On the eve of the 2008 men's lacrosse season, Blue
Jays head coach Dave Pietramala pulled the
team inside on a snowy Baltimore day to practice on the
O'Connor Recreation Center's basketball
courts. With Homewood Field covered in the white stuff,
Pietramala didn't want to risk an injury with
just three days to go before the opener.
He said the players were also "a little tired and beat
up" from a grueling pre-season practice
schedule. With every team in America gunning for them,
there can be no real rest for the defending
Pietramala said that the team focused that Wednesday
afternoon practice on stick work and
walkthroughs of the game plan. He wants his players in
shape, but he also wants them mentally sharp.
"The team has worked hard in the pre-season but not
really performed up to snuff yet," said
Pietramala, now in his eighth season as head coach. "What
we have to work on is the mental thing. The
physical part is there."
The Blue Jays entered the season, which began on
Saturday against Albany, ranked No. 1 in the
nation in both the USILA Coaches poll and Nike/Inside
Lacrosse Media poll. As in previous years, the
team faces a monster schedule, peppered with nationally
ranked teams like Virginia and Duke. It gets
tough quick. The first two opponents in the lineup are a
team that advanced to the NCAA
quarterfinals last season and perennial powerhouse
Princeton. Johns Hopkins will square off against
the Tigers at 2:30 p.m. in the Konica Minolta Face-Off
Classic, to be held on Saturday, March 1, at
M&T Bank Stadium. (The earlier game, at noon, pits Virginia
The 2008 season marks the 125th anniversary of the
Johns Hopkins men's lacrosse program
and, to honor the milestone, the players will wear
commemorative patches on their uniforms.
By even Johns Hopkins' high standards, the 2007 team
stunned many in the lacrosse world with
a nine-game season-ending winning streak that resulted in
the program's ninth NCAA championship and
second in three years. This year, the team looks well
positioned to make a run at back-to-back titles, a
feat that hasn't been accomplished since 1998, when
Princeton won its third consecutive championship.
The Blue Jays return eight starters and nine of the
top 10 scorers from last season's 13-4
team. In particular, the team sports a lethal midfield, led
by seniors Paul Rabil and Stephen Peyser.
Rabil fired home 27 goals and added 26 assists last year.
Peyser, in addition to his 16 goals and 10
assists, served as the team's top face-off specialist. Add
to the mix sophomore Michael Kimmel, who
totaled 23 goals and seven assists in his freshman
While the team returns many of its top players, it
certainly will miss goalie Jesse Schwartzman,
who graduated in May. Schwartzman excelled on the big
stage, and to prove it he owns two national
championship rings, a pair of Final Four MVP awards and a
10-1 record in the NCAA Tournament.
In his place steps sophomore Michael Gvozden, who saw
limited time as a freshman last season.
Pietramala said that Gvozden certainly has big shoes
to fill, but he thinks the player is up to the
"We have a young man who we think is very talented,"
Pietramala said. "He is just inexperienced
now, but there was a time when Jesse was inexperienced. We
are pleased with how Michael has
worked and how much time he has put in this off-season.
He's shown he wants to improve."
Pietramala said that, overall, his players have shown
him a willingness to work hard and a
As for the prospect of winning back-to-back
championships, Pietramala said that the question
has come up repeatedly and he just wants his team to focus
on the upcoming opponent, not on its place
in history. There's a whole new mountain to climb, he said,
and Johns Hopkins starts like every other
team, on the bottom.
"We worked so hard to earn that championship last
season. But all you want to do now is move
beyond that," he said. "It's a new team, a new dynamic. Our
chemistry is good, but it's a different
leadership. I told them to put last year behind us and
focus on the challenge ahead."
That challenge is to again reach the Final Four, which
this year will take place on Memorial Day
weekend at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass.
Pietramala said that there is more parity than ever in
Division 1 men's lacrosse, and plenty of
talented and senior-laden teams stand in the way of the