Christine A. Rowett
Tony Seaman knows that all eyes are on him. In his seventh
year as coach of the men's lacrosse team, he has grown accustomed
to the stares and the sometimes less than flattering bellows that
make their way from the stands at Homewood Field. He is also very
aware of the Hopkins band and their constant battle cry of "We
want more!" after each goal.
"They're my favorite band in the whole world," Seaman said. "I wouldn't trade them or the Hopkins fans for anything. They're what makes this such a very special place to work."
Seaman and the players undoubtedly have their work cut out for them. It has been 10 years since the Blue Jays brought a national championship to Homewood; all are anxious to see it happen again.
"I think we're very good and we're strong," Seaman said of the team. "And we've got a great attitude."
The Blue Jays' defense has been touted by sportswriters and other coaches as the best in the nation, and is led by co-captains Brian Kuczma and Aaron Van Horn and fellow senior John Gagliardi, a third-team All-American player last year. The three starters were members of a unit that allowed just over 10 goals per game last season; their combined experience will allow them to meet the attack of opposing teams in many different ways, including man-to-man defense.
"We're expecting a lot of them," midfielder and co-captain Billy Evans said of the defensive team. "I definitely think our defense is our strong point. They're the most experienced part of our team."
Defensive coach Dave Pietramala appreciates the praise, but has some healthy reservations. Four-year starting goalie Jonathan Marcus graduated last year with an inspiring record as all-time save leader for Hopkins. Sophomore Brain Carcaterra and junior Eric Kuchner have impressed the coach with their abilities, but neither has played in a game yet.
The team attracted two top offensive players from other schools; both are eligible to play this year. Dudley Dixon led the Towson State Tigers in scoring for two years while in play there. And Villanova transfer Dave Marks tallied 34 points as a Wildcat in 1996. The two have joined sophomore Dan Denihan on the rebuilt front line.
As seniors, the four co-captains--including face-off specialist Werner Krueger--have had a series of ups and downs in their lacrosse careers. In 1994 they lost in the quarterfinals to Princeton in overtime, and watched as Princeton went on to win the championship. The next year the team went undefeated in the regular season, losing in a post-season game to Maryland. They came close to a championship again last year, only to lose to Virginia in the semifinals.
"In a way it's been kind of rough," Evans said. "We've had some heartbreaking defeats.
"Now we kind of feel like we've won together and lost together," he added. "It's our team and our time."
The season officially opens March 1 against No. 1-ranked Princeton. For the first time in years, the opening game will be played in New Jersey. The Blue Jays--ranked No. 5--have played a few scrimmages, including matchups against Stony Brook and Hobart and William Smith, which they won with little pressure.
So while some would say the future looks bright, Seaman maintains his characteristic caution.
"It all looks good on paper," he said. "Now we have to play."
They are arguably under more scrutiny and pressure than any other regional college athletes, but for the most part the players take that position in stride.
"I think when you decide to come to school here to play lacrosse, you accept that everyone is counting on you," Evans said. "The tradition is rich here. There's no room for second place. It keeps it exciting."
Crowds that often reach thousands at Homewood Field can add to the pressure.
"It is a motivator when you know that you'll be in the spotlight every Saturday," Krueger has said. "That's something to live up to."
Coaches and players take pride in the fact that the Hopkins team plays the toughest schedule in college lacrosse. It motivates them to strive every day.
"When they don't work hard, which is very rare, they know it and question each other on it," Pietramala said. "The next day they're out with a force. They have a lot of pride."
That type of positive thinking, Pietramala believes, comes from the captains of the team.
"Their attitudes set a tone, an example for all the young kids who walk in here," he said. "It's unbelievably important, a major factor."
One thing Evans tries to stress to new players is the fleeting nature of their lacrosse careers.
"College flies by," he said. "It seems like just yesterday that we were freshmen. So we can't think, 'maybe next year.' Sooner or later, there are no next years."
Pietramala said he, Seaman and coaches Joe Cowan, Paul Cantabene and Todd Kearney spend time instilling trust in each player that their teammates will support them.
"When they go out there, they learn that it's true: their teammates are going to be there for them," he said. "They believe in each other.
"I believe in every single one of them," Pietramala added. "If I didn't, and Coach Seaman didn't, they wouldn't be out there. I believe in them from the bottom of my heart."
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