Practice pennies, neon green laces, new faces and the promise of a new season not far off -- all signs point to fall ball, college lacrosse's annual rite of initiation.
With 2010 in the books and 2011 in mind, LMO's "Fall Ball Blitz" series checks in with coaches and players around the country for the latest developments.
RECENT "FALL BALL
BLITZ" STORIES | ARCHIVE
Petro Puts Hopkins, Himself Under Microscope
by Patrick Stevens | Special to Lacrosse Magazine Online
Sophomore goalkeeper Pierce Bassett will likely backstop an even younger Johns Hopkins defense in 2011.
© John Strohsacker/LaxPhotos.com
For a few years, Johns Hopkins sputtered in the middle of its schedule, only to climb back out and make a respectable late-season run.
The Blue Jays won a national title in 2007, reached Memorial Day in 2008 and advanced to the quarterfinals in 2009.
Last spring, though, Hopkins needed to win its last two games just to make the NCAA tournament. When it did, Hopkins was hammered in the first round and stuck with a 7-8 record — its first losing season since 1971.
It was the type of year coach Dave Pietramala doesn’t want to repeat. And everything the Blue Jays do this fall will be geared toward making sure it doesn’t.
“This year, because we were playing so many young guys and it was so new to so many people, I almost feel like we never really found out who we were,” Pietramala said. “Who we are is a hard-working, blue-collar, disciplined team. One thing we’ll do is we’re going to discover who we are. Everything will be directed at helping us do that.”
The sky isn’t falling at Homewood — Pietramala is 113-38 with two national titles in 10 seasons at his alma mater. But he’s also aware blowout losses in the last two NCAA tournaments are signals there are things to work on, and everything is up for discussion.
“We’ve sat down as a staff, analyzed how we’re going to approach recruiting and what it is we’re looking for,” Pietramala said. “We looked back and looked at when we were most successful, why we were most successful, who we were most successful with and how we played.”
Inexperience surely played a factor, as did inconsistency on defense. Many of the freshmen and sophomores who played received extensive playing time, as well as bruised egos as Hopkins staggered through a startling season.
“We bring back a group of guys who are probably a little embarrassed,” Pietramala said. “We bring back a team that when they left was angry. We bring back a team that you expect will be rather motivated.”
Just the sort of group that, like its coach, will be ready to get to work this fall to ensure last season doesn’t repeat.
FALL BALL BLITZ
Team: Johns Hopkins
2010 Record: 7-8
2010 in Review: The Blue Jays' NCAA tournament streak, now 39 years running, was seriously in question when they were 5-7. But they rallied with their backs against the wall to beat Towson and Loyola and qualify on their strength of schedule -- only to get unceremoniously whipped by eventual national champion Duke, 18-5, in the first round. Injuries (attackman Chris Boland) and ineffectiveness (goalie Michael Gvozden) forced Hopkins to play a slew of freshmen in pressure situations, which head coach Dave Pietramala hopes will equate to balance and poise in 2011.
Goodbye... Michael Kimmel. Perhaps for the first time in his tenure at Homewood Field, Pietramala does not have a lights-out, go-to-guy at midfield. Kimmel (23g, 16a) was that guy after Paul Rabil graduated, just like Rabil had taken the mantle from Kyle Harrison. Losing Steven Boyle's team-leading 32 goals and 23 assists hurts, no doubt, but Kimmel's dynamic presence in the midfield will be most sorely missed.
Hello... Jack Reilly. Graduating Sam DeVore and Matt Drennan means Hopkins' already-young defense will get even younger. Reilly, one of the nation's top recruits out of Christian Brothers Academy in New York, is built in the same mold as those two. His freakish athleticism only accentuates his sound fundamentals and handiness with the wand. He scooped 114 ground balls as a high school senior in 2010. It wouldn't be a stretch to see Reilly starting alongside Blue Jay sophomores Tucker Durkin and Chris Lightner in front of sophomore goalie Pierce Bassett in 2011.
Offseason Developments: Pietramala lured former Hopkins player Jamieson Koesterer back to the East Coast and hired him as an assistant coach to replace Dave Allan. Koesterer's expertise is in faceoffs, which have been a weakness for the Blue Jays. He also brings strong recruiting ties to the Pacific Northwest, where he was the director of operations for walax.com in Washington and coached club lacrosse.
Big Question: Is Pierce Bassett the next great goalie in college lacrosse? He certainly looked like he came of age in the 2010 regular season finale against Loyola in which he made 18 saves, but it remains to be seen if he can consistently perform while backstopping a young defense. In eight games (seven starts), Basset was 3-4 with a .536 save percentage and 9.90 goals against average. He'll be pushed by Eric Schneider, one of the top goalies in the current freshman class, and Steven Burke.
Fall Schedule: The only confirmed date on Hopkins fall ball ledger so far is Oct. 16, when the Blue Jays play 2010 final four Cinderella team Notre Dame in the San Francisco Fall Classic at Kezar Stadium. Over 5,000 fans are expected at the event.
-- Matt DaSilva
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