Maryland. It's got to do with a national quarterfinal game that if you win, you can continue to play. If you lose, the season ends, your time together as a team ends, and your seniors depart your program. That's what this is about."

Although the Terps fell to Virginia in last year's national title game and haven't brought home an NCAA crown since 1975, Dixon said he thinks the Blue Jays might be under more scrutiny because they haven't reached the semifinals since 2008.

"To the Blue Jay faithful, that's unacceptable," he said. "There are three alumni bases that are among the most passionate in college lacrosse: There's Syracuse, Hopkins and Maryland. Maryland made it to the championship game a year ago. Falling short was obviously a huge disappointment, but Hopkins hasn't been to championship weekend since 2008. The '87 team is being honored [at this year's championship] weekend for the 25th anniversary of their national championship. Dave Pietramala was a member of that team, and I'm sure he wants to be in Foxborough as a participant, not just as an honoree. So I think there's a little bit more pressure on Hopkins to win this game on Saturday."